Card Sorting

Card sorting is a user experience (UX) research technique used to understand how users categorize information or content. It involves presenting participants with a set of cards, each containing a piece of information, such as a website page, product, or feature. Participants are then asked to group these cards into categories that make sense to them and may also be asked to label these categories.

The Objective of Card Sorting

The primary objective of card sorting is to gain insights into users' mental models and organizational structures. By observing how users group and label the cards, designers and researchers can uncover patterns in how users think about and organize information. This information is valuable for informing the design of information architecture, navigation menus, and content organization in websites, applications, or other digital products.

Types of Card Sorting

  1. Open Card Sorting: Participants are given complete freedom to sort the cards into groups and label them accordingly. This is useful for understanding user-driven categories and uncovering unexpected relationships between concepts.
  2. Closed Card Sorting: Participants sort the cards into pre-defined categories provided by you. This helps you evaluate how well your existing information architecture aligns with user expectations.

Benefits of Card Sorting

  1. Improved Information Architecture (IA): Card sorting provides valuable insights into how users mentally categorize information. This knowledge can be used to design an IA that aligns with user expectations, making it easier for them to find what they're looking for on your website or app.
  2. Usability Testing: The process of sorting cards itself reveals usability issues. You can observe how users struggle with certain labels or group concepts, pinpointing areas that need improvement in clarity or organization.
  3. Identifying User Mental Models: Card sorting sheds light on how users think about your product or service. By analyzing how they categorize information, you gain valuable insights into their mental models, which can inform your design decisions.
  4. Prioritization: Card sorting can help you prioritize content based on how frequently users access and group certain information. This can be particularly useful for designing navigation menus and information hierarchies.

How to Conduct a Card Sorting Session

  1. Define Your Goals: Determine what you want to learn from the card sorting session. Are you evaluating an existing IA or exploring new content organization for a website redesign?
  2. Recruit Participants: Select a group of participants that represent your target audience.
  3. Prepare the Cards: Create a set of cards, each containing a clear and concise description of a piece of information or concept.
  4. Conduct the Session: Guide the participants through the sorting process, explaining the task and answering any questions. Observe their interactions and take notes.
  5. Analyze the Results: Once the session is complete, analyze how participants grouped the cards and named the categories. Identify patterns and commonalities.

By incorporating card sorting into your UX design process, you gain valuable user insights that can lead to a more intuitive and user-friendly website or application.