How to use Tree Testing to Test the Information Architecture of Your Website or App

Importance of testing IA

Back when I was a kid, I was taught that raw bits of unorganized facts that needed to be processed are called data, and when data is processed and organized into something sensible, or presented to us in a given context so as to make it useful, it is called information. What I wasn’t taught as a kid was that even information needed some sort of organization, so that we could achieve a consistency in task flow.

One of the biggest challenges faced while building a website or an app is organization of content. If your content is not findable or accessible, no matter how pretty or full of bells and whistles your website or app is, your users are going to run away, and conversion rates are going to come down. Testing the organization of content (or information architecture as we call it), thus, becomes very necessary at the early stages of product development lifecycle.

Hello Tree Testing

There are several different ways in which the information architecture (IA) of a particular website/app can be tested. What if I told you there is a simple yet bulletproof technique to carry out such a test? Yes, we are talking about Tree Testing – one of the simplest ways to test the IA of an application.

So what is a ‘tree’? Typically, every website that has more than a few pages translates into a structure that categorizes pages into groups and sub-groups forming some sort of hierarchy of content. This hierarchy of content or ‘tree’ can be formed by the usual IA/User Research techniques (Read: Card Sorting). Once this tree has been formed, it needs to be cross-checked to make sure that everything is perfect. This is where Tree Testing comes into play.

Tree testing is an effective way to assess the findability, labeling & organization of your website’s/app’s structure. Unlike traditional usability testing, tree testing is not done on the website itself; instead, a simplified text version of the site’s structure is used. The prime focus is to test the navigation system of the website.

The questions to be answered are – “Can users find what they are looking for?”, “Does the navigation system make sense to users?”, “Can they choose between menu items, without having to think too much?”, etc. Factors like visual design, motion design, etc. are taken out of the picture.

Typically, a tree test is conducted prior to building a prototype to make sure that users are able to navigate easily through the ‘tree’ (hierarchy of content).

 

Why you should do it

There are various advantages of adopting this process. Few of them are clubbed together below:

  • It allows you to visually test the navigation and findability of your website/app.
  • It allows you to identify navigational issues prior to building a prototype or a dynamic website.
  • It allows you to analyze all attempts where users had trouble navigating before you go live.
  • It allows you to gauge how well users can find items in the ‘tree’.
  • It allows you to determine the ease with which users/participants complete the given tasks successfully.
  • How to go about performing a Tree Test

Here’s a short guide on how to go about performing a Tree Test: Let’s consider a hypothetical situation where you want to test the information architecture of an e-commerce website that sells hair and skin care products. Let’s assume that you’ve already performed a card sort and have come up with a navigation system that seems to be appropriate. The next step is to cross check and make sure everything is perfect. Here’s what you do.

  • Give your users/participants a “find it” task (Example: “Look for American Crew Daily Shampoo”).
  • Show them a text version of the top tier of the menu items of your website.
  • Once they choose a menu item, show them the list of items under that particular category (This is the next tier in your tree).
  • Let them continue to move down through the tree, backtracking if necessary – until they successfully complete the given task or until they give up.
  • Give them several tasks in this manner, every time starting back at the top of the tree.

 

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Analyze and implement the findings/results.

  • Conclusion Proper analysis of the findings will answer the following questions:
  • Did the users/participants succeed in completing the given task(s)?
  • Did they backtrack? If yes, then where and the number of times they needed to do so?
  • How fast did they click?
  • Which sections need a rework?

The most important task at hand next is to implement these findings/results. Redesign the structure of content using these findings and perform the test once again. If the user interaction is found to be smooth and error free, you are good to go.

Although Tree Testing might seem like overkill to some of us, but it does reveal major flaws in your website’s/app’s structure, and lets you define a more reliable site structure and navigation by validating the results derived from IA techniques like Card Sorting, etc..

 

Interested in learning more?  Get a 50% discount on this 5-star course on Developing an Information Architecture with Card Sorting.  Join a community of 100+ students & receive lifetime access to 14 easy-to-follow lectures from the user experience experts U1 Group (a UX consultancy firm).

 

Arijit Banerjee is a UI & UX Enthusiast. Although a power systems engineer by education, he has always found himself inclined toward the world of UX.  He has been associated with several firms and has helped define experiences across a wide range of products.  Apart from that, he’s a terrible singer, a dog lover, and an out and out foodie with decent culinary skills.  You can visit his website or follow him on Twitter.

World Usability Day: attend and win the $10,000 Prize Package

We’re excited to be sponsoring another exciting usability event called World Usability Day (WUD), taking place on November 13, 2014.

WUD is a single day of events occurring in over 25 countries that brings together communities of professional, industrial, educational, citizen, and government groups for our common objective: to ensure that the services and products important to life are easier to access and simpler to use.

The topic of this year’s event? Engagement.

We’ll be exploring critical questions like:

  • How can you engage people to use technology products and services?
  • What kind of design thinking needs to be incorporated to keep people engaged?
  • How can you engage those outside our field to understand the importance of a good user experience?

Find a World Usability Day event near you >>

Because we believe in this event and want to support the discussion around increasing engagement, Loop11 is sponsoring WUD by contributing 1 free user test, a $350 value.

The World Usability Package will include leading tools for Usability, Marketing & Project Management professionals, with a total value of more than $10,000 in prizes.

To enter the contest for a chance to win, you simply have to upload a photo of the most engaging thing you’ve seen today (online or offline) and then write a short explanation of why the subject is engaging.

Make sure to check out this post for more details on when to enter the contest and follow @optimalworkshop so you can catch the competition start date.

Why Marketing and UX Should Test Together

For many organizations, the sales and marketing team operate within a completely separate circle to the product development teams, but they are closely linked by the financial/budget calendars as well as the product release cycles. In the majority of cases the sales and marketing activities tend to dictate the initial business requirements and product specifications, if not the product sprint and release cycles.

Rather than proposing some radical concept or changing existing practices, here are some reasons why the UX practitioner should consider collaborating with the marketing department more closely so that the company gains the maximum benefit from its research activities and budget.

Completeness of research
Marketing research is aimed at understanding customer/user perceptions (i.e. their ‘wants’), which is an important component of the overall user experience. Complementing this is the user study and research on the customer experience of the products and services (i.e. their ‘needs’). When you can align the customer perceptions with their experiences then you will have a much better chance of meeting their expectations, or go one step further by exceeding them. Unfortunately, we often see business requirements created from market research and products designed based on user research as a result of the marketing department and the UX team failing to align their goals and objectives.

Efficient use of time and resources
In the current age of shrinking budgets and limited resources, it makes sense to streamline and maximize the resources available on hand. Creating two separate processes (and potentially using completely different tools) for conducting research within the company means having to duplicate the efforts of recruiting users, running research studies, not to mention the time and effort spent analyzing the results, managing the information and having extra personnel/staff to do the work as well as co-ordinating and scheduling the activities involved. It also means having people from the UX area chasing up data from marketing and vice versa rather than sharing and integrating the customer information knowledgebase.

Sharing/transfer of knowledge
A large number of UX researchers and designers are primarily focused on the observed or recorded behaviour and responses of users in the context of the product or service that they are trying to deliver. However, having access to information about user perceptions on a wider range of subject matter can reveal valuable insights about how to create better product or service for the user. Traditional marketing research techniques and consumer database contain a wealth of knowledge that UX researchers can tap into for creating better personas and user profiles. Conversely, a better grasp of user behaviour studies can also help the marketing team create surveys and studies that tailor to their target audience more than generic or standardized survey questions.

Last, but not least, in this day and age when many of the key business decisions are being driven by companies competing on the basis of understanding and delivering on customer expectations, isn’t it time for companies to start sharing a vision for what they want to achieve for their customers, rather than how to achieve KPIs that may or may not reflect if their customers are truly happy and satisfied? This means that marketing teams should not being seeing UX as a blackbox, and the UX teams should stop thinking about marketing research as secondary to the product design and development process.

Only by understanding the benefits and values of customer research and testing across the organization can research and testing activities create the maximum value. And that is the best reason for marketing and UX teams to start testing together.

 

Michael Lai is a freelancing and consulting UX architect specializing in infographic and data visualization design. He has worked and consulted in various industries (hospitality, retail, IT, science, and engineering just to name a few) and covered many UX related roles (including user research, copywriting, training, graphic design, business analysis, and information architecture) to make sure he understands the important UX issues first-hand.

UX Awards 2014 – Submit your best projects and get 15% off on us!

We’re extremely excited to announce our sponsorship of the 4th Annual International UXAwards, the premier awards for exceptional digital experience. This is the fourth year running that Loop11 has been a sponsor and a supporter of these great UX awards!

By honoring the most talented UX innovators, highlighting exceptional UX best practices and showcasing next-generation digital products, the “UXies” inspire technologists to create elegant, human-centered products that solve real customer problems.

This year, the UXies will be held from September 11-12, 2014 in sunny San Francisco, California. The 2014 UX judging panel is comprised of top UX thought leaders and practitioners from Etsy, Amazon, GE, LUXR, Facebook, HUGE and Frog.

Interested in submitting? The UXies welcome submissions from all levels, including agencies, companies, individuals and students. All prospective UXers are invited to enter online at UXAwards.org from May 1 to June 15, 2014. Be sure to use discount code “UXAwardsSupporter” to receive 15% off your entry!

The 2014 awards showcase will also feature the UXies celebration and advanced UX training workshops. These will…

  • Showcase each winning product and celebrate the creators
  • Share UX practitioners’ creative processes and approaches
  • Reveal each expert judge’s evaluation process and perspective
  • Offer concentrated and advanced UX training and education from the judges and other invited expert speakers
  • Provide many informal opportunities to meet winners, judges, applicants, senior UX professionals, hiring companies and UX service providers

Check out the schedule and buy tickets - and be sure to use discount code “UXAwardsSupporter” for 15% off any ticket level!  Visit UXAwards.org for more information.

UXA2014Logo-XP

Education Powerhouse Quantifies User Happiness

Teach For All logo

Teach For All is a growing network of over 30 independent partner organizations with a shared vision of expanded educational opportunity in their countries. Each partner recruits and develops diverse leaders to commit two years to teach in their nations’ high-need classrooms and to work throughout their lives to increase opportunity for children. Teach For All works to accelerate partners’ progress and increase their impact through direct support, facilitating connections, accessing global resources, and leadership development.

The Goal

To create an efficient and intuitive global knowledge portal based on partner suggestions and feedback gathered from partner organization staff and Teach For All staff through the Loop11 remote usability testing platform.

The Brief

After developing a beta version of its new knowledge portal, Teach For All implemented a usability test created through Loop11 to gauge user experience on the newly launched site. Participants were asked to engage with the portal by completing a list of defined tasks.

The Action

With the success of over 30 global organizations in mind, Teach For All used remote usability testing to assess whether or not participants found the updated portal to be:

  • User friendly
  • Easy to navigate
  • Interactive

Observations

Loop11 enabled Teach For All to launch its user experience test to Teach For All and partner organization staff members around the world in such countries as Austria, Peru, Mexico and the USA. Participants were chosen for their ability to provide insight into the learnability, intuitiveness and efficiency of the new website.

The result was a diverse collection of observation data, allowing Teach For All to:

  • Quickly assess overall site performance
  • Quantify task performance rates
  • See personal and constructive participant feedback on site usability

The flexibility and efficiency of Loop11‘s testing platform helped Teach For All gain valuable insights into how users interacted with new site features, the desirability of internal application functionality and what content was most engaging.

Conclusion

With Loop11 remote usability testing, Teach For All quickly and effectively gained user experience insight from a global network of users. By measuring task completion rates, quantifying user experience and leveraging a global audience, Teach For All gained perspective on users that might otherwise have remained hidden.

This efficient, quantitative approach to user experience testing yielded a rich variety of user experience insights that enabled critical website and user experience optimizations.

Looking to Study Your User Happiness?

Loop11 helps you (and your users) get the most out of your digital assets. Simple and efficient, Loop11 provides real-time insight into user experience and website functionality without breaking the bank. Try Loop11 for free and experience for yourself the power of remote usability testing.

 

“You in UX” 2014 usability summit — Tweet and attend for free!

In our last post we talked about our sponsorship of You in UX 2014 and how Loop11 is providing some great deals for usability fans. So, what makes this event so special? We’ve got the details on why You in UX is revolutionary and why you should be interested.

Whether you’re a professional or just someone with a general interest in user experience, You in UX provides valuable presentations to enhance career development, critical business skills and more. By focusing on the importance of leadership and personal involvement in the field, You in UX encourages us to consider how we can leverage the future of UX and build meaningful business.

The You in UX global summit is hosting 40 talks from professionals across the UX spectrum. Featured presenters include (among many others): Dr. Genevieve Bell (Director of User Experience Research at Intel), Joey Benedek (Director, Product Manager at Blackberry), and Melanie Fitzgerald (Staff UX Research Lead at YouTube).

Don’t miss out on this great web-based opportunity (that’s right, you can attend every panel in your pajamas!). Looking to score a free ticket to the event? Tell us your #1 golden rule for UX/usability via Twitter, and be sure to include @Loop11 and #YouinUX in your tweet. We’ll choose the 6 best “golden rules” and give away 6 free tickets to the You in UX summit!

 for a chance to win 1 of 6 free tickets to the You in UX online conference.

Loop11 is a proud sponsor of “You in UX” 2014

We are proud to announce our sponsorship of the 2014 You in UX Global Career Summit, happening online from May 5-22. This premier event features 40 UX leaders presenting on opportunities for attendees looking to learn more about professional UX career development.

The summit is entirely webinar-based. Attendants have the option of viewing live sessions and participating in Q&A discussions with the presenters, or viewing the presentations at their own pace.

So what can you expect from Loop11? As a ‘Trail Blazer’ sponsor, we’re excited to be hosting a creative competition through You in UX’s Spark on This!—a daily mini-sweepstakes that features fun and exciting aspects of life as a UXer. The prize? One annual license to Loop11, valued at up to $9,900! We’re also giving away $350 (USD) worth of Loop11 projects to all summit attendees to leverage their online UX testing through our powerful platform.

If you’re interested in UX and looking for some career inspiration, You in UX has extended its early bird registration to April 18th, 2014. Followers of Loop11 can receive $40 off of the early bird registration price ($295) by using code: SPLOOP1114 when purchasing.

From all of us at the Loop11 team—we hope to see you there!

New book provides context for Loop11′s accessibility testing services

Sarah Horton and Whitney Quesenbery recently wrote a book called A Web for Everyone that talks about the struggles people with disabilities encounter online and how modern web developers can help to lift this burden.

Quesenbery and Horton’s book brings web developers into the conversation by providing various examples that people with disabilities run into while interacting with modern technology – like Trevor, the Autistic boy with a high aptitude for technology who gets overwhelmed by a site that’s too complicated, or Jacob, the highly-intelligent paralegal who’s been blind since birth, or Maria, the community coordinator who prefers to look up information in Spanish.

These examples give a face to a statistic, they allow the web developers to see how large the population is, and the suggestions prove helpful to a company that doesn’t know what to do to help this population. The book also provides practical advice about how to do this through a slew of easy-to-read ideas and techniques.

Good news. You can get 20% off your purchase of A Web for Everyone with coupon code LOOP11.

This book matters because the global population of people with disabilities is growing every year. They have money and time to spend on your services, and they’re not going to spend that money if they’re overwhelmed by the roadblocks your site puts in front of them. Many companies are already trying to make their sites more accessible, so isn’t it time for you to do the same?

As Horton and Quesenbery mention, Loop11 has made modern usability testing affordable and accessible. We’ve recently expanded our efforts to include accessibility testing, and we’ve joined forces with Knowbility to provide a group of people with disabilities willing to be participants in usability tests.

If we can be of help to you with an accessibility testing project, get in touch with Loop11 today. 

 

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