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An Introduction to Treejack. Out on a limb with your IA. Dave O ’ Brien Optimal Usability. Dave O ’ Brien Optimal Usability Wellington, New Zealand. Welcome. 22 Jan 2010 36 attendees USA, CA, UK, NZ, AU, BR, CO. Quickie Treejack tour What is tree testing? Planning a tree test

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an introduction to treejack

An Introduction to Treejack

Out on a limb with your IA

Dave O’Brien

Optimal Usability

Dave O’BrienOptimal Usability

Wellington, New Zealand


22 Jan 2010

36 attendees


Quickie Treejack tour

What is tree testing?

Planning a tree test

Setting up Treejack

Running a test

High-level results

Detailed results

Lessons learned

(Q&A throughout)

  • Have you used Treejack yet?
  • No, haven’t tried it yet = 20%
  • Yes, but only a practice test = 60%
  • Yes, have run a "real" test = 20%
tree testing the 5 minute tour
Tree testing - the 5-minute tour
  • Creating a medium or large website
  • Does your top-down structure make sense?
does your structure work
Does your structure work?

Can users find particular items in the tree?

Can they find them directly, without having to backtrack?

Could they choose between topics quickly, without having to think too much?

Which parts of your tree work well?

Which fall down?

what s it good for
What’s it good for?

Improving organisation of your site

Improving top-down navigation

Improving your structure’s terminology (labels)

Comparing structures (before/after, or A vs. B)

Isolating the structure itself

Getting user data early (before site is built)

Making it cheap & quick to try out ideas

what it s not
What it’s NOT

NOT testing other navigation routes

NOT testing page layout

NOT testing visual design

NOT a substitute for full user testing

NOT a replacement for card sorting


Paper tree testing

“card-based classification”– Donna Spencer

Show lists of topics on index cards

In person, score manually, analyse in Excel

make it faster easier
Make it faster & easier

Create a web tool for remote testing

Quick for a designer to learn and use

Simple for participants to do the test

Able to handle a large sample of users

Able to present clear results

Quick turnaround for iterating

but i already do card sorting
But I already do card sorting!

Open card sorting is generative

Suggests how your users mentally group content

Helps you create new structures

Closed card sorting – almost not quite

Tree testing is evaluative

Tests a given site structure

Shows you where the structure is strong & weak

Lets you compare alternative structures

a useful ia approach
A useful IA approach

Run a baseline tree test (existing structure)

What works? What doesn’t?

Run an open card sort on the content

How do your users classify things?

Come up with some new structures

Run tree tests on them (same tasks)

Compare to each other

Compare to the baseline results

planning a tree test
Stakeholder interview

Find out who, what, when, etc.

fill in "planning questions" template

Get the tree(s) in digital format

use Excel tree-import template, etc.

Planning a tree test
getting the tree
Getting the tree

Import a digital format


Text file


Or enter in Treejack


How big are your trees?

Small (less than 50 items) = 25%

Medium (50 - 150 items) = 39%

Large (150 - 250 items) = 22%

Huge (more than 250 items) = 14%

tree tips
Tree tips

Recommend <1000 items

Bigger? Cut it down by:

Using top N levels (e.g. 3 or 4)

Testing subtrees separately*

Pruning branches that are unlikely to be visited

Remove “helper” topics

e.g. Search, Site Map, Help, Contact Us

Watch for implicit topics!

implicit topics
Implicit topics

Create your tree based on the content, not just the page structure.

  • Home
  • Products
  • Support
  • Contact Us
  • South America
  • Europe

Contact Us

  • North America
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  • consectetur adipisicing elit
  • sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt
  • ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.

South America

  • Home
  • Products
  • Support
  • Contact Us
  • North America
  • South America
  • Europe


user groups and tasks
User groups and tasks
  • Identify your user groups
  • Draft representative tasks for each group
    • Tasks must be “real” for those users!
  • ~10 tasks per participant
    • Beware the learning effect
    • Small tree ~8, large tree ~12
    • More tasks? Limit per participant
    • Randomise the task order
drafting tasks
Drafting tasks
  • What parts of the tree do you want to test?
    • Coverage should reflect importance
  • Each task must:
    • Be specific
    • Be clearly worded
    • Use the customer’s language
    • Be concise
  • Beware “give-away” words!
  • Review now, preview before the real test
setting up a treejack project
Creating a Treejack project

Entering your tree

Entering the tasks and answers

Less on mechanics, more on tips

Setting up a Treejack project
creating a project
Creating a project

New vs. Duplicate

Survey name vs. address


The “Other” option

Passing an argument in the URL

entering your tree
Entering your tree

Paste from Excel, Word, text file, etc.

“Top”– how to replace


Not the same as randomising tasks

Changing the tree after entering answers

Lesson learned:

Edit/review/finalise the tree elsewhere before putting it into Treejack

entering tasks and answers
Entering tasks and answers

Preview is surprisingly useful

Multiple correct answers

The “main” answer is usually not enough

Check the entire tree yourself

Must choose bottom-level topics

Workaround: Mark all subtopics correct

Workaround: Remove the subtopics

Choose answers LAST

task options
Task options

Randomising tasks – almost always

Limiting the # of tasks

20-30 tasks = 10 per participant

Increase the # of participants to get enough results per task

Skip limit

Eliminate users who didn’t really try

Defaults to 50%

testing the test
Testing the test

Not previewing/piloting is just plain dumb

Spot mistakes before launch

Preview the entire test yourself

Pilot it with stakeholders and sample users

Launch it, get feedback, duplicate, revise

Look for:

Task wording (unclear, ambiguous, typos)

Unexpected “correct” answers

Misc. problems (e.g. instructions)

How many participants do you get per test?

1 – 20 = 44%

21 – 40 = 20%

41 – 100 = 24%

Over 100 = 12%

running the tree test
Running the tree test

Invite participants

Website-page invitations

email invitations

Recommend >30 users per user group/test

Monitor early results for problems

low # of surveys started

Email invitation not clear? Subject = spam? Not engaging?

low completion rate

email didn’t set expectations? Test too long? Too hard?

Generally less taxing than card sorting

skimming high level results
10/100/1000 level of detail

Middling overall score

Often many highs with a few lows

Inspect tasks with low scores (low total or low sub-scores)

Inspect the pie charts

Skimming high-level results

% who chose a correct answer(directly or indirectly)

low Success score

check the spreadsheet to see where they went wrong

Destinations tab

Path tab


% of successful users who did not backtrack

Coming soon: making this independent of success

low Directness score

check the spreadsheet for patterns in their wandering

Paths tab


% who completed this task at about the same speed as their other tasks

% who completed task within 2 standard deviations of their average task time for all tasks

70% Speed score

7/10 users went their “normal” speed

3/10 users took substantially longer than normal for them

Low Speed score

indicates that user hesitated when making choices

e.g. choices are not clear or not mutually distinguishable

Wish: add the raw times to the spreadsheet, so you can do your own crunching as needed.

Overall score uses a grid to combine these scores in a semi-intelligent fashion

detailed results destinations
Where did people end up?

# who chose a given topic as the answer

Wrong answers

High totals - problem with that topic (perhaps in relation to its siblings)

Clusters of totals – problem with the parent level

Ignore outliers

For >30 sessions, ignore topics that get <3 clicks.

Detailed results – destinations
detailed results destinations1
Detailed results – destinations

Look for high “indirect success” rates (>20%)

Check paths for patterns of wandering

Look for high “failure” rates (>25%)

Check the wrong answers above

Look for high skip rates (> 10%)

Check paths for where they bailed out.

Look for "evil attractors"

Topics that get clicks across several seemingly unrelated tasks.

Usually a vague term that needs tightening up

detailed results first clicks
Where they went on their first click

Important for task success

Which sections they visited overall

Did they visit the right section but back out?

Detailed results – first clicks
detailed results paths
Click-by-click paths that they took through the tree

Useful when asking:

How the heck did they get way over there?

Did a lot of them take the same detour?

No web UI for removing participants.

Email Support and we’ll fix you up.

Detailed results – paths
some lessons learned
Some lessons learned
  • Test new against old
  • Revise and test again – quick cycles
  • Test a few alternatives at the same time
  • Cover the sections according to their importance
  • Analysis is easier than for card sorting
  • Use in-person testing to get the “why”
    • Paper is still effective (and free!) for this
  • Tree testing is only part of your IA work
what s coming
What’s coming

Better scoring for Directness, Speed

Improved results (10/100/1000)

General enhancements across Treejack, OptimalSort, and Chalkmark

Whatever you yell loudest for…

GetSatisfaction lets you “vote” for issues

tree testing more resources
Boxes & Arrows article on tree testing

Donna Spencer’s article on paper tree testing

Treejack websiteWebinars, slides, articles, user forum

Tree testing – more resources
getting your input
Getting your input

Specific issues/questions

Feature requests

Check the support forum (GetSatisfaction)

“Feedback” button