# Card Sorting
In card sorting, suggestions for the navigation structure of an application are developed using (paper) cards.
Card sorting is a method of designing the general structure of an application. Which information, objects, and actions belong together, which can be represented separately; the so-called information architecture of the application. Card Sorting also gives hints on the terms that users expect and will understand in navigation or menus.
The objects (information to be displayed) and functions (executable actions) used in the application are noted on paper cards. Users are asked to organize these cards into groups that make sense to them. When multiple users group information similarly, this is an indication of the user's "mental model". If the terms and structures of the application coincide with the mental model of the users, this improves the findability of information and thus the usability.
Information architecture of the application and names for navigation structures (menu).
There are two types of card sorting:
- Open Card Sorting: the participants receive cards with application contents that are not already grouped. They should group the cards and then find generic terms for the groups. Open card sorting is especially helpful for new applications to find a suitable structure and terms for menus and navigation.
- Closed Card Sorting: participants receive cards that describe predefined groups (for example, terms that are already used in the navigation of the application). They will then be asked to assign new terms to these groups. Closed card sorting is useful when you want to add new features to an application.
Closed card sorting can also be used to test the navigation of the application: the participant receives cards with the navigation elements of the application. A function is described to him and he should find it with the help of the navigation (Reverse Card Sorting / Tree Testing). Thus it can be checked whether the selected navigation structure and the terms are comprehensible and understandable.
# Tools and Templates
Card sorting can be performed with paper cards or with software support. Online Card Sorting is particularly suitable if quantitative data is to be collected for validation. A (limited free) online tool for this is e.g. Optimalsort (opens new window).
Card Sorting is a fast and inexpensive method that provides insight into the user's way of thinking. Menu structures are designed according to user requirements.
The resulting structure may not be feasible without adjustments.
- Spencer, D.G., Jesse, J. (2009) Card sorting: Designing Usable Categories (opens new window) New York: Rosenfeld Media
- Card Sorting - Werkzeugkasten des Mittelstand 4.0-Kompetenzzentrum Usability (German) (opens new window)
- Card Sorting - Simply usable Methodenkatalog (German) (opens new window)