Usability Testing with Card Sorting

A website is a good medium, through which you can reach out to customers in our information age. Unfortunately, many companies don't have this information sorted out. The result, customers are forced to waste their time searching. Sometimes, the information is placed so deep inside the layout, the customer just gives up, exasperated. It may also happen that the information just does not exist because the website designer has failed to grasp the importance of the information.

Helping customers access such information easily on a website is an important aspect of improving user experience. This is a simple exercise, but companies are not paying adequate attention to it. You don't have to be a website designer to know which information should go where. But even an average website can contain a lot of information, so it is challenging to sort the information and put it under the right heading. This is where card sorting comes in.

What is card sorting (in the context of usability testing)?

Usability Testing with Card Sorting

Card sorting is a technique where a group of subject matter experts or 'users', sit down and help to sort the information. This technique is useful to design workflow, information architecture, website navigation and menu structure. So how does it work? Let us see.

The first step is to identify the concepts and write it down on cards. Then rearrange them under the right categories. Card sorting works the other way too- it can also help you label a group.

Advantages of card sorting in designing website or software layout

Card sorting can help you understand what your users expect from your website. It also helps you understand the concepts better. Card sorting is most beneficial after you have done some research on your users and how they are using the information.

How many kinds of card sorting are there?

There are two types of card sorting. They are open card sorting and closed card sorting. Here is the difference between them.

  • Open card sorting: The participants sort the cards into groups they think makes the most sense. Next, they are asked to name the group created thus.
  • Closed card sorting: In a closed card sorting, the users sort the cards into ready categories. You can actually use both these techniques together. First conduct an open card sort, so you can identify the categories. Next, sort the cards again as per the categories to see how the categories work.

Making the most of card sorting

Usability Testing with Card Sorting

Card sorting has to be done properly and with the utmost efficiency, if you want it to help you. Here we will see how you can make the most of card sorting.

  • Limit the number of cards you use: You might be tempted to sort out all the data at once but don't forget that participants can get fatigued by the exercise. To avoid this, limit the number of cards to be sorted to 40, especially if it is of the open sort.
  • Sort the cards in random: Present the cards randomly, so that each card has an equal chance of being sorted out at the start.
  • Tell the participants the approximate time for the job: Inform the participants how much time the card sorting exercise might take before they sit down for the job.
  • Limit the exercise to one task at a time: Ask the participants to sort the cards, but don't label them at this point (especially if you are doing an open card sort).