What is card sorting?
Card sorting is a UX Designer technique used to organize content into a logical format for a product or a website. It helps designers in understanding the information architecture of a product.
This technique is used to understand how users conceptualize ideas and gain insight into their perspectives. It helps you in laying down the foundation for the entire navigation flow for your website.
Users are provided with a set of labeled cards and are then asked to arrange/organize are sort them into categories. It becomes useful when you have already conducted your basic research around uses and are fully aware of your content.
Card sorting can be conducted in numerous ways it can be an open card, closed card, or even a combination of both. We will learn about it in upcoming topics.
Types of card sorting
Open card sorting-It is the most flexible and helpful way of gathering information from the user. The users are asked to organize the cards into groups as per their relevance. They are later asked to label them as per their understanding.
Users are later asked to explain why they chose the groups they did. They will help your understand the way users conceptualize information. You will have an idea of the infrastructure architecture to be e laid and whether it falls under the end-users circle.
Closed card sorting- This is a technique where the participants are provided with a predefined set of categories. They are then asked to sort the cards within each category.
Hybrid Card sorting- As you’d expect, this is a mixture of open and closed card sorting. The participates have the freedom to create their own category if they disagree with your pre-defined categories. It provides clarity on your understanding of the product.
Choosing a technique
Various techniques can be applied to conducting card sorting.
One-on-one- these are in-person sessions where an observer session is present. The participants are allowed to express their ideas and think out loud while categorizing the cards. This provides you with a clear picture of the whys for what they did. It can either be conducted using online software or physical cards.
Group- inside the group, the participates can be allowed to sort the set of cards as a group or as an individual. They are briefed and debriefed at the end of the session. But they can either be set out to work alone or as a group.
Remote or Computer-Based sessions- This technique allows participants to work independently. This is done by making use of computers and online software. Both open-closed card sorting can be conducted remotely.
How to accomplish card sorting
To achieve the desired results, you need to take care of a certain set of steps. Choose the content- prepare the cards around the content. Put a limit of up to 50 to 60 topics max. If you exceed, the participant might lose interest. Content should be based upon the product you are going to design. If it is a completely new product, then the number of cards will be more than redesigning an existing one.
Choose your method- based upon the type of information you require, choose the correct method for you. For example- An open card will help you gather information and an insight into how uses users use to conceptualize the data. Closed card sorting will help you uncover whether users confirm/agree to your information structure or if you need to understand unclear or ambiguous categorization.
Set up the session- Plan about one hour for each session, longer if you have many cards. Make sure the participants how enough room if it is an open remote session, ensure an adequate internet connection and proper space for participants and facilitators to sit comfortably.
Analyze the outcome- once the data is collected, it’s your turn to analyze and figure out the common Trends. You can use both qualitative and quantitative methods.
The qualitative analysis deals with manually analyzing and understanding the relationships between the topics and the groups. You can merge the groups with similar content and develop an average mental model of that set of users.
Quantitative analysis deals with statistics and numbers. Like a number of relationships formed in between the groups. Heuristics correlations are used sometimes to map out such data.
Benefits of card sorting
Cost-Effective- card sorting is a cost-effective method to validate the quality/ effectiveness of a website. Just a deck of cards, or sometimes for remote card a working system, and an internet connection, suffices the cause.
Simple- it’s a simple technique that provides you with a reliable structure towards the end. As the participants are the real users themselves. No specific technical knowledge is required by them to be a part of this activity.
Meaningful Insights- As it is a user focus technique, you have a better knowledge of how your users will be expecting the product to be structured. It lays down a strong foundation for your product.
Reliable- It is a well-established technique and is being used by professionals for quite a period of time. The entire focus is on the user, solving the biggest purpose of a user- Centered design.