One of the criteria for judging whether a website is easy to use is whether the information is organized and whether users can easily find what they need. But a very common phenomenon is that the content on the website is designed from the perspective of the company, not the user (in our recent study of 43 websites, this usability problem ranked first). One of the ways to find an information architecture solution that best fits your user's mental model is to use card sorting.
Definition: Card sorting is a user experience research method in which study participants group cards with topic names written on them according to criteria that are meaningful to them. This approach allows us to understand how users understand various content, understand their mental models, and ultimately help us design product information architectures that meet user expectations.
Suppose we are designing a car rental website and your company offers 60 user-selectable car models. How would you group models to help users quickly find the ideal model? Company leaders may use technical terms such as family cars, executive cars and full-size luxury cars. But users may not know these terms and what is the difference between them. This is where card sorting comes into play: let users group models according to their understanding, and then observe the results they give to find patterns.
Hertz.com: In a recent user test, it was found that users of this e-commerce website did not understand what "dream car" and "precious car series" were when they opened the classification list of rental car types. Fortunately, the site also provides photos and simple descriptions in addition to the category names, but if you want to compare and choose between multiple types, users still need a lot of work. Card sorting can reveal what kind of cars users want to find on car rental sites.
The implementation process of the card sorting method, the usual steps are as follows
Step 1: Choose a range of topics
It should contain the main content of 40 to 80 websites, and then write them on separate cards.
Tip: Avoid topics with similar names so participants will tend to group them together.
Step 2: Let users categorize topics
Scramble the cards with the subject names to the participants and ask them to take out one card at a time and assign it to a certain group. In the process of sorting, some groups may have many cards, and some groups have few cards. If the participant is not sure what the card means, it can be put aside for now, although it would be better if there is a set of cards dedicated to "not sure" or "don't understand".
Note: The number of groups is not fixed. Some users will be divided into many small categories, and some users will only be divided into a few major categories, which completely depends on the user's own mental model.
We should remind users when they are grouping that they can make various adjustments, such as moving a card to another group, merging two groups, splitting a group into other groups, etc. Because card sorting is a bottom-up process, mistakes are inevitable.
Step 3: Name each group by the user
When the user has grouped all the cards, give him a blank card and let him name the groups. At this point, the mental model of how users are grouped begins to emerge. From the names that users give to various groups, you can find a lot of inspiration for classification. But don't use these category names directly in the design scheme, after all, users are not professionals.
Tip: It's important to name the groups so that users don't stick to existing categories and can modify the content of each group at any time.
Step 4: Communicate with the user about their thought process (this step is not required, but highly recommended)
Ask users why they are grouped this way and what the connections are between each group. More questions to ask:
Are there any cards that are easy or hard to categorize?
Can any card fit into two or more categories?
Do you have any thoughts on unsorted cards (if any)?
You can also ask users to speak their minds when categorizing, which can gather more information, but also take the time to analyze them. For example, if you hear a user say, "I think tomatoes should be placed in the vegetable group. Oh no, tomatoes should actually be fruits, not vegetables, or fruits are more appropriate." This sentence can indicate that the user It is true that although fruits are more appropriate, tomatoes can also be classified as vegetables. This information can help you associate vegetable and fruit groups, and even grouping the two groups b2b data together is a direction to try if there are other reasons to support it.
Make the groups into which users are divided into a reasonable number and size. During the initial classification (steps 1-3) of the user, you should not impose your own wishes and preferences on them, but once the user has completed the initial grouping, you can ask him to subdivide the larger number of groups. Or combine several groups that are too fragmented into one broad category.
Step 5: Test with 15-20 users using the same steps
We need a sufficient number of users to discover the laws in their mental models. The recommended number is 15 people. More than this number, our new discoveries will become less and less, and less than this number may ignore some hidden user thinking laws.