Card sorting is a research method used by UX designers and UX researchers to understand how people categorise and organise information. Participants are given a set of cards with items or concepts written on them and are asked to sort them into groups that make sense to them and provide those groups labels. The card sorting results are often used to make an informed decision about the organisation and labelling of content in a digital product or to test and validate existing information architecture.
As with many UX research methods, card sorting helps understand the users – in this case, how they organise information. Based on this data, the digital product can have more intuitive and user-friendly navigation and labels. It also helps identify common patterns and categories, leading to a more informed design and structure of a website or an app.
Participants in card sorting can also be product users. Gathering their feedback and adjusting to their needs ensures that the content architecture is user-centred and that any inconsistencies or confusion are quickly resolved.
Finally, card sorting also allows pinpointing the areas where the content is missing.
A successful card sorting study can only be done with diverse participants. Only then you'll get various perspectives and insights. Once you have a diverse group, provide them with clear instructions and ensure they understand the given task. Also, use both open (participants make up the category names) and closed (participants only sort the items into already made categories) card sorting methods to have a comprehensive understanding of how the users categorise information.
There are also certain things you shouldn't do for a useful card sorting study. Firstly, don't assume that your results will be the same for all users or all user groups. Another thing you shouldn't do is use card sorting as the only method of collecting feedback on your content architecture. Lastly, don't rely on or conduct only closed card sorting studies. Allow your participants to make their categories and labels and then compare them against your own.
If you want feedback on your digital product's information architecture, card sorting is the most useful and detailed way of getting it. It allows you to see how the users categorise and organise your content. You can use that information to make your website or app even more user-friendly.