Card Sorting6:27 with Dan Gorgone
One way to validate your information architecture - and learn about your users - is to use a testing technique known as card sorting. This activity allows you to see how users would organize the information you have on your website, how they would name categories, and if your website currently matches their expectations.
- Card sorting - a testing activity where users divide content cards into groups - and in many cases, name those groups - to help designers and developers understand the users’ perspective of content labels, groupings, and relationships
- Open card sort - card sorting activity where users are asked to name the groups they’ve created
- Closed card sort - card sorting activity where users are asked to divide content into existing categories
Card Sorting 101: Your guide to creating and running an effective card sort
One of the big challenges we face with IA 0:00 is connecting our users with the content we have to offer. 0:03 And one deciding factor could be the label we use for a category or link. 0:06 For example, if you named a link Issues or 0:12 Questions, users might not completely understand what's there. 0:16 But if you called it Help or Support, the meaning is much clearer. 0:21 Labeling is a big challenge for menu links, category names, 0:27 and really anything you won't be able to click on or use. 0:32 When it comes to name and categories of content and presenting intuitive links, 0:35 you wanna use the same terms and language your users do. 0:40 The less they have to think about what a link means or 0:44 what they'll find when they click on it, the better the experience will be. 0:48 So one way to validate your labels or 0:52 come up with new ones is to use a technique called card sorting. 0:55 Card sorting is an activity you run with test users to determine the best ways to 1:01 group and label your content. 1:05 What you do is take all those topics or pieces of content, 1:08 put each one on a card, and give those cards to a test user. 1:11 Then they divide the cards into groups so 1:16 you can see how they might organize things. 1:19 And then you can ask them to choose a name for 1:22 each group, like a category name, or menu link. 1:26 If you run enough of these card sorting tests, you'll see how your users 1:30 think of your content, how they refer to it and where they look to find it. 1:34 Card sorting is pretty easy to do. 1:40 You can do it in person using actual cards, like these index cards. 1:42 Or, you can do it online using a tool like Trello, which has virtual cards. 1:47 Either way, let me run through each step of the process and, you'll see, 1:52 it's really easy to do. 1:55 You start with your problem. 1:58 What is it you're trying to figure out? 1:59 Are you trying to organize new content into existing categories? 2:02 Are you starting up a blog and 2:06 wanna define all your main topics before you start publishing? 2:08 Or maybe you're trying to come up with the best names for 2:12 navigation links for the main pages on your site. 2:15 Make sure your end goal is clear so 2:18 you're know why you're running this test in the first place. 2:21 Next, based on your goal, identify what will be on the cards. 2:24 So, if you want to come up with category names for 2:29 your blog, take 20 recent blog post titles and put each one on a card. 2:31 If you're trying to test out your main navigation menu, 2:37 take all the pages you linked to from the menu and list each one on its own card. 2:40 Try not to use more than say 30 cards or so, make this easy for your testing. 2:46 Here's a quick example. 2:51 Lets say I want to organize all my favorite Star Wars characters into 2:52 categories on my website. 2:56 Now, I have an idea how I would do it, 2:58 but I need to confirm that my idea will match up with how others think. 3:01 So, on a bunch of index cards, I start writing those names, one to a card. 3:05 Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Boba Fett, R2D2 and so on. 3:10 Now, as far as those cards go, you could use index cards and 3:16 lay them all out on a table, or post-it notes and 3:21 stick them to a whiteboard, or you could print out items on pieces of paper. 3:24 Just make sure they're easy to read and handle. 3:29 The test begins once you find a test user. 3:32 Ideally, you'd like to find someone who would be an average user of your site. 3:35 So if your mom has no clue about web development languages, 3:39 she's probably not a good test user for your blog about programming. 3:43 Find someone who has an interest and 3:46 will understand what's on the cards you give them. 3:49 If you can, it'd be great to find 3 to 5 people you could run this test with. 3:52 More would be better, but 3 to 5 is a nice start. 3:57 So the first part of the test should go like this. 4:00 Hey there, thanks for helping me out today. 4:04 I want to start by saying your doing me a huge favor and 4:06 that you can't actually do anything wrong here. 4:09 I'm here to get your opinions, 4:11 so don't be afraid to be completely honest about what I ask you to do. 4:13 And the first thing is, I'd like you take these cards and divide them into groups. 4:18 It's up to you how you group them, how many you make, and how big the groups are. 4:22 Just use your best judgement and feel free to make changes along the way. 4:28 I'll give you ten minutes to this, but don't worry about the time either, 4:32 it's just to keep us on track. 4:35 Basically, what you're doing here is explaining why the test user is there, 4:37 making them as comfortable as possible and ready to be completely honest. 4:43 And you're setting up the test parameters, giving them directions and 4:47 your expectations. 4:51 So, if they have any questions, answer them, but otherwise, stay out of the way. 4:52 Let them create their piles piles of cards or groups, and 4:57 when they're done, let them now there's one more task. 5:00 Okay, now that you've divided everything up, I have one more task, 5:04 look at your groups and come up with the best name you can for each one. 5:08 Try to sum up each one in one or two words. 5:12 Now, this is what's called an open card sort. 5:16 They divide everything and then name the groups whatever they want. 5:19 This is a great option if you're creating a new site or blog and need ideas for 5:23 category names. 5:28 Another way you could do this is to give them the category names at the start. 5:29 This is what's called a closed card sort. 5:34 They use the category names and group all the cards into them. 5:38 This is a good option if you're happy with your existing category names but 5:42 need help figuring out where new content might go. 5:46 Ultimately, card sorting could give you more confidence in your existing 5:50 categories or link labels. 5:55 But, if not, it'll show you what needs to change. 5:57 You might need to rename categories or 6:01 maybe add new ones to support content that doesn't fit anywhere. 6:04 This is a pretty easy kind of test that could be run at anytime. 6:08 Just be sure to observe and take notes about the results of each test, and 6:11 then share them with the other developers or content people on your team. 6:16 This user insight can really inspire you 6:21 to make helpful changes when organizing information. 6:23
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