What is tree testing?

What is a tree test?

Tree testing is a usability technique that can help you evaluate the findability of topics on a website. You may have also heard this method described as ‘reverse card sorting’, or possibly ‘card-based classification’.

Tree tests are run on text-based versions of websites, without the influence of navigation aids or design elements, similar to a sitemap. Participants are shown the text-only version of your website or app and are asked to indicate where they would find specific items or topics.

Why is tree testing helpful?

By stripping away everything but the labels and how they’re organized, you can work out just how effective your website structure is at enabling people to find what they need. If test participants consistently struggle to locate specific items, you’ll know there are issues with your structure. It can also help you visualize what paths participants take to get to specific site information.

When should you do tree testing?

It’s a good idea to do a tree test early in the research phase of a project. If you have an existing website, this is a good time to establish a base of your existing site structure. The results you gather here can help to highlight any issues with your site structure and provide data to compare any improvements against.

If you’re starting from scratch with a new website, you can run tree tests on different versions of your proposed site structure and then compare the results to determine which makes the most sense to your users.

Tree testing with UserTesting 

We suggest asking users to record themselves via the UserTesting platform while they complete an online tree test using a third-party tool such as Treejack (a tree testing tool from Optimal Workshop).

Participants are asked to think out loud as they complete the tree test, so you can observe their behavior and listen to their feedback as they go through the activity.

Visit UserTesting University for an on-demand course covering tree testing best practices.

 You can read about setting up a Treejack tree test with UserTesting here.


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