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Tree Testing

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Tree Testing is a online evaluation that assesses the findability of key topic areas and navigation labels on your site, by asking users to indicate where they expect information to be within the site architecture. Depending on your stage of website development, insights from this method allows you to identify key problem areas or to fine-tune your hierarchy and labels.


Conducted either as an independent evaluation of an existing site or as a follow-up to an online card sort, a tree test seeks to assess the user’s ability to locate key topics and understand navigation labels on your site. Designed as a survey, the proposed site architecture is programmed into the evaluation. Users invited to participate are asked a series of tasks to find key topics within the architecture. For each task, participants are prompted with a short scenario of a common activity on the site and are then presented with the programmed “tree” to indicate where they would anticipate the information to be found. Once they are done exploring the site architecture, users mark the navigation label that would contain the content they seek. The results are aggregated to calculate user success rates for each task, analyze clickpaths, and discover alternative locations in the site map that users go to find the information.


  • Test the findability of key information within a current or proposed information architecture
  • Determine where customers are getting lost within your site and at what level in the hierarchy
  • Refine the information architecture and/or menu labels to see if alternative locations/language improve users’ ability to find information
  • Identify opportunities for crosslinking between related informational areas
  • Gain actionable findings from a representative sample of your target customers


  • What hierarchy and navigation labels are best understood by customers?
  • Is the website hierarchy well-structured and aligned with how users search for information?
  • How successful are users in finding what they are looking for on the site without backtracking?
  • If customer are unable to find what they are looking for, where do they get lost?
  • What alternative locations within your site map are intuitive for crosslinking content areas?


The Tree Test evaluation strips away the aesthetic design elements and evaluates your site’s architectural backbone. For each task, analysis of the success rates and click-paths reflect the organization’s effectiveness, as well as determine if respondents go directly to their selected choice or back track at any point due to confusion, thereby shedding light on possible areas for crosslinking. While a Tree Test is typically conducted at the early stage of the web development process, this research can be performed at any point for sites with navigation issues and help identify where customers are getting lost. As a means to update the site IA structure, supplementing this research with an online card sort can provide an additional layer of understanding into how your customers would intuitively organize your site content.