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card sorting method - could anybody explain properly

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#1 vicky123


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Posted 05 September 2006 - 06:11 AM

Hi frnds,
I would want to know about "card sorting method"
I know this technique as one of the usability testing method..
I read a few articles though was not clear on,

How is it done (have a very li'l idea)?
How does it help improve the site usability?
Is this a 'must' or optional technique to use for usability labs to conduct test. (if optional why isn't required to do it?)

Vicky../// :cheers:

#2 yannis


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Posted 05 September 2006 - 08:20 AM

This is a method for discovering the structure of an unsorted list of ideas.You write each statement on a small index card and requests six or more participants to sort these cards into groups working totally on their own. The results of the individual sorts are then combined and if necessary analysed statistically.

IMHO I am not convinced if it is really useful. I would rather spent time to get the ideas together and just test the whole concept through users. You can read a good article here.


#3 radiorental


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Posted 05 September 2006 - 12:44 PM

Vicky, I am a huge fan of card sorting from a design perspective. I never felt it was a productive methodology applied to testing.

Lets say you have 50 elements that need to be accessed through a menu. These could be pages of information or features. I start by writing each element on to a piece of paper and then group them. These groups form the menu hierarchy. So, you might end up with something like five overall groups, each containing 10 elements.

Within each group you can choose to prioritize the more important element to the top for the user or follow an alphabetical list if all items are equal and the user is familiar with the groups contents (in which case they pre-drive their visual search of elements based on an expected alphabetical sort). However there are very strong arguments that alphabetical listing is as good as random in the majority of cases.

It is better to design right first time than to correct a broken UI through testing. Note that Yannis' link refers to the methodology applied to design

#4 Ruben Timmerman

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Posted 13 September 2006 - 12:32 AM

The main reason we often use card sorting is to lead a structured discussion with a client about content (NB: you should also have a cc session with users). Very often, a clients organisation doesn't have a good grasp on what content they have and what should be on the site. Let alone where content should be.

We usually start with a bunch of postit notes based on the current website, and sometimes we already seperate some subjects into smaller subjects. Then we just start sticking the notes on the wall, after each note asking what else belongs close to that subject. But, usually people shout out new subjects that are not already on the notes, so we add lots of new notes during the session and just stick them onto the wall close to other items that are related.

I do the sticking and talking, a colleague takes notes so we don't forget to ask questions that come up.
So what you're really trying to do is to get the group into a little bit of discussion and brainstorming, but if they start discussing one particular item, you better break it up and leave it for later so you can keep on adding subjects and organizing them.

What I often try to do a bit further in the session (they take 2-3 hours usually) is to stick the main subjects on top and see if we can agree on a definitive grouping and somemtimes even a definitive label. This might not be the totally correct way, but it is the most practical just to force some decisions with clients :)

Hope this helps, its early and I'm in rambling mode ;)

#5 cre8pc


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Posted 13 September 2006 - 08:19 AM

Welcome to the fourms Ruben :wave:

Thank you for posting, so we can all learn more :o

#6 cre8pc


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Posted 13 September 2006 - 08:53 AM

An interview with Donna has just been announced on her blog.

Card Sorting with Donna Maurer

I spoke to Donna Maurer on the topic of card sorting. I think she has a very nice and practical approach to card sorting.

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