Research & understanding

Card sorting

Colton Schweitzer
October 14, 2020

Card sorting is a technique used to help you understand how people group content or design the information architecture of a website. You can use card sorting to help you build logical groups that users expect, create the navigation for your website, decide on its structure, define labels, etc. 

There are two types of card sorting, open and closed. 

In open card sorting, your participants organize content into groups. They then label each group accordingly. Use open card sorting to better understand how people group your content and to learn what labels they put on the categories of your content. Open card sorting is basically affinity diagramming, but you just observe someone else doing it.

In closed card sorting, your participants organize the content into predefined categories. Use this method to better understand where users expect to find certain information and how they logically sort your content. 

You can conduct a card sort in person or online. There are a few tools that make card sorting very easy to do online like Optimal Workshop or Miro. We recommend using Miro if you decide to run your card sort online because it’s free and has amazing collaboration features. 

If you’re struggling to group content, define labels, or are unable to determine the general navigation of your product, then a card sort might be the best method to help you figure that out. 

Use use a card sort to:

Learn where users expect to find information.

Learn how users would group content.

Learn how users define labels for your product.

Determine the general navigation of your product. 

Define a product’s informational structure.

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