What is card sorting?

What is card sorting?

Card sorting is a user research technique that can help you discover how people understand and categorize information. In a card sort, participants sort “cards” containing different items into groups. Card sorting has many applications — from figuring out how content should be grouped on a website or in an app, to deciding how to arrange the items in a retail store.

There are three types of card sorts: open card sorts closed card sorts and hybrid card sorts.

  • Open card sorts: Participants place items in groups and name the categories.
  • Closed card sort: Participants place items into predefined categories.
  • Hybrid card sort: Participants place items in predefined categories, and also have the option to create and name additional categories.

Why is card sorting useful?

You can use the results of a card sort to figure out how people group and name content and information. These insights can provide guidance when designing or assessing an information architecture to ensure it’s organized in a way that makes the most sense to your audience.

When should you do card sorting?

It’s best to do a card sort when you want to answer a specific, information-related question. For example, maybe you need to add a new category for “fitness trackers” to your online electronics store and need to identify the most logical place for it to exist. In this scenario, the card sort should be done in the early stages of the design process. 

Another common use case for card sorting is when you’re launching a new website or app, or when you’re redesigning an existing one and you want to understand the most logical way to group information together. In this case, card sorting can tell you where people would commonly expect to find a category on your site. In these scenarios, it’s also recommended to conduct a card sort early in the design or redesign process.

Card sorting with UserTesting

We suggest asking users to record themselves using the UserTesting platform while they complete an online card sort using a third-party tool (OptimalSort). Participants are asked to think out loud as they complete the card sort, so we can observe their behavior and listen to their feedback as they work on the activity.

 Visit UserTesting University to learn card sorting best practices.

You can read about setting up an OptimalSort card sort with UserTesting here.

 Related Resources

Pointing to Other Research Tools (UserTesting University)
Use Cases in the UserTesting Platform (UserTesting University)
Learn more about UserTesting's Professional Services

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