Card Sorting

Card sorting is a user-oriented research method used to organize a large amount of concepts and uncover users' mental models of a particular problem by sorting items into categories.


Card Sorting is a user-centered design technique used to understand how users categorize and relate information. Participants are asked to sort cards with topics or items into groups that make sense to them. This method provides insights into user mental models, helping designers organize content in an intuitive way. It's commonly used in information architecture, such as designing website navigation, to ensure that content is easily findable and aligned with user expectations.

Suitable for

  • designing website structure or its redesign designing or evaluating the information architecture of a service, website or application categorization of concepts (subjects, items, elements)


Participant Recruitment Plan

A document outlining the target participants, their profile, and strategies for recruiting individuals who align with the user base for the study.

Card Sorting Script

A verbal script provided to the facilitator, guiding them through the card sorting process and ensuring the right questions are asked and instructions given to participants.


Physical or digital cards representing the content, categories, or features to be sorted by the participants during the study.

Card Sorting Results

A dataset capturing the sorting decisions and results from each participant, which can be analyzed to uncover patterns, trends, and general preferences.

Card Sorting Analysis Report

A comprehensive report detailing the findings and analysis of the card sorting study, including observations, suggested groupings, and recommendations for information architecture improvements.

Participant Feedback Summary

A summary of participant feedback, insights, and suggestions regarding the content or structure gathered during the card sorting exercise.

Dendrogram or Cluster Analysis

Visual representations or outputs from data analysis tools showing the relationships and groupings of items based on participant input during the card sorting exercise.

Proposed Information Architecture

A suggested information architecture document, including a site map or content hierarchy based on the input from the card sorting activity, ready to be tested and validated in additional user studies.



Define Objectives

Determine the goals of your card sorting session, such as identifying user expectations, understanding how users categorize information, or improving the navigation structure of a website or application.


Select Participants

Recruit a diverse group of participants who represent your target user demographic to ensure a wide range of perspectives in the card sorting exercise.


Create Cards

Develop a set of cards that include the key concepts, categories, or tasks that are relevant to your design project. These cards should be brief, clear, and written in the user's language.


Choose Card Sorting Format

Decide between an open, closed, or hybrid card sorting format. In open sorting, participants create and label their own categories; in closed sorting, pre-defined categories are provided; and in hybrid sorting, a mix of both approaches is used.


Conduct the Card Sorting Session

Facilitate the card sorting session by providing clear instructions to participants, ensuring they understand the goals of the exercise, and encouraging them to think aloud while organizing the cards. Monitor their progress and ask clarifying questions if needed.


Capture the Results

Document the categories and card order created by each participant, either by taking photographs, recording the session, or transcribing the results. If using a digital card sorting tool, the data will be captured automatically.


Analyze the Data

Analyze the card sorting results by looking for patterns and trends in the way participants grouped and labeled the cards. Identify common themes and outliers and consider how these findings align with your design objectives.


Generate Insights

Interpret the findings to gain insights into user mental models, expectations, and preferred content organization. Use these insights to inform your design decisions, such as the labeling and structure of navigation menus, or the organization of content within your website or application.


Iterate and Test

Apply the insights from the card sorting session to your design and conduct additional testing with users to ensure that the new organization aligns with their expectations and is easy to navigate.



30-60 minutes per user


Post-its, board or card sorting software


at least 10-15 users


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