From personal and professional experience, website’s that provide information in the right place are the ones that work. Though this may sound obvious – getting the structure right from the outset, is possibly the most important thing to consider when planning a website.

Too often, the planning of a website’s structure is performed by the web developers, when in actual fact, it should be the end users of the web product that have the most input.

One technique that can help companies determine the most suitable web structure is card sorting.

What is card sorting?

Card sorting involves end users of a website, assisting with the planning of website structure. Participants are provided with a range of cards, each housing a key content item and are then asked to organise the content in a way that they understand.

What are the benefits?

Card sorting is great way to gain insight into the minds of the end user. What you may think is the best approach to the organisation of your content, may in fact be confusing to the user.

The process of card sorting helps to develop a sound structure for a website and can help you identify and prioritise important content. (I.e. what to display on the homepage, in feature panels etc). It can also help to formulate the labels to group your content, based on the users feedback.

Types of Card Sorting

There are two approaches that can be used when undertaking a card sort

  1. Open card sort – No predefined categories – users are asked to review all content and group items as they see fit. Users are then asked to name these groups.
  2. Closed card sort – a predefined set of categories is provided to the user and they are asked to sort the content into the categories as they see fit.

Try it!

Undertaking card sorting is a cheap, yet extremely effective way of planning a website’s structure. Jacob Nielsen recommends including 15 participants in a card sorting process (obviously testing one at a time).

Remember, the end user should have a say in the website structure so let their voice be heard!

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