Tree-testing is quite a simple way of testing a proposed website format for logic, ease of use/understanding and navigability. It is called tree-testing because the architecture of a site when laid out in a graphic tends to resemble a tree with a central stem and lots of branches off to various areas and topics.
A tree-testing exercise would consist of users being given a number of tasks to locate particular items within the framework architecture and it being observed how easy they found this, how logical they felt the process was and any obstacles or issues they found with either the descriptive labels or the architecture itself. The premise of each search would probably be a little different to provide a more rigorous evaluation of the framework. For example, the search might relate to;
- a specific product or product range;
- a more generic subject area;
- delivery or terms;
- a function that might relate to a particular product or product area;
- a specific supplier, brand, manufacturer etc.
Depending on the nature of the site and content the list could go on and on but the general idea is that you need to test the architecture against the main sort of queries and routes that your users are likely to want and utilise. With this is mind it might also be a good idea to let the participants in your test make some suggestions themselves in terms of searches as they might come up with some perspectives or ways in that you haven’t envisaged and these could provide even more valuable insight into how the architecture meets their needs.
The tools that can be used to conduct tree-testing research should provide you with the data necessary to make judgements in an easily understood and analysable way. It should gather information on the pathways taken to target objects, how long it took the users to get there, how direct their route was and where they diverted to if it wasn’t direct. The tools should provide graphic representation of these factors to make appreciation of the results easy to see and absorb. Means of recording user comments or questions could also be helpful.
Tree-testing offers considerable benefits (and some drawbacks) as a means of testing site structure.
- Quick and simple;
- Relatively cheap;
- Recruitment is easier as it is not too time-consuming for participants;
- Can be done remotely;
- Results are easy to analyse and interpret;
- Can be done without sophisticated or involved code or graphics;
- Can be delivered at a very early stage of development so relatively little time or cost has already been committed.
- It only analyses the basic structure and descriptions so no other types of indicators can be used or tested;
- Remote testing reduces the chances for two-way contact or interrogation;
- It is relatively unsophisticated and might not accurately reflect use of the final site layout.
If you would like to find out more about tree-testing why not ring us on +44(0)800 024624 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org