Por Redacción Aguayo
Discover how card sorting, a User Experience research technique, can help you create a more intuitive information structure on your website or application. Learn the steps, types, best practices, and tips here.
What is Card Sorting?
Card sorting is a powerful User Experience (UX) research technique used to design and evaluate the information structure on a website, application, or digital product. This methodology enables designers and UX professionals to understand how users organize and label content, ultimately helping to create a more intuitive and easy-to-navigate structure.
It is a process in which participants organize and categorize virtual or physical cards representing content elements such as pages, sections, or categories. The goal is to identify patterns and trends in how users group and label these elements. The results of card sorting provide valuable insights for designing the information structure.
This technique is based on cognitive psychology and categorization theory. User Experience (UX) and usability research have shown that users interact more effectively with digital products when information is organized coherently with their expectations and thought patterns.
When to Conduct Card Sorting?
Before conducting a card sorting project, it's crucial to understand when it's the right time to apply this research technique. Common scenarios include:
- Initial Design: When you're creating a new website, application, or digital product, card sorting can help establish a solid foundation for the information structure from the beginning.
- Redesign: If you already have a functioning platform but want to improve the information structure or make significant adjustments, card sorting can provide valuable insights for optimization.
- Navigation Issues: If users complain about difficulties in finding information or navigating your digital product, card sorting can identify problems and guide effective solutions.
- Ongoing Evaluation: Even after implementing changes, card sorting can be used periodically to assess the effectiveness of the information structure and make improvements.
Types of Card Sorting
There are two main types of card sorting, each with its advantages:
- Open Card Sorting: In this variant, participants organize cards into groups they define themselves. This allows greater flexibility and reveals user perspectives on how the information should be structured.
- Closed Card Sorting: In closed card sorting, participants classify cards into predefined categories. This variant is useful for evaluating an existing information structure and understanding if it aligns with user expectations.
The choice between these types depends on your goals and the level of flexibility you want to provide participants.
Steps to Conduct Effective Card Sorting
- Define Objectives: Before commencing a card sorting project, it's essential to define specific objectives you wish to achieve. Do you want to optimize your website's navigation? Do you aim to enhance category structures in your application? By establishing clear objectives, you will have a clear direction for your research.
- Select Participants: Participant selection is crucial. Seek individuals who represent your target audience. This can include real users, potential customers, or any group related to your digital product. Diverse participant selection can provide valuable insights.
- Create Cards: Card preparation is a significant step. Each card should represent an element of content or information on your website or application. Ensure that cards are clear and concise, avoiding duplicates or cards that are too similar.
- Decide the Type of Card Sorting: You must choose between two main types of card sorting: open and closed. In open card sorting, participants organize cards into groups they define themselves. In closed card sorting, participants classify cards into predefined categories. The choice between these methods depends on your objectives and the flexibility you want to provide to participants.
- Conduct the Session: During the card sorting session, provide participants with clear instructions for the task. Encourage them to think aloud and express their logic as they organize the cards. Observe their process and take note of any comments or questions they may have.
- Analyze the Results: Once card sorting sessions are completed, it's time to analyze the data. Examine how participants have grouped and labeled the cards. Look for patterns and trends in their actions and comments. You can use specialized analysis tools to streamline this process.
- Refine the Structure: Utilize the results of the card sorting to make adjustments and improvements to the information structure on your website or application. This may involve reorganizing categories, modifying labels, or creating subcategories. The goal is to achieve a more intuitive structure that aligns with your users' mindset.
Best Practices in Card Sorting
- Collect Quantitative and Qualitative Data: In card sorting analysis, it's essential to combine quantitative data (such as group frequency) and qualitative data (based on participants' comments and observations) to gain a comprehensive understanding of how users perceive the information.
- Conduct Iterative Testing: Card sorting is an iterative process. Conduct multiple sessions with different participant groups and gradually adjust the information structure. This allows you to validate and refine your findings.
- Maintain a User-Centric Approach: The resulting information structure should be meaningful to your users, not just the design team. Ensure it reflects their expectations and mindset to achieve a more intuitive experience.
- Communicate Changes: If significant changes are made to the information structure of an existing website or application, communicate these changes to users clearly and provide guidance as needed. Transparency is essential to avoid confusion.
Online Tools for Card Sorting
Conducting card sorting online is convenient and efficient. Some popular tools for online card sorting include:
- Optimal Workshop: Offers a variety of features for card sorting, including open and closed card sorting. It provides detailed analysis and visualizations of the results.
- Lyssna: Allows for card sorting and quick feedback from a broad audience. It's an excellent choice for rapid testing.
- UserZoom GO: Provides online card sorting as well as other User Experience research tools. It's useful for more comprehensive studies.
- D-Scout: A versatile platform that enables card sorting, along with other UX research such as prototype testing and user diaries.
These tools facilitate the organization, execution, and online analysis of card sorting, streamlining the design decision-making process.
Card Sorting: Organization and Design
Card sorting is a valuable tool for optimizing User Experience by ensuring that the information structure is logical and user-friendly. By understanding how users mentally organize content, you can design a more intuitive experience that aligns with their needs and expectations. It's an evidence-based technique that has proven effective in creating user-friendly digital interfaces.