Sometimes questions are more important than answers

What is Tree Testing?

Tree testing is a type of UX architecture testing used to evaluate a proposed site structure by asking users to find items based on the website’s organisation and terminology. This online test only displays the navigation links and removes any additional clutter. It is often used to validate or challenge the results of card sorting.

Tree Testing

Tree Testing aims to evaluate navigation

Tree testing allows you to show a menu structure to users in its most basic form without worrying about the layout and design. Users are asked to complete a series of tasks looking for items using the site structure. Typically, tree testing sessions are quite short so only last about 15-20 minutes. On average you would have about 15-20 tasks per session as users tend to lose concentration if the tasks go on for too long. By using this method to evaluate your site structure you have a way to measure how easy it is for users to find items.

Tree testing is normally conducted early on in the design process using online tools like Treejack. This part of your research could be after a card sorting session to confirm that your findings from the card sorting are correct.

Analysing the data

Tree testing results are normally much easy to analyse than the card sorting results and the online tools provide clear visual graphics for each task allowing you to quickly see where the problem areas of the site structure are. When looking at the results there are some key measures that you will be looking for:

  • Directness– the percentage of users completing the task without hesitation and getting the correct answer the first time
  • Success – the percentage of users that completed the task
  • Time – the time it took users to complete a task

Once you have analysed the data you can work out what worked and didn’t work within the site structure. This research will help you to make changes to the site structure and understand whether the problems relate to the organising of the content or the labelling of the category.

Advantages of Tree Testing

  • Sessions are short which make recruitment much easier
  • The testing can be conducted remotely so reduces the cost
  • Analysing the data is quick and results can be acted upon quickly

Disadvantages of Tree Testing

  • As the site structure is in its basic form there are no visual elements that might help users to navigate the site
  • Most tree testing is conducted remotely so researchers cannot observe or discuss decisions with users as to why they made those choices


Tree testing is a quick, simple and inexpensive way to evaluate your site structure early on in the research process. It will give you valuable insights to understanding where your users will expect to find content on the site. With online software allowing researchers to test remotely, more users can be reached, the data can be analysed quickly and you can have confidence that your site structure works for the users.

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More UX Methods Questions

Usability testing is a way to see how easy to use something is by testing it with real users. Users are asked to complete tasks, typically while they are being observed by a researcher, to see where they encounter problems and experience confusion. If more people encounter similar problems, recommendations will be made to overcome these usability issues.

User-centred design is a process or set of tools used to design a service which focuses on what users need at the very beginning and continues throughout development until launch. Typically services are designed from a technical and business perspective, with consideration for users added in later. Instead, User-centred design ensures the service focuses on what users need before balancing this with the technical and business requirements.

Wireframing is a way to design a website service at the structural level. A wireframe is commonly used to lay out content and functionality on a page which takes into account user needs and user journeys. Wireframes are used early in the development process to establish the basic structure of a page before visual design and content is added.

Website prototypes are interactive demos of a website. These are often used to gather feedback from project stakeholders early in the project lifecycle, before the project goes into final development

User requirements capture is a process used to understand what typical users will need from a service which is about to be designed. Users are observed using similar services and interviewed about the ways they go about planning and completing their goals. This information is used to identify a list of content, features and functionality the new service must have in order to satisfy the needs of its users.

Customer profiling is a way to create a portrait of your customers to help you make design decisions concerning your service. Your customers are broken down into groups of customers sharing similar goals and characteristics and each group is given a representative with a photo, a name, and a description.

Card sorting is a technique that involves asking users to organise information into logical groups. Users are given a series of labelled cards and asked to organise and sort them into groups that they think are appropriate. Card sorting helps you to design an information architecture, workflow, menu structure or website navigation paths.

A user journey is a path a user may take to reach their goal when using a particular website. User journeys are used in designing websites to identify the different ways to enable the user to achieve their goal as quickly and easily as possible.

Focus groups are a research method used to gather feedback and opinions from customers. Each person in the group is encouraged to participate in a discussion which is pre-planned by a researcher and is guided by a facilitator. Focus groups are typically used to gauge opinion and gather information from users about products, services, and features before they have been developed.

Remote usability testing is a way to test how easy to use a website is with users who are in a different geographical location. Traditional usability testing brings users and researchers together in one place to conduct the test, whereas remote usability testing allows the researcher and user to be in different locations while the test is completed.

An expert review is where a usability expert uses his/her knowledge and experience of testing websites with users to walk through a website in the shoes of a typical user. The expert will spot problems and recommend changes to improve usability when budgets and timescales don’t allow for user research.

Service design makes a service easier to use, more useful and more desirable for the customers who need to use it: the service user. Whether creating an entirely new service or improving an existing one, service design focuses on what customers really need at each stage of their interaction with an organisation.

Ethnography is a study through direct observation of users in their natural environment rather than in a lab. The objective of this type of research is to gain insights into how users interact with things in their natural environment.

Tree testing is a way of evaluating a proposed site structure by asking users to find items based on the sites organisation and terminology. This online test only displays the navigation links and removes any additional clutter.

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