5 - Creating trees

 "A place for everything, and everything in its place" - Charles A. Goodrich


Tree testing starts with…of course…a tree.

By “tree”, we mean the hierarchical structure of our website or information space, represented as a multi-level list of headings:


We may be testing an existing tree (e.g. the structure of our existing site) or trying out some new trees (revised, or completely rethought) to see how well they work.

While a full discussion of how to create site trees is beyond the scope of this guide, we’ll cover the basics and provide links to other good resources.


Basing new trees on research

Knowing our users, content, and what needs fixing is crucial

Common schemes to organize sites

By audience, activity, topic, department, brand, etc.

Combining and flipping schemes

Trying permutations of level-1 and level-2 headings

Wide/shallow vs. narrow/deep

Wider, shallower trees usually work best (but have their own problems) 

Labelling and terminology

Speaking the user's language, keeping headings clear and distinguishable, etc.

Team-sourcing ideas

Involving the team nets us more (and different) ideas

Roughing out alternative trees

Jotting down just enough to triage

Picking candidate trees to test

Triaging ideas, fleshing out candidates, checking coverage

Posing questions about tree elements

Testing specific alternatives using specific tasks

More on creating trees

Where to find more tips on creating site structures

Key points

Copyright © 2016 Dave O'Brien

This guide is covered by a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.