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12 Feb

A Glance at Card Sorting for Usability Testing and Research

In the beginning phases of planning a site design or re-design, it''s important to understand how people will search for topics on the site. The information architecture of a site impacts the overall user experience in numerous ways. The structure of a website can speed up or slow down user navigation by how they seek specific topics.

Generally speaking, the faster audiences can locate the information they''re looking for online, the happier they are about their user experience. The only exception is when you want some information to be (deliberately) somewhat hard to find. One way to find out how people will approach a website is through card sorting.
Here''s how this method helps usability testing and research:

Find Out How People Group Information

Card sorting involves giving a website audience (or prospective audience) an opportunity to sort categories and topics in groups that make sense to them. This involves actual note cards or card sorting software. The research can be performed in person or online. In addition, the research may be one-on-one or in a group setting.

There are two approaches to card sorting to consider. Closed card sorting involves pre-named categories and groups, which is useful if you don''t plan on changing the names of those items in a website re-design. Open card sorting, in contrast, involves opportunities for people to rename cards and name groups.

This is an interesting research process for finding out how people might group or sort information. For instance, it''s possible to learn how people group information related to clothing for a retail site (such as pants, skirts, dresses, and outerwear). Additionally, this approach is helpful for discovering how an audience groups information pertaining to outdoor sports (such as skiing, snowboarding, swimming, and surfing). These are just some examples of how card sorting is a valuable tool.

Discover the Fastest Paths for Users

Card sorting helps to optimize the user experience of a site, by ensuring people can find what they''re looking for in the most intuitive way. In many instances, the fewer clicks that a user has to make, the better experience the user has. This can help increase sales and encourage users to stay on a site for a longer period of time. Sites that have too few or too many menu items can deter people from finding the information that is a priority to them, and they might leave the site before locating the right page or information.

This is a brief summary of some of the aspects of this usability research method. Card sorting involves various approaches or steps to find out how people can best use your website. Folio1 in Australia provides website design and strategy services. To learn more about our capabilities, contact us.

Sources:
Smashing Magazine

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