Find gaps between your product’s current navigation and what your users actually expect.

👥 10 and more person | ⏰ days | 💪🏼 medium effort


Tree testing is used to determine how users find items within an existing navigational structure, when given a particular task or series of tasks to complete.

The test usually involves grouping items based on hierarchy and naming alone — often with each item on index cards or paper rather than via a digital medium — so that findability can be judged without interference from other factors like visual design. Teams can leverage the results from this technique to decide whether parts or the entirety of a chosen navigation can successfully accommodate the kinds of user activities the product is expected to support.

Who is involved?

Tree testing requires a recruiter to find existing users who exhibit the type of behaviours that would involve navigating through the current product; a moderator to give instructions, ask the participant to do a sample task, and organise the index cards with navigational options on them as the participant answers; and a team to analyse and validate (or invalidate) the findability of important options within the current structure.

How is it done?

  1. Recruit current users who are most likely familiar with the type of sample tasks you’ll be asking them to complete during the tree testing.
  2. Create a series of index cards with the names of current or proposed navigational options on them, to show to the participant during the test.
  3. During the session, have the moderator present a sample task (such as, “Find an article involving Germany”) and lay out the cards with the first-level navigation options on them (e.g. “World”, “France.”, and “Paris”). As the participant moves through navigational levels, more cards are added onto the table until the participant is confident they are at the page where they can complete the task. Keep in mind: participants are allowed to backtrack through the levels.
  4. After each participant’s navigational tree has been recorded, sit down as a team to analyse where frustrations and navigational pain points are most evident and plan your next steps.