Card Sorting

Card sorting is a method used to help determine taxonomy. Card sorting is a simple technique where users, regardless of their experience, are guided to generate a category tree for a set of terms. It is a useful approach for designing information architecture, workflows, menu structure, or website navigation paths.

Card Sorting by Participant


The business goal was to create an area on the intranet for new hires to get support within the organization and better improve the site navigation. The fourteen candidates that previously participated in a usability study were asked to sort cards into categories or “like” piles; below is a card sorting session of one of the participants. Written on paper was twenty-one terms, taken from surveys conducted previously. The participants were given fifteen minutes to sort; a time limit prevented them from overthinking the process.

Card Sorting Session


Over a two week period, the research conducted used tools consisting of torn paper, a sharpie, and an iPad to record the findings. Recruiting candidates for the exercise required collaboration from different groups in the organization, such as; myself as the UX Researcher, Finance; Online Services, Digital, Operations, Programming, and Creative Services.


Participants in Multiple Sessions

Interesting enough, most participants categorized the cards based on their previous experience with company intranets. Also, “APPS,” a term used on the current site, is a stand-alone from the other words. Card sorting sessions were followed up with an interview from the participant; expressing their thoughts on the exercise and categorization of terms.


Patterns started to occur midway through the testing phase. Support, Services, and Company were catchall phrases. Most participants piled the remaining terms under these categories, which exist on the current site, but have been confusing to most what they mean. Below is a set of “catch-all” terms identified by users; i.e., broad terms in which several categories become nonclassified.

 Catch-All Phrases

Terms that are similar such as News/Newsletter, Support/Services, Services/Departments confused users when sorting. The words became questionable to what they meant for the end user. The company’s culture formed most of the phrases in question, and they were categorized by various groups to meet their individual business needs, which is not how the end user thinks.


Confusing Phrases


The terms themselves do not add value unless there are context and familiarity. Organizations define culture and averages, and with that comes terminology. When departments become soiled, common vocabulary forms of camaraderie.  When trying to centralize company-wide data into one place, confusion exists among different mindsets and perspectives. Below are terms that showed a consistent pattern amongst participants.

  • Departments
  • Services
  • People
  • Social Feeds
  • APPS
  • Training
  • Guides
  • Videos
  • FAQ

Users preferred to search by categories; departments, people, or the entire site.