A free comprehensive guide for evaluating site structures
Primetime for tree testing is early in the design phase, once we’ve done enough research to feel we have a good handle on our audiences, their background, and their needs.
We start creating drafts of new site structures immediately after we finish a content audit – that is, after we decide which content we will be adding, updating, or deleting. While content is always a moving target, it really helps to have most of it identified before trying to design a structure for it.
This work on content and structure can be done in parallel with conceptual design, but usually comes before more detailed work such as page layouts, fine-grained interactions, and visual design.
Creating new trees
From our research, we should have several ideas about what to change (and what not to) in a new site tree – not just grouping, but labeling too.
We can then start sketching out new trees by looking at these ideas and our list of planned content. It’s typical to rough out 2-5 different trees at this stage, down to level 2 or level 3, just to explore how they might work. We might do this ourselves, or (even better) we might involve the whole team to get a wider variety of informed ideas.
For more on creating trees, see Chapter 5 - Creating trees.
Going wide and going deep
In the design phase, we can increase the quality of our site tree by doing two critical things:
- Going wide (testing several alternative trees at the start)
- Going deep (testing and revising down to a single tree that performs well)
The next two sections describe each of these approaches in more detail.