Card sorting is a highly useful technique in information architecture. It is used to understand how users think about your content. It can help you organize content so that it suits your users’ mental models, rather than the point of view of your company.
Definition: Card sorting is a UX research method in which study participants group individual labels written on notecards according to criteria that make sense to them.
Conducting a Card Sort
Generally, the process works as follows:
Choose a set of topics.
The set should include 40–80 items that represent the main content on the site. Write each topic on an individual index card.
User organizes topics into groups.
Shuffle the cards and ask the users to sort the cards into categories.
User names the groups.
Once the participant has grouped all the cards, give her blank cards and ask her to write down a name for each group she created.
Debrief the user.
Ask users to explain the rationale behind the groups they created.You can also ask the user to think out loud while they perform the original sorting.
Repeat with 15–20 users.
You’ll need enough users to detect patterns in users’ mental models. We recommend 15 participants for card sorting.
Analyze the data.
Once you have all the data, look for common groups, category names or themes, and for items that were frequently paired together.
Variations in Card Sorting
Variations in card sorting involve whether or not users can create their own category names, whether a facilitator moderates the session, and whether the study is conducted with paper or a digital tool.
Conclusion:Card sorting is a well-established method within the information-architecture field. It can be supplemented with other information-architecture methods to identify issues in your category structure.