Your Ultimate Guide to Tree Testing in UX Design

Unlock the power of tree testing to streamline user experiences with our comprehensive guide

Craig Barber

Senior Product Designer

As UX designers, we strive to create seamless and intuitive user experiences.

One powerful technique that helps us achieve this goal is tree testing.

In this blog post, we'll delve into the basics of tree testing, explore its significance in UX design, provide real-life examples, and discuss the tools and methods that UX designers employ to conduct effective tree testing.

So, let's dive in!

What is Tree Testing?

Tree testing

Imagine you're lost in a dense forest, and you need to find the shortest path to your destination.

Tree testing, also known as reverse card sorting, is a usability technique that helps evaluate the structure and organization of information within a website or application.

It involves testing the findability and discoverability of specific items within a hierarchical tree structure.

Video explainer for Tree Testing:

Why Do We Do Tree Testing?

Tree testing

Tree testing allows us to uncover navigational issues early in the design process.

By evaluating the information architecture independently from visual design, we can identify potential roadblocks users might encounter while navigating our digital products.

By identifying and resolving these issues, we ensure a more efficient and satisfying user experience.

Real-Life Examples of Tree Testing

Tree testing

E-commerce Website

Imagine testing the navigation of an e-commerce site, focusing on finding a specific product category, such as "laptops." Tree testing helps determine whether users can easily locate the desired category and assess the efficiency of the website's categorization structure.

Mobile Banking App

Let's say you're testing the navigation flow within a mobile banking app, with a particular focus on finding the "bill payment" feature. Tree testing enables you to uncover any hurdles users might face when trying to locate and access this essential functionality.

Tools and Methods for Conducting Tree Testing

Tree testing

Optimal Workshop

Optimal Workshop offers a comprehensive suite of user research tools, including "Treejack," a platform specifically designed for tree testing. It provides a user-friendly interface for creating and conducting tree tests, analyzing results, and generating valuable insights.

Paper Prototyping

In the early stages of design, you can create paper prototypes of the hierarchical structure. Ask participants to perform tasks by marking their path on the paper, revealing insights into potential navigational issues.

Online Surveys

Use online survey tools, such as Google Forms or SurveyMonkey, to present participants with the hierarchical structure and task scenarios. Collect their feedback, analyze the results, and identify areas for improvement.

Remote User Testing

Conduct remote tree testing sessions using screen sharing and video conferencing tools like Zoom or Microsoft Teams. Observe participants as they navigate the structure, ask for feedback, and gain valuable insights.

Frequently Asked Questions about Tree Testing

Tree testing

What is the difference between tree testing and card sorting?

While tree testing focuses on evaluating the structure and organization of information within a hierarchical tree, card sorting involves participants organizing content into categories. Tree testing helps assess the findability and discoverability of specific items, while card sorting helps create or validate the structure itself.

When should I conduct tree testing in the design process?

Tree testing is most effective when conducted during the early stages of the design process, preferably before visual design or detailed interaction design. It allows you to uncover and address navigational issues before investing too much time and effort into the visual elements.

How many participants should I involve in tree testing?

It is recommended to involve at least 15 to 20 participants in tree testing to gather a diverse range of insights. However, even testing with a smaller number of participants can provide valuable feedback and reveal significant issues.

How do I create an effective tree test?

To create an effective tree test, start by defining clear tasks that represent common user goals. Structure the tree hierarchy based on user expectations and mental models. Avoid leading or biased phrasing in the task descriptions and ensure that the tree structure is intuitive and aligned with user needs.

What metrics should I consider when analyzing tree testing results?

The primary metric to consider is the success rate, which indicates the percentage of participants who successfully completed a task. You can also examine the time taken to complete tasks, the paths participants followed, and any comments or feedback provided. These metrics help identify areas of improvement and potential usability issues.

Can I conduct tree testing remotely?

Yes, tree testing can be conducted remotely using various online tools and platforms. Remote tree testing allows you to reach a wider audience, gain insights from different geographical locations, and save time and resources. Screen sharing and video conferencing tools enable you to observe participants as they navigate the tree structure and provide feedback.

How often should I repeat tree testing?

It is advisable to conduct tree testing whenever significant changes are made to the information architecture or navigation structure of a website or application. Regularly reassessing the usability and effectiveness of the structure ensures ongoing improvements and optimal user experiences.

Can I combine tree testing with other usability testing methods?

Absolutely! Tree testing can be complemented with other usability testing methods such as user interviews, usability testing sessions, or heuristic evaluations. Combining multiple techniques provides a comprehensive understanding of user behavior and helps uncover different aspects of usability.

What if I don't have a budget for specialized tree testing tools?

If budget constraints are an issue, you can still conduct tree testing using low-cost or no-cost alternatives. Techniques such as paper prototyping, online surveys, or even simple manual methods like marking paths on a printed structure can provide valuable insights without requiring expensive tools.

How do I prioritize and address issues identified during tree testing?

Once you have identified issues through tree testing, prioritize them based on their impact on the user experience. Address critical issues first, followed by those with medium or low priority. Iteratively refine the information architecture based on the insights gained, and conduct subsequent tree tests to validate the effectiveness of your improvements.


Tree testing empowers UX designers to enhance the usability and efficiency of their digital products by evaluating the information architecture independently from visual design.

By employing various tools and methods such as Optimal Workshop, paper prototyping, online surveys, and remote user testing, we can identify and resolve navigational issues, ensuring a seamless user experience.

So, let's embrace tree testing as a powerful tool in our UX design toolkit and continue crafting user-centric solutions that leave a lasting impact.

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Showcase your work with a stunning portfolio template

Looking to update your design portfolio? Check out the amazing portfolio templates for Framer at FolioPharmacy.

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