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Tree testing, also known as reverse card sorting, is another participative exercise that can help designers make better decisions about content structure, taxonomy and naming conventions.
Whereas in a card sort, participants distribute content across categories, tree testing asks participants to locate specific items of content within a tree structure. Tree testing deals only with test labels. So participants don’t see any of the cues or sign posts they might normally see while they’re on a website and in that sense it is abstract, while that brings an absolute focus to the tree structure.
As with card sorting, tree testing can take place in a moderated scenario or online using relevant software packages. These include Treejack by Optimal Workshop, UserZoom’s tree testing software or C-Inspector.
Results from Optimal Workshop’s tree testing Treejack look something like this. Based on a task related to finding a particular item of content, the software records aspects of the user’s journey towards that content, including how quickly they located the content, whether their first click was relevant, whether they backtracked during the exercise and more.
This is rich material for UX designers, allowing us to see how a user expected to be able to get to their content. By referring to these results, we may end up relocating an item of content within a structure or providing sign posts to content and places where there was ambiguity about its placement. These tests are useful not only for establishing whether an overall information architecture is right, but also for providing good insights into typical customer journeys.Back to Top
Rick Monro is UX Director at Fathom. He has extensive experience in user research, interaction design, user-centered design, and design strategy with private and public sector organisations throughout the UK and Ireland.
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