Students taking the tree test and exploring preliminary designs at the ACC Eastview Campus
What’s a Tree Test?
A tree test defined is “A tree test is like a usability test on the skeleton of your navigation with the design “skin” removed. It allows you to isolate problems in findability in your taxonomy, groups or labels that are not attributable to issues with design distractions, or helpers.” via Jeff Sauro – Measuring Usability
In short a tree test tests how well you have organized content within your site, and how well you have labeled that content.
The card sort phase of the Web Redesign Project was deployed using OptimalSort’s Card Sorting program and we turned to them again for the tree testing part of the project. Using the software, I was able to input the skeleton of our test website into the system and assign several tasks for the testers. We had 9 individual tasks for testers and the tests lasted about 20 min. “Correct” answers are marked within the system. Simple analysis of the test included how quickly users were able to find information and if they selected the correct information at all. More in-depth analysis shows what path down the tree users took and how many times they had to go back up the tree to find the information they felt comfortable with.
After testers were finished with the tree test they we shown the development website and asked to browse around and get a general first impression of it. We asked testers to both explore and consider finding the same type of information they had been tasked with in the tree test. and then fill out a quick paper survey.
I took an online seminar on how best to set up the tree test and actually test the test to make sure it was viable. In our first iteration there were some snags but for the most part I was content with how it read and worked. Since our test site is rather large, setting up the tree was difficult but I finally got it to function. At this point we were ready to deploy the test.
Students taking the tree test and exploring preliminary designs at the ACC South Austin Campus
Feed the Tree
I set up a vanity URL that was easy to remember and pointed it at the online tree test.
The team then went to South Austin Campus and Eastview Campus on different days to solicit students to become testers. Tests were performed in classrooms that were equipped with computers. Since the test was web based i did not have to install special software or programs, and the test was completed through a web browser. After these to sessions were completed, we edited the tree to take into account what we learned. We then deployed that tree test at Cypress Creek Campus to validate the changes.
Low Hanging Fruit
We quickly discovered that due to the amount of information we have and the specific tasks that students are asked to perform, finding the information proved difficult even with our new information structure. The task often had a driver word that users latched onto, and then went down those paths.
Example 1: “Find student computer access on campus.”
Testers latched on to the “campus” part of the question and initially started on the “Locations” page, which did not have a section for student computers. If students did make it down “Services for Students” section they selected the “Support Center” page which is also incorrect.
Example 2:” You’ve heard the meningitis requirement might affect you. Find the information and see if it affects you.”
Many students marked the Frequently Asked Questions under the “About ACC” section. I did not have this marked as a correct answer but again what this does showcase is how a user may be thinking about a topic and where they feel information should be located.
Spruce the Branches
We are making adjustments to the tree by analyzing where information is located and what we are labeling content as the test progresses. At a given point we will roll out these changes to the actual website once they have been discussed. Again, we are looking for trends and signifiers that will tell us how and where users expect to find particular sets of information and content.
Why not help us out and take the tree test?
The comments the students left us on the new website questionnaire can be viewed here. Thanks to the testing team for putting this together!