Card sorting is a method that is typically used when testing navigation and information architecture. This is a good method to use when beginning a project to get an understanding of how users expect to use your app or website.
When beginning a card sorting session, you should use note cards, pieces of paper, or online card sorting programs to write out your navigation elements or page content, depending on what is being tested. These cards are then placed in front of users, who are asked to sort them in a way that makes sense for them. This could take the form of a closed cart sort, where users could sort under top-level navigation or where users would expect to see certain types of content on a page. If you are doing an open card sort, there would be no pre-defined categories because you will want to see how users group various pieces of information.
There are multiple types of card sorting, including Open, Closed, and Remote. Each of these methods are used under different circumstances and should be used based on where you are in the process of a project.
Open card sorting should be used when you do not have any previous grouping or categories that need to be used for content being sorted. In this method, users are asked to sort the content into their own categories and then asked to name those categories.
Closed cart sorting should be used when you already have top level categories that content should be sorted into. When testing with this method, users are given the top level categories and asked to place content into each.
Remote card sorting can be used with either open or closed methods, as it is simply done remotely. This is best to be done with tools such as Optimal Sort. This should only be used if there is no way to meet with user, as there is very little way to understand what the user has used as reasoning for grouping content.
More information on card sorting can be found at these links:
Method OverviewA quick breakdown of typical method requirements
- Team Size: 1-2
- Member Roles: Note takers
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Development Cycle: Early development or planning phase
- Ideal Number of Users: 5-10
- Recruitment: Prior to test