Join Morten Rand-Hendriksen for an in-depth discussion in this video Card-sorting exercise, part of Mapping the Modern Web Design Process.
- The first user test I want to show you is also the simplest and most interesting to conduct. It's called Card Sorting, and the title is quite descriptive. The purpose of the Card Sorting exercise is to get the end users to organize the website content into hierarchies and information architecture they feel is intuitive. The resulting data can then be used to revisit everything from navigation labeling to content hierarchies, to the proposed information architecture of the site.
Here's how the Card Sorting exercise works. First, decide on a scope for the exercise. Are testing the content hierarchies of pages? Are you testing category and taxonomy structures? Or are you testing the information architecture for the whole site? Next, take a stack of cue cards, and write the title of one piece of content on each card. If you are testing for content hierarchies on pages, you'd put the different pieces of content on each card.
For taxonomy structures, you'd put the items that fall within the taxonomies on each card. For the information architecture of the whole site, each card will represent one page on the site. Place the cards in random order on a large table in front of an end user. Instruct her to sort the cards in whatever way she thinks is logical. Provide her with blank cards and a pen to create additional cards if she feels something is missing. The user is free to do whatever she wants with the cards.
She can organize them, discard cards she feels are irrelevant, and create new cards or structure where necessary. Observe the user, and have her explain her thinking as she progresses through the exercise. When the sorting is completed, have the user name each section, if she creates new sections, on a new card, and take pictures for yourself of the entire layout. From here, you have several options. If there is time and number of cards is under 50, you can do a re-sort, where you scramble the cards and have the end user do the exercise again.
This will usually produce a new and refined ordering. If you have multiple end users doing the exercise at the same time, you can have them switch tables and re-sort the work of someone else. Throughout the exercise, make sure you take copious notes of what the user says, and take pictures of the card ordering for later analysis. Once you've performed the Card Sorting exercise with several different end users and representatives from the clients, you'll usually see patterns emerge, and you can use this data to refine your content hierarchies, your information architecture, and your general understanding of the project as a whole.
This may well result in a return to the content strategy phase, and reworking of some of the content priority hierarchies, and information architecture. That's kind of the point. By doing the Card Sorting exercise early on and revisiting your content strategy, you avoid having to do extensive redesigns and rebuilds later on in the project. To get a more detailed analysis of Card Sorting and how it works in real life, go check out Chris Nodder's course, Foundations of UX: Information Architecture right here in the lynda.com library.
- Understanding what your users care about
- Creating user personas
- Creating content priority hierarchies
- Testing wireframes and interaction patterns
- Establishing a three-track build process
- Incorporating accessibility principles
- Using content blocks
- Testing and revising your web design
- Optimizing for social media and SEO
- Launching your web design
- Getting feedback from users