How To...

Check out this short video to better understand Card Sorting exercise:


Start by adding cards and categories. Create cards for each item you want your user to categorize. It’s better to have at least 30 cards before starting a card sorting session. This should be enough to analyze results later on.

On the other hand, don’t create too many cards (over 60). It could discourage testers to finish your exercise because it takes them too much of their time.

You can use images in your cards as well. It could be useful if you have some physical products and doing UX research for your e-commerce website. This way you’ll make it easier for users to categorize cards.

Choose a technique

In-person observation

It gives you a chance to see what your users think out loud. Sit down with your testers, instruct them, and watch how they solve your card sorting exercise. Ask questions on the go and gather feedback. You’ll gain deeper insights, which lead to better solutions.

Group sessions

You can run a group exercise as well. This way, you can get more results at once. Present the instruction at the beginning and let testers work.

You have 2 options.
You can let a group focus on one card sorting, so they work together. Collaborating or teaming up with others may quickly point out the main content areas.
Let them work separately. By giving cards to each user, you can get more data during one session.

Online card sorting

It can be done from home, work, or any place. You do not need to travel or go to the offices. Ask participants to conduct your card sorting workshop online so you can easily and quickly get many responses.
There are many free card sorting tools you can use to create a high-quality online session.

I’m going to focus on this type of research in this blog post.

Choose the right type

Open Card Sorting

Testers sort cards into groups which they label themselves. Great choice when you want to understand how users group your content.

Closed Card Sorting

It’s when you give respondents categories to sort the cards into. I recommend this one, in case you want to find out how users match cards with existing content structure.

Hybrid Card Sorting

Respondents sort your cards into defined categories or create their own. Combining the best of Open and Closed Card Sorting, it allows you to validate information grouping strategy while still leaving respondents room for free expression.

Design messages

Write a welcome message for your testers where you explain what is this research about, why you are asking for help, and how long it takes them to finish the session. This information is crucial and it will reflect the number of visitors you convert to testers.

Most people have no idea what card sorting is, so your instructions need to be as clear as possible. Send your copy to at least one person that doesn’t know this technique and ask if it’s clear enough.

After the research is done, don’t forget to thank your participants for helping you out. You can reward them as well.

Use questionnaire

You can gather some useful information apart from the card sorting activity. Ask respondents to fill out a short questionnaire before or after the exercise. You can combine those results and get a bigger view of your audience. This will also help you filter the respondents and avoid wasting time of people who do not match your user profile.                                                                                                                


This survey could be also used to filter the target group you can to research. You can ask testers to answer a few questions before starting sorting cards. If someone doesn’t fit your target audience, don’t proceed to the exercise.                                              


Recruit testers

When your setup is finished, start recruiting your testers. The goal is to get at least 30 people participating in your UX research. You can start with your users, email them an invite link so they can join anytime. Use social media, share your challenge, and recruit people there. Some tools even offer a widget that you can put on your website and collect results on the go.

It’s possible to reward participants with a voucher, discount coupon, or promising them to create a better website they want to use.

If you want to be in your tester shoes for a while, try this demo of a closed card sorting exercise

Analyze The Results

There are two suggested ways how to look at the results of your research.

Exploratory analysis is an approach where you go through the results searching for ideas using your intuition and creativity.

Statistical analysis is focused on numbers. Card sorting tools offer many views on data. You can use the standardization grid, similarity matrix, dendrograms, results matrix, popular placements matrix, and many others.

This wide range of diagrams will provide you with a ton of information about your users. They are very easy to analyze, so you can get all the useful data within a short period of time. It will not only give you countless insights but answer some of the important questions regarding your UX.

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