Card sorting is one of the most important and practical methods used in information architecture and user experience design. In the card sorting method, we are looking for an information architecture that meets the expectations of users.

It has definitely happened to all of us that when using a website or application, we could not find the desired panel or product that we are looking for very easily. This issue indicates that the platform is not designed based on the mental model of the user and his needs assessment.

Unfortunately, in the developing digital products market, sometimes the content is formed based on what is meaningful for the company, not based on the user’s point of view. Therefore, one of the best ways that user experience experts can avoid to solve such problems is Card sorting is the sorting of cards.

Detailed definition of card sorting

In this method, users (participants in a research) are categorized and sorted based on criteria that have a specific meaning for users. This classification discovers the mental structure and scope of knowledge of the audience and helps the UX specialist to coordinate and adjust his information architecture precisely based on the user’s expectations.

Information architecture

Information Architecture is the science of organizing and regulating the content of digital media, websites and applications, and social media. Information architecture is done for the purpose of organizing and ordering the content.

In such a way that users can easily adapt themselves to the product’s performance and choose the product they want without much effort.

Of course, the configuration of the content depends on many things. First of all, information architecture experts focus on the parts of the goal that are needed by the audience, because this area prioritizes user satisfaction. Also, this structure depends on the type of product and the offers it offers to the audience. For example, if we compare a retail website and a blog, we see two completely different structures for accomplishing specific goals.

Card sorting steps

  • Choose a specific set of topics.

This set should contain a certain number of cards that represent the main content of your platform. (Write each subject on a separate card + separation with high accuracy)

  • Include users’ opinions in card categories.

Give the cards to the users in no particular order and ask them to put similar cards in a pile. Some categories can be small and some categories can be large. If the participant is not sure about a card or does not know what it means, it is okay to put it in a category called <unknown>.

Note: The process of sorting cards by the user is a bottom-up process and may encounter errors at the beginning. Leave the user’s hand completely open and allow him to review or change his mind.

  • The user names the groups. (closed method)

Once the cards are sorted, give the user a blank card to choose a name for their groups. This step reveals the user’s mental model of the subject space.

Note: It is very important that the naming step is done after all groups are created so that the user does not focus on one category while still grouping.

  • User description (optional but effective)

Ask users to explain the reason and basis of the classification they made. Additional questions can include:

Are there any that you think fall into two or more categories?

Are there any that are hard to categorize?

Are there any that are easy to categorize?

What do you think about unknown topics?

  • If necessary, ask the user to resize the groups. (floating method)

Although you should provide the best categories to the users. But they don’t have to follow your rules in any way and they can implement their own grouping if necessary (if it makes sense). For example, merge groups or divide a group into smaller groups.

Types of sorting cards

The sorting of cards is basically based on whether each user can create their own category or not.

Open sort

In this method, participants are asked to categorize topics based on the categories available on your test platform and then name each category with a title that they think well describes the content. You can use this method to know how users categorize content and topics and what words or tags they use to name each category, according to your sources, topic, and experience.

Package sorting

In this method, users are given a set of predetermined names and asked to organize the cards into these predetermined categories. Card sorting in a closed way, although it does not show how to categorize topics from the users’ point of view, but instead, the UX expert can use it to evaluate how the content is classified from the user’s point of view.

Floating sort

In floating or hybrid sorting, the user can change the order of categories, merge categories if necessary, or divide a category into smaller subsections.

Advantages of card sorting in product design

Shaping the structure of the website or platform, especially in store areas

Deciding which topics should be on the main page and which products should be moved to other pages.

Optimal labeling of products

The best way to sort cards

The number of participants in the research should be at least 10 people

If possible, give the cards randomly to the users so that your results are far from biased.

Consider the open method as the first part and the closed method as the second part if needed. The first part lets you know what’s going on and what’s going on, while the second part lets you test your tags to see if they make sense to your audience.

Card sorting tools

Using different software and websites to categorize cards can be useful for you and the user in many ways and make data analysis easier.

In this way, users will be able to easily move the cards inside the categories. Finally, the software determines which items are often grouped together, what names users have created for the groups, and finally, it will provide you with a matrix of user choices.

The following are among the best card sorting tools:

  • optimalworkshop
  • co
  • userzoom
  • userlytics

Data analysis

1) Collecting information

If you use online card sorting software, use the instructions of the software. These software’s analyze the data of the participants in different ways.

If you used physical cards for the test, use the numbers on the cards to quickly record what the participant did. Note the names the participant gave to each data group.

Create a computer file for each session to collect a complete picture of the detailed sitemap that each user created.

2) Analyzing qualitative information based on user comments

3) Quantitative data analysis

Which cards appeared together more often?

The number of times cards appear in certain categories.

For a more detailed analysis of the results, use notes and register participants and their card numbers under each person’s name to find commonalities in different sessions.

For more detailed analysis, use Excel to show the relationship between the cards or use one of the available software programs to analyze your data.

Compile your findings in a report to share with your team and stakeholders.

After analyzing the data, you should use the results of your card sort to determine your platform orientation.

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