The next step in building the information architecture is to decide how to organize the content onto the site itself. This is not the question of the visual design layout of the content, but rather what content goes on what pages. Like everything in UX/UI design, conducting research is at the centerpoint of developing a user-centered information architecture.
Card sorting is a user research technique that asks participants to organize cards into groups that make the most sense to them. You might remember this method from the article Conduct Card Sorting! If you haven’t covered that article already, take a second to read through it now and come back to this lesson.
Card sorting can be especially useful when developing information architecture because it gathers data on how users group content items together - as well as how they might refer to a group of content. We can use that data to group the content onto separate pages accordingly, so that the website is organized based on the users’ expectations.
Another research method that can provide useful data to inform the IA is a tree test. Tree testing is a user research technique that evaluates the structure of a site hierarchy by asking users to navigate through the “tree” to complete certain tasks. Tree testing can be incredibly useful to conduct after card sorting, to gather user data that can inform the navigation and structure of the site, rather than the organization.
To conduct a tree test, you will need to prepare your tree, or hierarchical menu, and the tasks you want the user to complete. The first step is to define the structure you want to test.
This is your tree. You will want your users to be able to navigate through it one level at a time. You can do this using a paper prototype or an online tool. Google Form’s Branching Logic can even be used to create effective tree structures.
Then you will want to define the tasks. For example, you can ask a user to navigate to the page where they will be able to “Search for an event their friend just told them about.” Record the time it takes, the number of steps, any missteps, and any other relevant notes or data. This data will help you understand how users expect to complete important tasks and navigate through the site.
The data you gather from these research methods will help you make decisions in regards to the content organization and navigation.
How does the data on information architecture differ between card sorting and tree testing tasks?
Card sorting tasks inform the designers on how users group and categorize different content items, without knowing the existing structure. Tree testing informs the designers on how users navigate through an existing structure.