Card sorting

Introductory articles

Discussion articles

  • Analysing card sort results with a spreadsheet template
    This article explains how to quickly derive easily-read, quantitative results from a card-sort activity by entering data into a spreadsheet template that is adaptable to any set of cards and categories.

  • Card sorting: a definitive guide
    Donna Maurer and Todd Warfel outline the definitive guide to card sorting that includes detailed instructions on how to execute and analyse a sort, plus helpful hints to improve your sorts.

  • Card sorting: analysis and reporting
    "Card sorting won't always give you the answer--it may just give you more questions. This is where the analysis comes in."
    (Mark Boulton)

  • Card sorting for intranet information architecture
    "A relatively large navigation list (about 50 content areas) of ‘un-substructured' finance related material. The intranet in question uses single menu pages for each of 8 main information groups and the above list was part of the wider finance information group. Some work had already be done on other subsections (i.e purchasing). But the rest of the content, which included policies, procedures and other reference material, was all in the same sub-section. The list was structured by alphabetical order only."
    (Nick Besseling - Contextia)

  • Card sorting: how many users to test
    Testing ever-more users in card sorting has diminishing returns, but you should still use three times more participants than you would in traditional usability tests.

  • Card sorting: pushing users beyond terminology matches
    "It's easy to bias study participants, whether in user testing or in card sorting, if they focus on matching stimulus words instead of working on the underlying problem. "
    (Jakob Nielsen - Alertbox)

  • Card sorting tools: a short summary
    Donna Maurer provides a short evaluation of popular card sorting tools.

  • Information design using card sorting
    At the beginning of any information design exercise, it is normal to be confronted by a very long list of potential subjects to include. The challenge is to organise this information in a way that is useful and meaningful for the users of the system. A card sorting session can go a long way towards resolving this problem. A how-to article by James Robertson.

  • Intranet design using card sorting
    At the beginning of any information design exercise, it is normal to be confronted by a very long list of potential subjects to include. The challenge is to organise this information in a way that is useful and meaningful for the users of the system. A card sorting session can go a long way towards resolving this problem.

  • Information architecture: using card sorting for web classification design
    Card sorting is an excellent approach to help you choose your classifications. It can help shortcut long, tedious and often fruitless debate. It delivers classifications that people would actually choose, not what they say they would choose. Because it's fast and easy to do, you can get a wide range of feedback into your classification design.

  • Put the "card" back into card sorting: Computer-aided paper sorting (Caps)
    "Appropriate allocation of tasks to users and computers has always been an important part of successful interaction design. In the case of card sorting, we would like users to work with materials they are comfortable with (cards and pens), while reducing the task load for researchers. This is where Caps (Computer-Aided Paper Sorting) comes in. The cards are computer printed with barcodes that can be used for very quick data capture"
    (William Hudson)

  • Should you finalize site structure based on card-sorting?
    "The problems with creating structures based on card-sorting... are not really problems with card-sorting. The problems are more with half-baked understanding or usage of the technique."
    (Rashmi Sinha)

Variations

  • Beyond cardsorting: free-listing methods to explore user categorisations
    There are two main questions in understanding a semantic domain. The first question is "What are the contents of the domain, its scope, and its boundaries?" The second question is "How are the contents structured?" Free-listing is a technique that can help you determine the scope of the domain while providing some insight into how the domain is structured.

  • Card-based classification evaluation
    A card-based system that evaluates a classification outside of its implementation. It is simple, requiring little input from individual users and provides a significant amount of feedback.

  • Hierarchical card sorting: a tool for qualitative research
    "This paper describes how to use a device I have called, for want of a simpler term, hierarchical card sorting or HCS. It was developed in the course of research into the ways in which the staff of non-government organisations (NGOs) see the world around them, including their intended beneficiaries and other NGOs. It has been used with NGO staff in Bangladesh, Kenya, Malawi. Nigeria and the United Kingdom."
    (Rick Davies, Monitoring and Evaluation News)

  • The CAA: a wicked good design technique
    Card sorting, which involves writing the content on index cards and asking users to sort them into logical piles, with the piles becoming the architecture of the site, tells us how to organise content. Category agreement analysis is similar, except there aren't any cards. Instead, the primary instrument is a survey.

Case studies

Tools

  • Card sort analysis spreadsheet
    This spreadsheet will help you collect and analyse data from card sorting activities. It has a PDF file with instructions on how to use it, and an example of a completed spreadsheet.
    (Donna Maurer)

  • CardSort: UCD tool for information architecture
    CardSort is a software tool which helps information architects to conduct computer aided card sorting.

  • Card Sword
    CardSword is intended to streamline the process of conducting a card sort. It offers functionality to help with every step in the card sorting process.

  • CardZort zone
    CardZort is a computer application that runs card sorting exercises. Its main purpose is to offer a complete computer-aided system that allows the fast creation and execution of card sorting exercises, and the analysis of the resulting groups via cluster analysis.

  • Classified
    Classified is a program designed to evaluate navigational structures for web sites, documents, program menus, catalogues and other information spaces.

  • OptimalSort
    An online card sorting tool that "has an elegant user interface for card sorting and presents useful results that you can paste into reports. It takes minutes to set up a card sort project - even if you've never run a card sort before."

  • Socratic Card Sort
    An online sorting and analysis tool sold as part of a suite of  market research tools from from Socratic Technologies.

  • Sticky sorter
    "Ever found yourself lost in the eye of a brainstorm? Lots of great information, but it’s all over the place! Sticky Sorter is a Grassroots Project, developed by two Microsoft Employees, that you can use today to manage such challenges. The inventors, Julie and Sumit, were looking for an easier way to capture, sift through, and organize hundreds of research observations traditionally done on physical sticky notes in an affinity diagramming exercise with researchers from around the world. The result is StickySorter which met their complex needs, supports virtual collaboration, and is now available for you to use in managing your next brainstorm."
    (Microsoft Office Labs)

  • uzCardSort
    uzCardSort is an open source Mozilla-based tool for conducting and analysing card sorts. It runs on Windows, Macintosh, and Linux versions of Mozilla and in other Gecko runtimes supporting XPInstall. The system supports the creation, editing, and running of projects. Exploratory analysis and a rudimentary clustering algorithm are in place.

  • Web-based card sorting for information architecture
    An article on the development of Card Sort, a web-based interface which allows designers to do electronic card sort studies.

  • WebCat
    The Web Category Analysis Tool (WebCAT) allows a web designer/usability engineer to test a proposed or existing categorisation scheme of a website to determine how well the categories and items are understood by users.

  • Web Sort
    WebSort is a online card sorting tool that allows participants to do card sorts remotely. At present, it produces
    files (in .esd format) that are compatible with IBM's EZCalc cluster analysis tool.

  • xSort
    xSort is a card sorting application for Mac OS X. It allows you to easily define a new card sorting problem, perform several sessions with multiple participants, and finally analyze the results (using multiple criteria) and generate printable reports.

Books and book reviews

  • Card Sorting
    Companion website to the forthcoming book by Donna (Maurer) Spencer.
    (Rosenfeld Media)