How to Implement an Open Card Sort

How to Implement an Open Card Sort


Announce the Card Sort


In order to recruit participants for your card sort, the best place to scout for volunteers is on your website or in your library. This will ensure that you will be getting participants who are actual website users. Announcing a card sort is as easy as putting up a blurb such as this one:


We are rebuilding and need your help!


Please help us determine the best way to organize our new website by taking part in a brief exercise. It should only take between 5-7 minutes of your time but will directly affect the design of the new


What’s Involved?

We need you to sort out various library pages and items into categories which you think are optimal descriptors.


If you would like to contribute to making the new website an enjoyable experience, please find the exercise here: http://www.



If you are holding a live card sort, you will of course, want to swap the url with an email address to RSVP along with a time, date, and location for the sort.



Conduct the Card Sort


If you have chosen an online sort, you will simply log in to a card sorting tool such as Websort, enter your items and wait for participants to follow your link and complete the sort.




Provide Instructions


Whether live or online, you will want to provide your participants with some guidance as to what to do.  You will want to give them an overview of the process of sorting the items and assigning labels.  You will also want to tell them that they can create an "outlier" pile for those items which they can't fit into any appropriate group.  If you are giving a live sort, you can also encourage your participants to talk amongst themselves and/or ask questions during the card sort.  Here is a sample of written instructions for an online card sort, however, you may want to fashion this into a script for yourself during a live sort.



We are conducting research that will help us gain a better understanding of how our web site should be organized and make it easier to use.

Assign each of the items in the list on the left to one of the folder groups on the right. Please also provide names for each folder group you create.  Name each group with a word or words that describes the set of items it contains.

Just drag items from the list into folders. What items belong together? Think of where you expect to find these items on a web site.   There is no right number of groups, but make sure that you think about how the items relate to each other. If you have a group with a large amount of items, you may be able to split it up. 

Finally, if you think something doesn't belong, you can make an "outlier" group.  You must do the exercise in one sitting. Thank you for taking the time to participate in our study.



During the Card Sort


During the card sort, the main thing to remember is that you are an observer, and therefore must make your best effort not to sway or lead participants in any way.  With that said there are several things you will want to be doing during the sort.



After the Card Sort