Card sorts are one of many user experience research methods. In this video, learn the main ways that card sorts help UX professionals and what things they shouldn't be counted on for.
- Card sorting can be used anytime you're trying to create or update elements of information architecture. The process gives a structured way to understand users' preconceived notions and expectations about how to group and label content and tasks. Understanding users' existing notions, often called mental models, helps us create systems that are easy to navigate and understand, a critical part of a successful information architecture and overall experience. Card sorts can be done with proposed elements or existing elements and are especially useful in website redesigns or when a product is having new elements introduced that need to be incorporated seamlessly.
They can also be incredibly helpful in designing a brand new system. The method is usually used as a generative technique, which means it's used to explore how people think, their context, and their potential problems, but not necessarily to evaluate a specific solution. This means that card sorts are usually used at the beginning stages of a project to produce ideas and gather general insights. By itself, card sorting won't provide you with a guaranteed easy to navigate structure. Card sorting should be used as just one of many inputs in creating a usable system and architecture.
You'll also want to rely on Needs Research such as interviews, observation, or diary studies, and other information architecture practices such as content audits and task analyses. Card sorting also assumes that you already have a good understanding of the types of tasks that users are doing. If you don't have the right assumptions about what users are trying to get done, you might create a system that is easy to use for the wrong purposes. For instance, maybe you're working on a website for a restaurant and make it really easy for people to find other locations, but most people actually want easy access to the menu and nutritional information.
Card sorts also aren't meant to be an evaluation tool and can't tell you why users can't complete a task or why they find a site untrustworthy. To dig into that kind of information, you need to perform other kinds of user experience research such as usability tests, expectation tests, desirability studies, or five-second tests.
- What's card sorting?
- Open, closed, and hybrid card sorts
- Card planning
- Category planning
- Finding, selecting, and screening participants
- Scheduling and incentivizing participants
- Running sessions