Tree test sections

Validate the information architecture of your website or app by asking participants to locate specific items in a tree structure

Jamie Shuey avatar
Written by Jamie Shuey
Updated over a week ago

Tree testing is a simple yet effective way to evaluate the organization of information on your website or in your app. It can provide you with valuable insight into how easy—or confusing—it is for your users to find a particular item or piece of information, equipping you with the data you need to provide them with a seamless user experience.

Creating a tree test

  1. From your dashboard, click +Create study, and then Test or survey

  2. Add a Tree test section

  3. Click +Add node to build your tree structure from scratch, or Import tree to upload a CSV with your items already in the proposed hierarchy

  4. Once you have built or uploaded your tree structure, add brief instructions for the task you would like participants to complete

  5. Hover over the item you want participants to find and click the circle to mark it as the correct answer

You can then optionally add follow up questions for participants to answer after they have completed your task.

Importing an existing tree structure

Once you click Import tree you will be prompted to upload your file. We currently only support .csv files for importing tree structures.

From this modal, you can also download our example spreadsheet, which is already organized in the correct format. Once you have added your items into the template, you can save and upload the file to import your tree.

If you are using your own spreadsheet, ensure that you use a new column for each level of your tree. Your primary items should be in Column 1; your secondary items in Column 2, in the rows underneath the primary item they are attached to, and so forth. For example:

Please note that we currently limit CSV uploads to 1000 rows or less.

Building your tree structure in the test builder

Once you click +Add node the text box for your first primary (parent) item will appear.

After you input your first parent node, you can either click the "+" next to the text box to add a child node to that group or click +Add node again to add another parent node. Clicking the "+" next to an item will always create a new branch of child nodes underneath it; if you want to add multiple child nodes under one parent node, simply hit Enter on your keyboard to create a new child node (sibling) in the same group.

Once you've added your items, you can drag and drop them to change their order or level.

You can also delete an item by clicking on the trash icon next to it. Keep in mind that if you delete a parent node, it will delete all of the child nodes nested underneath it.

We know some trees can get quite long, so to make it easier to review, you can click Collapse all to view only the parent nodes, Expand all to view the entire tree again, or collapse/expand individual categories by clicking the arrow icon to the left of the parent node.

Using keyboard shortcuts

To make creating your tree from scratch more efficient, you can use our keyboard shortcuts to add and navigate through your items:

Testing multiple tasks with one tree

If you want to test multiple tasks with the same tree structure, you can duplicate your test section and your tree will be carried over into a new section, where you can change the instructions and/or the follow up questions.

Note that you cannot have multiple test sections referring back to one singular tree, so if you duplicate a tree test section, that tree will be treated as a separate one and any changes you make to one of them will not automatically apply to the other.

Writing your task instructions

It’s important to develop tasks that can fully engage users in realistic situations they may come across on your website. Use simple, informal language to set the scene and prompt them to find a solution. This approach helps engage participants and encourages them to process information more deeply, leading to meaningful insights.\

For example, instead of writing:

"Select where you’d go to book a European flight.”

You could write:

"You're dreaming of a vacation in Europe but haven't decided on a destination yet. Where would you go to explore flight options for your European adventure?"

Best practices for writing tree tasks

  • Use natural language: Write tasks in conversational, plain English to mimic real user scenarios and encourage participants to engage naturally with the test.

  • Keep tasks clear and concise: Make sure tasks are easy to understand and focused on a specific goal within the tree structure. Avoid ambiguity or complex instructions.

  • Provide context: Introduce a realistic scenario or context that participants can relate to, helping them understand the purpose of the task and how it applies to their needs.

  • Avoid leading language: Don’t guide participants toward specific paths or solutions in the task's wording. For example, using our travel site example, you wouldn’t say, “You're planning a weekend getaway to Paris and you need to book a hotel. Please click on the ‘Accommodation’ tab to find available hotels in the city center,” as this guides them to the correct answer.

  • Include varied tasks: Incorporate different types of tasks, such as finding specific items, exploring categories, or performing actions to assess various aspects of the tree structure's usability.

Tree test results

On the Results page of your test you'll see the following information:

  • The success rate, or the percentage of participants who ultimately selected the correct item and completed the task.

  • The level of directness, or the percentage of participants who selected the correct item without backtracking to another item. Directness only includes users who ultimately submitted the correct item.

  • Under Totals, you'll see a list of each item that was submitted by participants as the correct item. Only items which were guessed to be correct by participants will be displayed here. For each, you'll see the absolute number as well as the percentage of total participants who chose that item. The item you nominated as the correct one will have a green checkmark next to it.

  • If anyone gave up on the task, you'll see it under the Totals section listed as "I'm not sure, pass" along with the number and percentage of participants who passed on the task.

Click on the Common paths tab to view the most (or least) commonly taken paths, or the Individual paths tab to see all individual paths listed in one place.

Path diagram

You can visualize each path taken by your participants by clicking Path diagram. The starting point will be displayed on the left, with each individual path branching off it. The thicker the path, the more participants who followed it.

Paths that resulted in direct and indirect successes are highlighted in dark and light green respectively. Paths that ended in the wrong location or resulted in a pass are highlighted in red and grey.

By clicking on navigation items with a plus icon you can can explore specific paths your participants took and see exactly how people navigated your tree test.

Lastly, you can export your visualisation as either a PNG or SVG to share them with stakeholders.

Filtering by participant

You can easily drill down into each participant's individual path and their responses to the rest of your test from your Results page. Click on the Participants tab of the sidebar to the left, then select the participant information icon next to any of your responses.

An information drawer will appear that will contain that participant's demographic information, the full path they took in your tree test, whether they were successful in completing the task and whether that success was direct or not. You can also see their answers to any other questions or sections in your test isolated from the rest of your participants' responses.

Once you have opened the participant information drawer, you can seamlessly move through each participant by clicking the up or down arrow at the top.

Common questions

Why can't I upload my tree?

Make sure that your file is in CSV format and your spreadsheet has less than 1000 rows. If you are still having trouble uploading, get in touch with us through the chat function in the bottom of your screen.

Can I use conditional logic with my tree?

Yes and no.

You can use conditional logic to either show or hide your Tree test section based on a participant's answer to a preceding question. You can also show or hide subsequent sections or questions based on a participant's answer to your Tree test's follow up question, but only if it is a single-choice, multiple choice, ranking, or linear scale question.

At this time, you cannot use a Tree test as a condition, in that you cannot show or hide subsequent questions based on whether a participant completed your tree task correctly or not.

Keep in mind that test logic is a feature that is only available on our Pro plan.

How do I ensure participants are actually attempting to find the path before they give up?

We only show the option for participants to pass when they've spent at least 10 seconds on the test. They are not required to click a node before passing, though, so you may see their pass selection in your response totals even though you won't see a path for it in your Path diagram.

Have another question? Get in touch with us via the chat bubble in the bottom right of your screen or via email at support@lyssna.com.

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