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How to Prepare for a Card Sort

Page history last edited by PBworks 12 years, 11 months ago

How to Prepare for a Card Sort


Choosing Content


When selecting the content to be included in the card sort you should make every effort to choose a representative sample of the entire website, or section of the website you are testing.  While you are selecting a wide range of items, you will want to ensure that you include clusters of items which are similar to one another so that participants can form groups rather than just having a stack of disparate items.  While you can have up to 100 cards, or items, between 20-45 items is ideal.


  • Start with the Site Map and choose a few items from each section you're testing
  • Include both existing and future content
  • Strive to keep at the same level of granularity when selecting items
  • Avoid choosing existing labels or website "channels" as items
  • Items can include sub- or secondary titles



Choosing Participants


When recruiting participants to take the card sort, it is paramount that you select the end-users of your website for this task.  Although staff and decision-makers may want to participate, the point of the exercise is to determine user needs and get feedback from the "real people" who use your website.  You also want actual users of your website because they are going to have an understanding of the context of the items included in the sort, whereas others may not.  Take a look at the following list of website items and think about how you would categorize them:


  • Backstage Pass to Iapetus: Video
  • Phoenix Mars Lander: The Phoenix Mars Lander is headed for the Martian arctic.
  • Two Missions to Study Clouds, Aerosols: CloudSat and CALIPSO will give us a unique view of Earth's atmosphere.
  • The Vision for Space Exploration: Follow NASA as we explore: Earth, Moon, Mars and beyond.
  • NASA Remains One of the Federal Government's Best Places to Work in 2007
  • Expedition 16: Commander Peggy Whitson leads the Expedition 16 crew.
  • Galileo: Journey to Jupiter.
  • International Space Station: Learn about the next mission to the International Space Station.
  • This Week @NASA: Podcast
  • The Boy's First Flight: The first poem commissioned by NASA's Art Program.
  • Business Opportunities at NASA


Unless you are a user of NASA's website, you may have a hard time putting labels on these and sorting them into groups - this is why you want to get your website users to participate in the card sorting process.  Although you may choose to have more, anywhere from 8-12 Individual Participants or 5-7 Groups is ideal.  Don't forget, you can always choose to run additional card sorts and/or closed card sorts following your open ones.




Preparing Cards


If you are running an online card sort, you will be entering your list of items into the software application of your choosing in order to prepare for the card sort.  If you are conducting a live card sort you will want to:

  • Print out each of your items onto a standard 3" x 5"  index card (14 point font recommended)
  • You may include secondary or descriptive titles to your items if necessary
  • You may include images on the backs of cards
  • Place a number on each card which will provide a quick way of identifying it for analysis
  • Alternatively you can choose to use post-it notes, however they aren't as sturdy
  • Create multiple packs of cards so you may have several individuals or groups sorting at the same time




Items you will need on-hand


Prior to a live card sort you will want to go through this checklist to make sure you have all of the necessary materials for the sort.

  • Multiple sets of cards prepared with content items printed on each
  • Blank index cards for each participant to create labels
  • Pens
  • Rubber bands so participants can sort cards into groups
  • A pad and pen for you to write down questions, discussions, and observations




Before the Card Sort


  • Shuffle the decks of cards
  • Distribute one deck of cards to each individual or group area
  • Distribute 10-20 blank index cards to each individual or group area
  • Distribute pens and rubber bands to each individual or group area









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