An introduction to navigation testing

 Test your pathfinding — no compass required.

Introduction

Navigation tests analyze how users navigate through your website or application, given a specific task or goal. The results help you hone critical user flows, and improve your information architecture.

Running a navigation test is simple. You upload a series of screens to emulate a particular interaction flow, and at each step, highlight the parts of the interface which can be clicked to navigate to the next step in the sequence. We call these ‘hitzones’. 

The user is presented with your interface and asked to complete a particular task. At each step, the position and timing of their clicks are recorded. 

If the user clicks within one of the hitzones, they simply proceed to the next step in the sequence. 

If they don't click within a hitzone, the test ends, and they can then give feedback around why they chose to click where they did.

The result is a funnel report showing how many users successfully clicked in the correct place at each step, where people dropped off, and free-text feedback from every user after their final click. This makes the navigation test an indispensable tool for understanding what is confusing your users.

Navigation testing also allows you to get valuable feedback in the early stages of the design process because it can be performed on sketches, wireframes, or high fidelity mock-ups of an interface. 


Best practice

Navigation testing is most valuable when used to compare the performance of an original design to an improved version. 

Give testers a brief scenario to set the scene, like "Imagine you're looking for a hotel and find this website through a Google search." 

Keep your instructions clear and simple. Complex or ambiguous instructions will drive people to click in unexpected places and give less valuable feedback.

Be sure to test your current design before embarking on testing changes. This gives you a baseline from which to measure any improvement. 

Examples