Card Sorting .

How do people think about the different sorts of information that are incorporated into my product? How should that information be organized in my product so that people can find what they need when they need it?

How it works

In days past, users actually handled 3 X 5 cards with information printed on them. Today, nearly all card sorts are done on computers using a drag-drop interface. There are two broad types of card sort methods – open card sorts and closed card sorts. In an open card sort, users are given a set of “cards” each containing bits of information – think menu labels. Users are required to sort these into groupings and then give the groupings names that make sense to them. Statistical tests are then used to determine the strongest groupings for most users.

In a closed card sort, the groupings are already determined. Users are given the same set of cards as in an open card sort but they are also given the categories. These categories serve as “buckets” into which participants are required to sort their pieces of information. Statistical test are used to determine how well the predetermined groupings performed compared to how participants sorted their information. Closed card sorts are often used to validate open card sorts.


  • Relies on actual users to demonstrate how they organize information as opposed to guessing at what will make the most sense to them. Users have to be located and screened to participate.


  • Requires expertise to reconcile the grouping names in an open card sort. This drives the argument for following open card sorts with a closed sort.