User experience (UX) is the backbone of website usability. 88% of users will likely not return to a website if they have a bad user experience.
UX tree testing is a research method that can greatly help in creating an improved user experience. It puts the information architecture of your website to test.
If you are looking to improve your website usability through UX testing, take a look at how UX tree testing can help you achieve your goals.
5 ways UX Tree Testing can improve your website usability
Tree testing is a powerful UX research method that deals with the structure of your website or application. It evaluates the hierarchical structure and the findability of topics within the website. Whether users can find what they are looking for.
A tree testing includes participants being presented with a text-only version of a website’s hierarchy. They are then asked to complete a series of tasks that determines whether they can find the topics they were looking for or not.
Tree testing is a valuable exercise that can serve as a foundation for designing improved digital solutions. Here are some ways in which tree testing improves your website usability.
Evaluate the effectiveness of your website’s navigation
Ensuring the comfort of the end user is why UX research is important. And tree testing helps you do just that. The data you receive upon running a tree testing can help you understand how the end user perceives your website. Are they having difficulty navigating it?
You will need a basic structure in place before you test it out with tree testing. Therefore you need to create a sample structure based on historic data of what users expect from a website in your niche.
Once you create the sample, you may conduct tree testing with a variable number of participants. Their responses can be evaluated to infer how easy they found the navigation to be. The goal should be for them to be able to locate the desired topics with ease.
For example, if you are a clothing brand, your user testing could involve asking users to search for black trousers in the price range of $20 to $100. The users should be able to perform the task without no outside help.
How does tree testing differ from card sorting in evaluating navigation
Tree testing is often referred to as ‘reverse card sorting’. In card sorting, participants are presented with information that they have to sort in groups in a way that makes sense to them. Tree testing presents already sorted information to the participant that they have to navigate.
Card sorting puts the responsibility on the participant to create categories and groups and then master information with the one you would have created. Tree testing flips this by presenting predetermined categories and asking the participants to locate items.
Both processes have their pros and cons. They are used differently in the UX process of designing an interface. Card sorting should ideally come before tree testing. This is because, in card sorting, the participant is working with completely raw information.
It is often in the initial phase of the entire project. How the participant sorts information in card sorting forms the basis of the structure of the website. Tree testing comes later when the structure created from research is tested for its ease of navigation.
Gather insight into the end user’s use of your website
Tree testing offers a window into your end user’s mind. It helps you see how they perceive the solution you have created with them. Think of it as a trial run of a new product before launch. Your audience experiences your product in its most simplistic form with tree testing.
You can put in questions that are as specific or vague as navigation. You may also set up the tasks as challenges to see how users navigate the tougher tasks on your website. How they respond to the tasks gives you insights into their perception.
For example, you may set levels of tasks, the simplest being buying one item from your website, the hardest being choosing a specific item that is on the 5th page once the category is sorted a specific way.
Now, if the user completes all the challenges even if they face difficulty along the way, it likely means that they are thoroughly interested in the product. If they leave halfway through, it could mean that the process frustrated them and that they think it wasn’t worth putting up with the challenges.
Conducting tree testing correctly to gather user insights
To conduct tree testing to correctly gather useful user insights, follow the steps given below:
- Prepare the questions — Make sure you map out the entire test beforehand. This includes putting together a team, participants, and the test process. Put questions and tasks that benefit your goal.
Make sure the test isn’t more than 15-20 minutes and has no more than 10 tasks. Run the questions by your team for approval as well.
- Define the tree structure — Clearly define the tree structure the test will be based on. This includes defining the categories and subcategories clearly. You should also define the various pages.
It’s important to make sure beforehand that your participants understand how every categories and subcategory relate to.
- Choose the testing method — Will your test be in person or remote? In-person testing promotes physical analysis of the participants’ behavior and other nonverbal cues. You can even skip some questions that can be inferred by physical observation.
Remote testing is easy and quick, but you lack the personal touch of an in-person examination. To make sure you don’t miss out on important observations, include relevant questions such as a section about their overall experience with the test.
Uncover hidden issues
Tree testing puts the entire structure of your website to use. Every cog in the machinery needs to work effectively to be able to produce a seamless experience for the end user. In this regard, tree testing often brings out buried and hidden issues with your digital solutions.
Even if the test is designed for, say, checking the functionality of the payment gateway, the user will not be able to perform it if they cannot put the desired product in the cart. Such issues may not be instantly visible, but can be uncovered through tree testing.
Mightybytes conducted tree testing for trail conservancy. This test discovered a 90% fail rate for participants who tried to locate the resource library. Turns out the library was too deeply buried for participants to locate it freely or navigate their way to it.
Identify unnecessary areas on the website
Tree testing serves as an effective way to conduct a thorough examination of your entire website structure and identify redundant and unnecessary areas. Categories that may be sitting idle can be easily identified on their usability.
For example, you may have created a category on your cosmetics retail website that groups together products that are as ‘seen on the internet’. However, you were not able to follow through with that category and it ends up having only 5-6 products at most.
In such a case, that category is simply using up space that may be better utilized by another category. Tree testing can help you identify such categories by analyzing results and seeing what navigation path most users take.
Comparing two versions
One of the biggest advantages of tree testing is that it is quick and easy. You can potentially test out various versions of your website’s structure to see which one works best. Compare the results and apply the most optimal version.
Tree testing is an actionable method of testing out different variations. You don’t have to spend too many resources on creating tests for different variations. It can be conducted remotely as well, making it highly accessible.
Quantitatively analyze results. For example, if Version A has a 62% success rate with a user group and Version B has a 37% success rate with the same user group, Version A is far easier to navigate.
You can even add specific questions regarding the difference between the two separate versions being tested. Questions such as ‘which one do you prefer and why?’ or ‘what makes one version better than the other?’ can help you get clearer insights.
User experience is crucial to a Shopify website’s usability. There are many ways to test the effectiveness and usability of a website. Tree testing is one such powerful method that evaluates the navigation of a website. If you are interested in continuing down the UX rabbit hole, have a look some UX case studies from Shopify.
Provide users with a text-only version of your website’s hierarchy and ask them to perform a set of tasks to evaluate your navigation’s effectiveness. The results give you an insight into the end user’s experience with your product.
Let us know in the comments what other purposes tree testing serves and why it is crucial to UX.