Tree testing

Evaluate the findability and hierarchy of certain topics on a website/application – in other words, how easy it is for users to find stuff on your site – with tree testing.

Tree testing

An introduction to tree testing

A tree test tells you how easy it is for users to navigate your site, and helps to improve your site’s information architecture. It involves asking your users to perform a task using a text-only version of your website, and tells you whether they’re able to get to the right destination or not.

The task they complete could be to find a certain product, or get themselves to a particular page. This testing method helps to identify any pain points your users encounter on the customer journey as they complete given tasks – and highlights areas for improvement. Carrying out this test early on in the design process means you can ensure that content on your site is easy to understand, and find.

Tree testing can tell you:

  • whether content is grouped together in a logical, straightforward way
  • how quickly and easily information can be found
  • what’s preventing your users from finding the content they’re looking for

When to use tree testing

Navigation

Navigation

To design and define your site architecture

Findability

Findability

To find out how easy it is for users to access information on your site

Usability

Usability

To help create digital experiences that are easy to use

How to run a tree test

1

Set test objectives

No test is ready to create without setting its goals. Are you testing your whole site or just a section of it? Are you looking to completely redesign your navigation or just make tweaks? Deciding exactly what you’re testing should be the first step in this process.
2

Create your tree

A tree test is made up of two main components: your tree and your tasks. The tree segment contains the navigation options. No wireframes or design is needed here – just the text that represents your site architecture.
3

Determine your tasks

The tasks will allow you to test how usable your current navigation is – so should be built around the destination you want your user to end up at when they take the test. For example, if you have an online store, you might ask your tester to find a particular product, or if you’re a service provider, the task could be to find the page that allows you to change your subscription.
4

Launch your test

Once your test goes live, the target group of testers you’ve chosen – or send the test link to – will fill out the test. They’ll be presented with the top level of your tree at first, and then choose which node to click based on the task they’re completing.

Ready to run a tree test? Get started now.

Analysing the results

Confusion and unclear navigation have a hugely detrimental effect on your user experience, but thankfully with tree testing, you can see the following information:

  • How many testers successfully completed the task
  • How long it took for them to complete the task
  • The process your user went through before selecting an answer



The findings of your test will show you how easy to navigate your site is – or possibly how confusing it is. You can use this to streamline site navigation and categorise information in a clearer, more user-friendly way.