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  • 12 August 2013
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Information Architecture and the User Experience

Card Sort

Undergoing a website redesign? Are you implementing a card sort to create your user experience?

The information architecture of a website has always been important. In today’s environment, it is more vital than ever before. With most websites seeing less pageviews per visit than in the past, proper content layout is crucial for the visitor to have the experience that your website sets out to provide them.

For those undergoing a website redesign, a card sort can help establish an optimal information architecture or provide clarity to an assumed architecture that you believe worked well before.

Gain an understanding of expected information frameworks, navigation names, and more with a card sort among users.

Card sorting, which is easier now than ever before, is a process that allows companies and agencies to reach out to a random but targeted audience to determine how those users would expect to find the structure of pages on the site, navigation item names and even levels of navigation inside the parent navigation.

Your team can approach a card sort in one of two ways. While the more controlled card sort is called a closed card sort, some companies eliminate any preconceived notions on what a user would likely name sections of the site and allow the test user to define everything from the groups of pages to the name of those groups to levels of navigation. In a closed card sort, companies can act as a guide where a user then tries to fit pages inside a very high-level framework provided in the test. Six Revisions has a great outline on what both techniques look like.

Online vs. Offline Card Sorting Strategies.

Many companies will attempt to do a more controlled card sort to make managing the sorting process a little “easier”. It is a common approach to have a design team have whiteboard sessions with employees or select clients in what would be considered an “offline” card sort. While direct feedback is gained, it can limit the feedback to those that already have a direct experience with your brand.

There are tools available to manage the card sort online. Even in the online environment, there are two ways to approach a card sort. You can still approach it in an internally-managed way, sending a link to take the card sort test to clients, friends and colleagues. It allows for more structured feedback and an easier way to manage a somewhat significant number of people to take the card sort test.

The newest way to perform a card sort is to open it up to random users online who provide some background information during the test to allow you to categorize them into audiences when analyzing how they structured their card sort. This approach allows companies to eliminate any way that they can potentially lean one way or another with the information architecture because of preferred audiences. For websites that can be for a number of countries, it also allows brands to determine if there are differences in ways that audiences in separate countries would structure the site. It’s the most expensive approach to a card sort. It can simultaneously be the approach that allows your site to make you more money than ever before. Check out this tool that uses this technique.

Insights are the initial goal. Optimal structure can follow.

Any brand can have a very talented team of strategists, designers and developers. Card sorts are not a way to doubt that talent, but rather to maximize the talent by knowing the tendencies of the audience that a website is designed to reach. With the insights available, a card sort can provide great intelligence to any team if the process allows for it.

One thought on “Card Sorting to Improve a Website Experience

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