Post-it notes and card sorting

Card sorting is a user experience technique which has interested me for a while,  however, I have never had the opportunity to try it out within a project. When it comes to card sorting I have often thought – what are the benefits? is it a useful technique?

Within a company created for a university module, myself and the website sub-group came together to decide on what our main site navigation names will be.
Of course, the post-it notes came out.
Using post-it notes allowed us to work together as a team, creating different possible names, moving them around, creating a post-it styled site map. It took longer than expected (one hour) and we only finished up with very basic navigation names which we still wasn’t 100% sure off.

At all times I kept asking the group “will the user understand this name” and “we don’t want to make them confused or have to think about what the page will include” – with this in mind our navigation names and structure changed several times. If we had more time in the project it would have been good to get users to come visit us and watch how they structured the post it notes or ask them to come up with possible names.

However, due to time constraints, I decided to use Bagel Hint to create an online card sorting survey. I was lost when I first approached it considering I’m still learning what all the terminology means. The two types of tests I used included ‘Link naming’ (creating a question such as “where would you go to find children’s clothing” and writing in many different possible names for the user to choose from) and ‘closed card sorting’ (giving the user your categories on the website with sub-category names and asking the user to drag these names into the category they feel is best suited).

You can pay more for lots of extra features on Bagel Hint – I will definitely be purchasing it once I’m no longer a poor student. For the free option you can create a survey and only 5 people can respond – but we have only had 3 results so far and already I am getting a good understanding of which names need to be re-considered and which names are fully understood by the users.

Useful resources 

  • If you want to know more in-depth information on card sorting here’s a good article: boxesandarrows.com/
  • For the card-sorting online software I used visit: Bagel Hint
  • Also, the book ‘A project guide to UX Design’ has a great section on card-sorting and it speaks about many other UX Research techniques in-depth: Book on Amazon

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