Card sorting

What it is

Card sorting is a simple user testing technique where users group information in a way that makes sense to them.

Why it’s useful

Card sorting is useful for structuring information based on users’ needs, for example arranging content on a website or online tool. Card sorting is a useful way to make sure you’re designing information in a way that works for users, rather than how your organisation thinks about it.  Card sorting is used to inform information architecture, workflows, menu structures, or navigation for a website or online tool.

When to do it

Card sorting is useful in the early stages of building a website or tool, designing a service or developing content.  It's often used in the prepare and develop phases.

Card sorting is particularly helpful when:

  • There’s a range of information to organise and you need evidence to support the best approach
  • Similar information or functions makes it difficult to divide them clearly into categories
  • Members of the user group will be using the information very differently.

How to do it

  1. Before meeting with any users, write down the main pieces of content or information onto index cards or sticky notes.
  2. When you meet with the user, explain that you want them to sort the cards into groups that make sense to them.
  3. After the user has grouped the information, ask them to find a category name for each grouping.
  4. Repeat this process with multiple participants.
  5. Analyse all the test results to reveal patterns, and identify the structure of information that makes sense to most users.
  6. For help with selecting users, and how many to test with, see: Recruiting users.