Card Sorting from A–Z: Part III – How to Implement an Open Card Sort

This is part of a series of posts which is based on a 3-hour hands-on workshop I offer on this topic. Be sure and check out the preceding posts:

Card Sorting from A–Z: Overview
Card Sorting form A-Z: Part I – Why and When
Card Sorting from A-Z: Part II – How to Prepare for a Card Sort

 

Announce the Card Sort

In order to recruit participants for your card sort, the best place to scout for volunteers is on your website or in your library. This will ensure that you will be getting participants who are actual website users. Announcing a card sort is as easy as putting up a blurb such as this one:

We are rebuilding Library.com and need your help!

 

Please help us determine the best way to organize our new website by taking part in a brief exercise. It should only take between 5-7 minutes of your time but will directly affect the design of the new library.com

 

What’s Involved?

We need you to sort out various library pages and items into categories which you think are optimal descriptors.

If you would like to contribute to making the new website an enjoyable experience, please find the exercise here: http://www.

If you are holding a live card sort, you will of course, want to swap the url with an email address to RSVP along with a time, date, and location for the sort.

 

 

Conduct the Card Sort

If you have chosen an online sort, you will simply log in to a card sorting tool such as Websort, enter your items and wait for participants to follow your link and complete the sort.

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Provide Instructions

Whether live or online, you will want to provide your participants with some guidance as to what to do.  You will want to give them an overview of the process of sorting the items and assigning labels.  You will also want to tell them that they can create an “outlier” pile for those items which they can’t fit into any appropriate group.  If you are giving a live sort, you can also encourage your participants to talk amongst themselves and/or ask questions during the card sort.  Here is a sample of written instructions for an online card sort, however, you may want to fashion this into a script for yourself during a live sort.

Introduction:
We are conducting research that will help us gain a better understanding of how our web site should be organized and make it easier to use.

Instructions:
Assign each of the items in the list on the left to one of the folder groups on the right. Please also provide names for each folder group you create.  Name each group with a word or words that describes the set of items it contains.

Just drag items from the list into folders. What items belong together? Think of where you expect to find these items on a web site.   There is no right number of groups, but make sure that you think about how the items relate to each other. If you have a group with a large amount of items, you may be able to split it up. 

Finally, if you think something doesn’t belong, you can make an “outlier” group.  You must do the exercise in one sitting. Thank you for taking the time to participate in our study.

 

During the Card Sort

During the card sort, the main thing to remember is that you are an observer, and therefore must make your best effort not to sway or lead participants in any way.  With that said there are several things you will want to be doing during the sort.

  • Take notes of relevant discussions and/or questions
  • Be available for questions
  • Be ready to ask participants questions and adapt if they seem to be having difficulty with some items
  • Hang back and don’t put pressure on participants to finish quickly

 

 

After the Card Sort

  • Jot down the labels that each group or individual created as well as the numbers from each of the cards that they assigned to that label
  • Be sure to thank your participants

 

Next: How to Analyze Results of an Open Card Sort