Card Sorting-previewCard Sorting-preview

Card Sorting Template

Discover users’ mental models to make information architecture improvements

About the Card Sorting Template

Card sorting is a user testing technique that helps UX teams decide how to structure a website or app's information architecture (IA). 

Teams can use this technique to figure out how much users already know about your product or service. Card sorting also reveals their mental models and, based on these, outlines the best way to organize information architecture. 

In a card sorting workshop session, each participant (representing your user) organizes topics into categories, and helps you label these groups. By the end of the session, you’ll learn more about how to meet your users’ expectations, and ideally, help them quickly find what they need and have a frictionless experience when navigating through your website or app.

Keep reading to learn more about card sorting.

What is Card Sorting

Card sorting involves creating a set of cards, each representing a concept or item.  The sorting process has workshop participants (matching your ideal customer or target persona) group the cards in a way that makes sense to them. 

Typically, cards get sorted one of three ways during a workshop session: 

Open card sort: Participants sort cards into their own categories, and label those categories themselves. This is a generative approach and helps UX teams learn:

  • How customers understand and analyze your information

  • Where people expect to find information when they click on your website

  • How to brainstorm new ideas for structuring and labeling your website information

  • Whether your site has multiple user groups that think in different ways about your information

Closed card sort: Participants sort cards into categories you give them. This is an evaluative approach, to see how customers organize information based on a given framework, and helps UX teams learn:

  • Whether people agree on where your information is best found in existing categories

  • Specific unclear or misleading category labels that need fixing

  • How to reduce the number of categories you have, based on categories that were ignored

Hybrid card sort: Participants can either create new categories to complete your card sort (an open approach), or sort cards only into your categories, less likely to make their own labels (a closed approach). This mixed approach can lean toward more open or more closed, and helps UX teams learn:

  • How to generate ideas for grouping information based on inspiring participants with a given category pattern 

  • Categories that have high agreement after an open card sort, but need more clearly defined card groupings

When to use Card Sorting

Running a card sorting workshop session enables your UX team to:

  • Decide on structure for the information architecture of a new or existing website

  • Find the right language to make your navigation user-friendly

  • Group your content (or products and services) in a way that makes sense to your users

  • Compare how different customers or user groups understand concepts related to your products and services

  • Find a quick, cost-effective technique for collecting and presenting real data on user goals that most benefits business needs

Once you’ve found new insights into how customers navigate your website or app, you can use this data to develop a new, improved information architecture. 

Create your own Card Sorting session

Making your own card sorting workshops is easy. Miro’s whiteboard tool is the perfect canvas to create and share them. Get started by selecting the Card Sorting Template, then take the following steps to make one of your own.

  1. Choose your sorting card topics. You can edit the default card set, including text and images, to suit your website or app’s information architecture. Aim for 30-60 cards per single session. Only the most relevant cards will end up sorted into groups. With more cards for participants to choose from, you should end up with enough data to make well-informed decisions.

  2. Explain what card sorting method you’d like users to follow. Do you prefer an open, closed, or hybrid card sort? Edit the instructions to tell participants your expectations or hop on a video call directly in Miro to talk through the exercise before starting. 

  3. Invite your participant to organize topics into groups. Now they can start making sense of your product or service’s information architecture. We recommend timing this exercise with Miro’s Countdown Timer. Aim for 15-20 minutes. Add an extra five minutes if they haven’t completed the timed sort after 20 minutes. 

  4. Ask your participant to name groups. After all the cards are grouped, ask the participant to give groupings new group label names. During open or hybrid card sorts, this will reveal the participant’s mental model. It’s unlikely they’ll create labels that perfectly align with your product’s marketing or branding – so treat it instead like a source of inspiration.

  5. Debrief with your participant. Hop on another video call (or chat, if preferred) and ask the user to explain the rationale behind their card sorting decisions. Which cards were easier or more difficult to sort? Did any cards seem to belong to two or more categories? Any thoughts about items left unsorted (or placed in the “not sure” category)?

  6. Consider asking your participant for smaller group sizes if needed. If any groups appear too big or small after debriefing, ask the participant to try resorting. Large groups can turn into subcategories or subcategories can turn into larger groups. This is less about influencing the participant’s thinking than about tapping into any potential new grouping options.

  7. Repeat the process as needed with up to 20 participants. Try to find just enough participants to give you good sample data. Card sorting sessions are best done with one participant at a time, at least 15 to 20 times. Look for patterns, and turn them into insights about your users’ mental models to decide how to approach your website or app’s information architecture.

Card Sorting Template

Get started with this template right now. It’s free

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