Improving Your Website Through Intuitive Navigation

March 30, 2021

There are several methods to help evaluate and generate ideas for how your website should be structured. Card sorting and tree testing are two types of methods that will help you discover how your target audience expects to find information on your website, identify where your existing site structure is failing, and how to bridge the gap to make your website easier to use.

Card Sorting

What is card sorting?
Card sorting is used to discover how people group and label information. You will write various topics (typically the page titles on your website) on index cards and ask participants to organize the cards into groups.

When to use card sorting?
Card sorting is an excellent tool when you want to:

  • Design a new website or improve your current website
  • Learn how your audience expects to find information on your website

Limitations/things to consider

  • Card sorting does not give context to tasks that a typical user would try to complete on your website
  • Each participant may provide vastly different results and inconsistent labels for you to analyze

Tree Testing

What is tree testing?
Tree testing evaluates the findability of content within your website navigation.

During a tree test, participants are provided a text-only version of your navigation. They are asked to perform a series of tasks to measure how quickly and succinctly they can locate the appropriate items.

When to use tree testing?

  • Tree testing provides a variety of data-driven insights including:
  • Identify what is working on your existing navigation and improvements you can implement
  • Ability to test multiple proposed site structures and compare your findings

Limitations/things to consider
Since tree testing uses a text-only version of your navigation, it lacks the visual elements a typical user might use to navigate your website, and can potentially make it difficult to locate items.

Which test should you choose?

Using both card sorting and tree testing methods can provide in-depth knowledge on how users interact with your website.

Start with card sorting if you are building a new website or want a fresh perspective on how to categorize your content. With the results, create a few potential sitemaps and then use tree testing to see which one is the most successful.

Start with a tree test if you would like to restructure your existing website. Perform an initial test on your existing navigation structure as a benchmark to observe where users are struggling. With these results, either update your website navigation and perform another tree test, or conduct a card sort to gain additional information on how to group and label your content.

Card sorting and tree testing services are available on the University of Minnesota campus through Information Technology. Please let them know if you are interested in learning more about advanced topics regarding card sorting or tree testing. 

Keywords: