A free comprehensive guide for evaluating site structures
While the vast majority of tree testing is done online using dedicated tree-testing software, we can also test on paper (the original medium) or by using quick-and-dirty (and free) methods.
Testing online with commercial tools
As tree testing has matured as a recognized IA technique, online tools have sprung up to meet demand. All of these tools offer advantages over doing a tree test manually, such as:
- Unmoderated testing
People only need a web browser to participate - anywhere and any time, without us having to be present.
- Flexible testing options
As the test administrator, we can customize how the test is run.
- Automated analysis
This is the big one. The software records the participants' actions, and automatically summarizes/visualizes the results.
Here's a list of the commercials tools we know of (listed alphabetically), with some basic information on each:
|Steffen Schilb||Introduced in 2008, but discontinued in 2014.|
|Introduced in 2008 as a companion to the OptimalSort card-sorting tool.|
|UserZoom tree-testing module||UserZoom||$19,000/year||Aimed at larger enterprises, the UserZoom suite of tools includes tree testing.|
Testing with paper cards
For pointers on running a tree test using index cards (the original method), see Tree testing on paper in Chapter 15.
Besides paper, designers have come up with several other "home-grown" ways to test site structures. Most of these involve building an expandable tree in some existing tool, then manually tracking participants' clicks through that tree. Some examples include:
- Folder clicking
In an OS file manager (e.g. Windows Explorer), we create a tree of folders that represent our headings. Then we present participants with tasks as usual, and jot down which path they click through the folder tree.
- Site maps produced in web editors
Some HTML editors (such as Dreamweaver) allow us to create interactive site maps. As above, we can then give tasks to our participants and see where they click as they move down the tree.
- Simple HTML prototypes using tree widgets
- Custom tools
The folks at Sense/Net created their own tree-testing tool to help them redesign their website. Check out their articles on deciding on tree testing, the tool itself, and the results they generated.
Next: Where will we test?