Photo by Kelly Sikkema via Unsplash
Card sorting is a method used to help design or evaluate the information architecture of a site. In a card sorting session, participants organize a given set of topics into categories that make sense to them, and the resulting categories are analyzed for common themes and patterns. Participatns may also provide label for their groups, which may also be analyzed. To conduct a card sort, you can use actual cards, pieces of paper, or one of several online card-sorting software tools.
Card sorting provides insight into target user expectations and understanding of a set of topics. It is often most useful once you have done some homework to find out who your target users actually are, and once you have a clear picture of your existing and projected content. Understanding how your users group information can help you design the structure for your website, decide how to prioritize information at the page level, and create effective labels for categories and navigation.
Card Sorting is often more effective when it is informed by these complementary methods.
Observation of users performing tasks in their own environment
Observe users in action to understand how they perform tasks to achieve goals
Understanding the perspective and influence of those invested in a project's success
Understand the tasks and motivations of the user group for whom you are designing
- Provide users a collection of content represented on "cards" (physical or virtual). Aim for between 30 to 60 cards.
- Ask users to separate the cards into categories that make sense to them.
- Ask users to label those categories.
- Analyze the categories users create for common themes and patterns that lend insight into how they undertand the content set provided.
- Optionally, you may include a questionnaire or conduct a follow up interview to ask users why they grouped the cards and labeled the categories as they did.
Card Sorting typically produces insight and solutions focused on these areas:
The user's conceptualization of how a product, system, or service works.
Elements, arrangements, or qualities of experience design that user state or show are valuable to them.