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An introduction to Tree Testing

What is Tree Testing?

Tree Testing is a usability technique for evaluating the difficulty of finding topics in a website. It is also known as a reverse card sort or card-based classification.

During a tree test, the hierarchical category structure of a website is presented in a closed navigation, and the user is given a task and asked to choose the area they would look to accomplish the task.

Tree Testing Interface
Tree Testing Interface

Why do a tree test?

A tree test is done to validate that users can find specific items in your website navigation structure. It confirms that your labels are intuitively named, and in the correct groupings. It does this by using real-world scenarios & tasks and having the user find the place in the navigation structure they would go to accomplish the task.

A tree test is an excellent followup to a card sorting study to validate your menu structure. As with other ux testing types, tree testing can be performed prior to release of your website to help avoid potential issues later.

Deciding on your tasks

The tasks you choose should be representative of real tasks, put in the users language, that the navigation needs to support. A few considerations:

When writing tasks be careful not to use terms that give away the answer. Sometimes called priming, this can be avoided by describing a scenario and the users motivation.