Home » Blog » Information Architecture tests: Tree Testing

Information Architecture tests: Tree Testing

Tree testing is also called reverse card sorting, but it’s really more of a prototype test: it consists of making your user “navigate” through a proposed IA structure that is merely textual, deprived of any other visual elements you’d find on a website. This is done by giving the participant a navigation task and observing them navigate through your menu structure (only showing them the top-level “macro” categories at first, as it happens with drop-down menus). 

Tree testing example

Let’s have a look at the menu of a pet store website. For instance, the current menu structure for the website could have the following sections (the macrocategories): “Cats & Dogs”, “Aquarium Pets”, “Terrarium Pets” and “Small Pets”.

This is what you’ll show the participant at first:

Step 0
> Cats & Dogs
> Aquarium Pets
> Terrarium Pets
> Small Pets 

You can then ask them to perform a task. For instance, “Search for dog food”. You can then observe how the participant navigates your IA:

Step 1Step 2Step 3Task successful
> Cats & Dogs
> Aquarium Pets
> Terrarium Pets
> Small Pets 
> Cats & Dogs > Cats
> Cats & Dogs > Dogs
> Aquarium Pets
> Terrarium Pets
> Small Pets 
> Cats & Dogs > Cats
> Cats & Dogs > Dogs > Food 
> Cats & Dogs > Dogs > Toys
> Aquarium Pets
> Terrarium Pets
> Small Pets 
> Cats & Dogs > Cats
> Cats & Dogs > Dogs > Food 
> Cats & Dogs > Dogs > Toys
> Aquarium Pets
> Terrarium Pets
> Small Pets

The task was simple and relatively straight forward – the participant was able to complete it in just three steps. You now give them another task, to “Search for turtle food”. 

Step 1Step 2Step 3
> Cats & Dogs > Cats
> Cats & Dogs > Dogs > Food 
> Cats & Dogs > Dogs > Toys
> Aquarium Pets
> Terrarium Pets
> Small Pets
> Cats & Dogs
> Aquarium Pets
> Terrarium Pets > Geckos
> Small Pets 
> Cats & Dogs
> Aquarium Pets
> Terrarium Pets
> Small Pets 

First, the participant searches under “Terrarium Pets”, only to find out that the “Turtles” microcategory is not under it. They then retrace their step and try to search under “Aquarium Pets”.

Step 4Step 5Step 6
> Cats & Dogs
> Aquarium Pets > Goldfish 
> Aquarium Pets > Betta fish
> Aquarium Pets > Turtles
> Terrarium Pets
> Small Pets 
> Cats & Dogs
> Aquarium Pets > Goldfish 
> Aquarium Pets > Betta fish
> Aquarium Pets > Turtles > Live Pets
> Aquarium Pets > Turtles > Food
> Terrarium Pets
> Small Pets 
> Cats & Dogs
> Aquarium Pets > Goldfish 
> Aquarium Pets > Betta fish
> Aquarium Pets > Turtles > Live Pets
> Aquarium Pets > Turtles > Food
> Terrarium Pets
> Small Pets 

This time, it took an unnecessary large amount of steps for the participant to find the information they were looking for. The goal of tree tests is to minimise this in order to make navigation smoother for the user.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *