Card sorting. What is it and how to create your online card sorting?

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If you work in usability and user experience, you’ve probably heard of the concept of card sorting. It’s a useful technique to be conducted with the end users of a website or application that helps in decision-making. We will analyze the types of card sorting tests that exist and what each of them entails.

What is card sorting?

Card sorting is a very useful usability test, a user-centered technique for organizing categories. It allows us to validate the information architecture of our website or app with real users.

Card sorting involves observing how users group and organize possible sections and subsections using cards labeled with different thematic categories of the website in question.

This way, based on users’ actual behavior, it’s possible to organize and classify a website’s information according to their mental model.

In a card sorting test, it’s not recommended to use more than 40 cards to maintain focus. Additionally, card labeling is crucial; the more specific, the better.

Types of card sorting

We can differentiate between two types of card sorting: open and closed.

In open card sorting, the user is free to create associations as they wish, group cards, and give a name to each set, creating as many groups as they want.

In closed card sorting, the groups or sets are predefined and labeled, and the user only needs to place each category in the group they think it belongs to. This type of card sorting test is recommended to verify if an information classification is familiar and understandable to the user.

There is even a third type of test, which is a mixed one, where the user starts with predefined categories but can rename them or create new ones if they see fit.

Which card sorting technique is better?

It depends on the analysis phase and the objective.

Open card sorting is recommended in initial or exploratory phases, as it helps us spontaneously (without bias) understand users’ mental models and discover new associations that may be outside our radar.

In closed card sorting, we can work with larger samples, achieving good representativeness, and therefore validating if the menu serves its purpose.

Easy Online Card Sorting

Card sorting is a useful technique that aids in the entire process of creating your content architecture. Online card sorting helps in decision-making during the conceptual design stage (open) and evaluating a specific category organization during usability evaluation stages (closed). If you want to learn more about card sorting technique, please contact us.

Update date 22 December, 2023

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