Tree Testing

Tree testing is a user testing method that focuses on verifying the understandability and findability of a website's information architecture, helping improve the user experience.


Tree Testing is a usability technique that evaluates the findability and navigability of information within a website or application's hierarchical structure. By asking users to locate specific items without visual cues, Tree Testing assesses the effectiveness of the information architecture. It's valuable in web design, user experience optimization, and information design, where understanding how users navigate and find information guides intuitive design, content organization, and user satisfaction.

Suitable for

  • Larger, hierarchically organized pages
  • Verification of the findability of key topics and functions on pages
  • Quick and inexpensive feedback on the service


Test Plan

A document outlining the objectives, scope, participant criteria, tasks, success metrics, and timeline for the tree test. This will serve as a guide for creating and executing the test.

Information Architecture (IA) Tree

A hierarchical structure representing the organization of content and navigation within the website or application, used as the basis for the tree testing.

Test Tasks

A set of tasks that participants will attempt to complete using the IA tree. These tasks should reflect real-world user goals and help measure the effectiveness of the IA.

Participant Recruitment

A list of potential participants who meet the desired target audience and criteria for the study. Participants should use the IA tree to complete the tasks, providing valuable insights into the usability of the structure.

Tree Testing Tool

A software or platform that will host the tree test and the IA tree, and will facilitate the collection of data during the test.

Test Moderation

Optional - If you decide to run a moderated tree test, this step involves overseeing the testing session and assisting participants throughout the test, ensuring that test tasks and instructions are understood.

Raw Data

The data collected from the test participants, including task successes, failures, and time spent on each task. This data is used to inform further improvements and analysis.

Data Analysis

A detailed analysis of the test results, including success rates, failure rates, timing, and identifying issues or patterns within the IA. The analysis should be focused on addressing the initial research objectives.


A list of proposed improvements to the IA based on the test findings. These recommendations can be specific (e.g. moving a specific item) or broader (e.g. improving labeling) and should be prioritized by impact and feasibility.

Test Report

A comprehensive report that includes the test objectives, methodology, participant information, findings, data analysis, and recommendations. This report should be presented to stakeholders to inform future design iterations and improvements to the IA.



Step 1: Define Objectives

Identify the main objectives and goals for the tree test. Determine what areas of the site navigation or information architecture you want to focus on and what specific questions you want to answer through the test.


Step 2: Create the Tree Structure

Develop a simplified, text-based version of your site navigation or information architecture. Represent this hierarchy in the form of a tree structure, clearly showing parent and child nodes. Exclude any visual design elements or content – focus solely on the organization and labelling of the structure.


Step 3: Develop Test Tasks

Create a set of tasks for test participants to complete using the tree structure. These tasks should be representative of common user goals and scenarios that cover the main areas of your site navigation. Ensure the tasks are clearly written, concise, and avoid using any terminology from the tree structure itself.


Step 4: Recruit Participants

Select a diverse and representative group of participants who match the target audience of your website or app. Aim for a sample size large enough to provide meaningful results – typically, at least 15 participants per user group.


Step 5: Conduct the Tree Test

Perform the tree test, either as an unmoderated online test using a specialized tool such as Treejack or in-person with a moderator. Participants will navigate through the tree structure to complete the tasks provided. They will select categories and subcategories, reaching their final selection or the closest match for the given task.


Step 6: Record Test Metrics

Track and record relevant metrics from the test, such as success rates, time spent on tasks, and the paths taken by the participants. Analyze any incorrect or incomplete paths and look for common patterns or issues that may have contributed to failed navigation attempts. You can also collect subjective feedback from participants to gain further insight into their experiences with your tree structure.


Step 7: Analyze Results

Analyze the collected data, looking for trends, strengths, and weaknesses within your tree structure. Identify problem areas, such as categories with low success rates or high task times, and possible causes for these issues, such as ambiguous labels or confusing organization.


Step 8: Iterate and Refine

Based on the findings from the analysis, make necessary changes and refinements to your tree structure. This may involve revising category labels, reorganizing the hierarchy, or even adding or removing categories. Continue iterating and retesting the updated tree structure until you achieve satisfactory results and improved usability.


Step 9: Implement Changes

Once you have a refined and tested tree structure, implement the changes to your website or app's information architecture or navigation design. Monitor any user engagement metrics, such as time on site or conversion rates, to validate the improvements derived from the tree testing process.


Step 10: Conduct Follow-Up Testing

After implementing the changes, conduct additional user testing, such as usability testing, to validate the effectiveness of the new structure in the context of the full design. Continuously improve and optimize the information architecture based on user feedback and performance metrics.



2 hours or more for preparation, 5-30 minutes per participant


A prototype or live version of the website or application, testing tool


1 researcher, 30 or more participants


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