Tree testing is useful at all stages in the design process, whether you’re starting from scratch or making a few tweaks to a website structure you already have in place.
Here are three scenarios you might face, and how tree testing will help you move on to the next step.
When you want to improve an existing website, benchmark with tree testing
If you’re improving a website that already exists, running a tree test to start with will give insights into the parts of your design that work, and tell you exactly what needs to be improved.
Starting with a tree test will also give you a clear, quantifiable benchmark for you to improve on in your iterations. If you test your first tree with 10 tasks, and then test your revised tree with the same 10 tasks, you’ll be able to pinpoint exactly how your changes have improved the ‘findability’ of your information.
When you have more than one potential design, test them all with tree testing
You might have more than one idea for how you’ll structure an IA, so instead of spending all your time perfecting one version, run a tree test on each of them using the same tasks.
For example, you might have three stakeholders (such as users, managers, and colleagues) who all have different ideas about what will work best. Tree testing data will tell you which design is the most effective (thereby simplifying your decision and possibly preventing fights!)
When you're creating a new website, run an open card sort and then test with tree testing
An open card sort will tell you how people think your content should be grouped and labeled. Once you’ve created a draft IA based on the results of the card sort and your site requirements, run a tree test to see how it performs based on common user tasks.