Tree Testing

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What is Tree Testing?

Tree testing evaluates how easy a website is to navigate. Participants are asked to navigate to a specific page on a website using only page names in a menu.

A good navigation flow leads most participants directly to the right page to complete a task. A high success rate means the information architecture is intuitive, which is essential for a good user experience.

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Tree testing is quick to set up because it requires no visual design elements. For this reason, this research method is ideal for testing many versions of a navigation flow with a large number of participants.

Some tips to conduct tree-testing effectively are:

  1. Provide less than 10 tasks.

  2. Write tasks that test a specific part of a website that needs improvement.

  3. Write tasks as realistic scenarios that make sense for typical users.

  4. Don't use exact phrases from page names. Using the exact phrases will lead the participants to the correct answers too easily.

The output of tree testing will typically be percentages of success or failure. The researcher will tally the performance of each participant into four categories:

  • Direct success is when a participant navigates directly to the correct page with no issues.

  • Indirect success is when a participant navigates to the correct page after backtracking or taking detours.

  • Indirect failure is when a participant navigates to the wrong page after backtracking or taking detours.

  • Direct failure is when a participant navigates directly to the wrong page.

It's important to note that in the real world, what might be an indirect success could result in a user giving up. A large percentage of indirect successes should still be cause for concern.

Learn More about Tree Testing

Take our course on Data-driven design: quantitative research for UX

Literature on Tree Testing

Here’s the entire UX literature on Tree Testing by the Interaction Design Foundation, collated in one place:

Learn more about Tree Testing

Take a deep dive into Tree Testing with our course Data-Driven Design: Quantitative Research for UX .

Quantitative research is about understanding user behavior at scale. In most cases the methods we’ll discuss are complementary to the qualitative approaches more commonly employed in user experience. In this course you’ll learn what quantitative methods have to offer and how they can help paint a broader picture of your users’ experience of the solutions you provide—typically websites and apps.

Since quantitative methods are focused on numerical results, we’ll also be covering statistical analysis at a basic level. You don’t need any prior knowledge or experience of statistics, and we won’t be threatening you with mathematical formulas. The approach here is very practical, and we’ll be relying instead on the numerous free tools available for analysis using some of the most common statistical methods.

In the “Build Your Portfolio: Research Data Project”, you’ll find a series of practical exercises that will give you first-hand experience of the methods we’ll cover. If you want to complete these optional exercises, you’ll create a series of case studies for your portfolio which you can show your future employer or freelance customers.

Your instructor is William Hudson. He’s been active in interactive software development for around 50 years and HCI/User Experience for 30. He has been primarily a freelance consultant but also an author, reviewer and instructor in software development and user-centered design.

You earn a verifiable and industry-trusted Course Certificate once you’ve completed the course. You can highlight it on your resume, your LinkedIn profile or your website.

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Interaction Design Foundation - IxDF. (2021, November 8). What is Tree Testing?. Interaction Design Foundation - IxDF.

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