What: Card sorting is a technique that is often used when trying to create new structures in existing information. The information to be organised is written on a series of cards; the test users then sort those cards into groups and sequence orders which according to them ‘feel right’, are logical.
When: Card sorting is particularly useful in the development of a human-centred information architecture, screen applications such as websites, apps and user interfaces to control devices, navigation, etc.
Advantages: Card sorting is inexpensive, fast and low-tech.
- List all existing information and create a summary of the new information that should be there too.
- Analyse the entire contents and subdivide it into information elements without taking into account the existing structure.
Preparation of card sorting sessions
- Put on sorting cards all the information elements obtained in the inventory stage, maybe adding a short description of the content.
- In consultation with the customer, prepare a pre- and a post-test questionnaire. Go over the pre-test questionnaire with the test users to obtain a socio-demographic profile of the test users. It is also possible to add at this point a free listing & priority listing in which the users have thought out which information should certainly be available. That subsequently leads to a general priority listing of the top 5 most important information elements.
- Select 10 users for the card sorting sessions according to the test user profiles defined in consultation with the customer. Make sure there is variety in terms of gender, age, education level, occupation, and other important criteria for the target group.
Individual card sorting sessions
- Plan individual sessions to ensure that people are not influenced by others in a group and to be able to develop the test user’s questions, comments or suggestions more extensively.
- Shuffle the information cards together and let the test user arrange them into groups to indicate which information belongs together.
- Ask the test user to suggest names for the different information groups.
Processing of card sorting into new information architecture
- Based on the card sorting results provided by the users and the correlations found between them, set up a common information architecture and justify the choices.
- Perform a user test to check that the new information architecture is user-friendly, identify potential problems with the distribution of information and verify that all labels are clear.
- Optimize the information architecture.