Smart is a global technology business whose mission is to transform retirement, savings and financial wellbeing, across all generations, around the world. Founded in 2014 Smart is one of the fastest-growing financial technology companies in the UK.
Company Size
200 +
Finance technologies
Tools Used


Smart research reaps UX rewards for Smart’s Pension app

Pensions probably aren’t the first thing you think of when you consider the impact of technology on our daily lives.  However, global Fintech company, Smart, has transformed the way people engage with their retirement savings and planning through their Smart Pension Employee App. Thanks to the app, customers can pick and choose investment funds, increase their contributions, and track their pension balance in real time on their phone. 

Key to the Smart Pension app’s success (or any app for that matter), is ensuring the content and features are easy for users. When Smart’s support team noticed increasing calls from frustrated users struggling to find information and complete tasks within the app, alarm bells rang.  Smart knew something needed to be done. 

Research to the rescue – the power of tree testing

Joe Russell, Lead Product Designer, was invited to help out with the redesign of Smart’s member web app.  At the heart of the design solution was ‘information architecture’ (IA), a smart choice according to Joe, a fan of this important UX method. 

“Information architecture involves making content and features easier for users to find. It has nothing to do with how a design looks aesthetically – it’s all about language, labels and taxonomies.
If a user can’t find a feature, it’s game over – the feature may as well not exist as far as they’re concerned.”

While the actual task of coming up with a new information architecture was relatively straightforward, knowing whether the new design was better than the old was more complex.  

The design team turned to Optimal Workshops tree testing – a tried and true quantitative research UX method that tests the way you label and organize content with real people to see if it actually makes sense. Testing both their new and old IA would tell the design team how easily (or not) users found the information they were looking for on Smart’s Pensions app and exactly where they got lost.

`We used a tool called Treejack which made the tree testing pretty easy. Optimal Workshop provides a recruitment service where they source participants from a provider called Cint. It’s much cheaper than conventional lab user research which can cost about $100-200 per person all-in. With Treejack, the cost for us was just $10 per person. We recruited 200 participants, 100 tested the old design and 100 tested our new design. We got the results within about 4-5 hours, which was impressively fast.’

100 participants were given 13 different tasks using the old and new navigation.  

The comparative average task success rate was dramatic.

Old design = 45% vs New design = 75%

While the data confirmed the team’s gut feeling that the IA of the new design was better than the old design, the value of tree testing didn’t stop there. 

Delving into the data to deliver even more

‘After an initial round of self-congratulatory high fives, we realized that although the averages looked good, there was more under the surface that we needed to pay attention to. Some of the tasks didn’t show any improvement from old to new. It was incredibly useful to have quantitative data from 200 people to show us where to focus our efforts.’  

Further analysis surfaced some very specific and actionable insights including:

  • Burger menus are effective… at hiding things
    Solution:  Ditch an overflow menu and list the features on the home page so users only have to glance down a list of well named items, making it easy to see and understand.  
  • Live excerpts of dynamic content can really help
    Solution: Add little excerpts of real data from the user’s account to clarify labels to make them more findable.
  • Use language that makes sense to the user
    Solution:  Substitute technical terms/jargon for language that resonates with users.
Smart decision to add tree testing to the toolbox

As Smart found out, tree testing doesn’t do everything.

Like all research methods, tree testing has some limitations. It abstracts away your app or website into just a navigation tree. In that way it’s very artificial, but it also, usefully, forces you to focus on one thing – the information architecture.

And it does that very well, making Treejack the ideal tool if you’re looking to get quantitative data on the findability of your content quickly and easily. 

“Tree testing isn’t a replacement for other research methods like qualitative user research or analytics. That said, it was amazing in the way it gave us quantitative findability data so quickly and easily. We’ve decided that tree testing deserves a place in our research toolbox.

More from our customers

“Xero is able to answer more queries with content.”

— Richard ‘Dice’ Allardice, Information Architect

Tackling a unique design project by using virtual reality (VR) in user research.
Tackling a unique design project by using virtual reality (VR) in user research.
"91% increase in add to cart from browse pages."
“91% increase in add to cart from browse pages.”

— Jenny Leng, Head of Customer Experience, Countdown Supermarket