Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Card Sorting: Mistakes Made and Lessons Learned

Avoiding mistakes with card sorting ...

"Card sorting is a simple and effective method with which most of us are familiar. There are already some excellent resources on how to run a card sort and why you should do card sorting. This article, on the other hand, is a frank discussion of the lessons I’ve learned from running numerous card sorts over the years. By sharing these lessons learned along the way, I hope to enable others to dodge similar potholes when they venture down the card sorting path.
Don’t Expect Too Much of Card Sorting

Card sorting is a deceptively simple method. The beauty of card sorting is that it just makes sense. I normally get enthusiastic nods of approval when explaining it to others. But therein lies one of the key problems with card sorting: our expectations of what it can do.

One of the earliest card sorts I ran was unnecessarily complex, involving over 100 cards with around 80 participants. Yes, what a sucker for punishment! We had started off with a simple research goal and unwittingly turned it into a monster. We wanted to find out everything. Part of the problem, in this case, was a misunderstanding on the part of the client.

Client: “So it’s like a survey? So we should have a lot of people, right? And it’ll tell us how we should structure our Web site?”

Sam: “Well, actually, no. It will help us identify patterns in how users expect to find content, but it won’t give us a complete structure.”

Client: “But it’s like a survey, right? So we should get as many people as we can and make sure we represent all our market segments.”

Sam: “Well, it depends...” (And now seriously regretting I had mentioned the word survey at all!)

This story illustrates two things:

* Card sorting can easily get out of control by trying to be all things to all people.
* Clients and stakeholders might mistakenly assume card sorting can produce a perfect answer.

The reality is that many people—and sometimes even ourselves if we were honest—expect card sorting to more or less create our information architecture. You don’t have an information architecture or the one you currently have is bad? Why that’s an easy problem to solve—just run a card sort.

Whoa! Hold up!"    (Continued via UXmatters)    [Usability Resources]

Online Card Sorting - Usability, User Interface Design

Online Card Sorting

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