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Tree Testing - Clarification of terms and benefits

A tree test provides answers - real answers to the question of how well users find their way around a website and whether the most important and essential content is actually found by the user.

The word "tree" in this context stands for the English equivalent of the German word Baum. And just as you check the branches of a tree to find out what needs to be done to make it bear more fruit, tree testing is the same as checking the branches of a website. To stay with our tree example, a good branching from the main trunk would bear much fruit. Applied to our website, this would be a well-designed structure that leads to a desired result. For example, making certain content easy for the user to find, or the logical structuring of a website through a good and clear menu bar.
Tree testing thus draws attention to certain structural problems as well as to misleading terms. This allows usability to be checked during the website development.

How does tree testing work?

It is recommended to carry out such a test already during the analysis phase. To check a website concept. Of course, you can also perform the tree test in later phases, for example, to check an information structure. Here, the results of the so-called card-sorting can be evaluated even more precisely by the tree test.
Participants are recommended to be desired, potential and actual users of a website to be checked.
Furthermore, the test is carried out online with the help of suitable tools. Meanwhile there are some providers of such tools, which even offer their services free of charge for small projects.
The tools are needed to create or upload a conception of the website in the form of a tree structure. Then test scenarios are developed for the participants. The more extensive they are, the more expensive tree testing can become. On the other hand, more collected information is also much more revealing.
Once enough participants have been invited, the test can begin.
By calling up a participant's home page, a tree test starts automatically.
The test run usually does not take much longer than 5 minutes. This includes the instruction time that each participant needs. The individual tasks correspond to the previously defined test scenarios.
Depending on the tool used, the results are presented in tabular or diagram form.

What is the benefit of a tree test?

Based on the available data, you can learn some useful information about your own website.
Among other things, you can see which paths users have used to search for desired content. This helps to optimize and place content correctly, as well as to check clarity in general.
It is also possible to see which menu options were used to start the search and which pages the users marked as targets at the end. This allows conclusions to be drawn as to whether the terms and menu items used actually lead to the desired goal or not. One also learns whether certain contents within the structure are suspected to be located in other places, or whether there is even uncertainty about the assignment of certain contents. This would become apparent, for example, if the results were widely scattered.

It should be noted, however, that problems with navigation design, for example, do not become apparent as a result of the test, as graphic representations of the individual pages are not available.

The quality of your own web presence can be increased if you draw the right conclusions from a tree test and put them into practice.


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