A Powerful Tool for Testing a Site Structure
Tree testing is a usability technique for evaluating the findability, labeling and organization of a website’s structure. This technique closely matches the navigational experience a visitor would have on your site.
A large website is typically organized into a hierarchy (a “tree”) of topics and subtopics. Tree testing provides a way to measure how well users can find items in this hierarchy.
Unlike traditional usability testing, tree testing is not done on the website itself. Instead, a simplified text version of the site structure is used. This ensures that the structure is evaluated in isolation, nullifying the effects of navigational aids, visual design, and other factors.
A typical tree test works like this:
- Participants are given a “find it” task (e.g., “Look for brown belts under $25″).
- They are shown a text list of the top-level topics of the website.
- They choose a heading, and are then shown a list of subtopics.
- They continue choosing (moving down through the tree) — drilling down, backtracking if necessary – until they find a topic that satisfies the task (or until they give up).
- Participants do several tasks in this manner, starting each task back at the top of the tree.
- Once several participants have completed the test, the results are analyzed for each task.
Want to Learn More?
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