UX Design Research Method | Data Collection using Card Sorting

Data Collection using Card Sorting

Your ability to understand and interpret your users' needs can make or break your product's design. A key aspect of this understanding gets cultivated through User Experience (UX) design research. Card sorting, a revered UX design research method, brings forth essential insights into how your users think, behave, or expect from your product. This article will delve into the nitty-gritty of data collection using card sorting.

What is Card Sorting?

Card sorting is a qualitative UX research method that navigates through the users' minds to build or improve a product's information architecture. It involves participants organizing topic cards into categories that make sense to them. Essentially, it is a user-centered design method that aids in building a foundation for creating user interface designs and navigation menus.

Types of Card Sorting

There are three main types of card sorting, each with its unique approach and benefits.

  • Open Card Sorting: Here, participants get tasked with or sorting cards into categories of their choosing and naming these categories. This approach typically uncovers how the users group information and the terms they use.

  • Closed Card Sorting: The participants get given pre-defined categories, and they are tasked to sort cards into these existing groups. This method is ideal for validating existing category names.

  • Hybrid Card Sorting: This method combines both the open card sorting and closed card sorting. It begins with an open card sorting, and participants can create new categories if they cannot place a card into an existing one. This approach is great for refining or expanding an existing structure.

Why Use Card Sorting?

The underlying benefits of card sorting as a UX research tool are immense:

  • Uncover User Expectations: Since card sorting relies on the user's grouping and categorizing, it uncovers user mental models, expectations, and preferences.

  • Improve Navigation: Card sorting data helps in improving website navigation by grouping similar content together from a user's perspective, ensuring that it is easy for people to find content on your website or app.

  • Enhance Information Architecture: It is useful for creating information architectures that resonates with a user's thought process, improving user experience and product findability.

Implementing Card Sorting in Data Collection

Planning Your Card Sorting Session

Before commencing with the card-sorting task, certain key decisions and arrangements must be made.

Define Your Goals

First things first, you need to define your research goals clearly. What do you want to learn from this card sorting exercise? What insights are you aiming to gain?

Choose the Type of Card Sorting

Choose between open, closed, or hybrid card sorting depending upon your goals. If you want to create new categories, opt for open card sorting, but if you wish to validate your existing category labels, choose closed card sorting.

Decide on the Method of Sorting

Decide whether you want in-person card sorting or remote card sorting.

Conducting the Card Sorting Session

Designing the Cards

Each card should represent a piece of content or functionality within your product. Don't make them too detailed or too vague; they should be easily understandable by the participants.

Sorting the Cards

Guide the participants to sort the cards into categories that make sense to them. Observe and take note of their actions and thought process during this activity.

Analyzing the Data from Card Sorting

Once the card sorting is done, the next step is critical: data analysis. Analyze the participant's categorization, their group labels, and their reasoning behind the sortings.

Documenting the Findings

Make sure to report every detail and note taken during the card sorting session. This documented data serves as a crucial source of information for your product's design.


To cap it all, card sorting is a valuable UX research tool that aids in understanding user expectations, enhances navigation, and improves information architecture. While it might seem daunting, careful planning and execution can make the process smoother and the data collected invaluable. Always remember UX research like card sorting is not a one-time procedure but should be conducted regularly for the constant improvement of your product's user experience.

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