How to Use Card Sorting in UX Design

Card sorting is a powerful technique in UX design that helps organize information and improve the overall user experience. By asking participants to categorize and prioritize content on physical or digital cards, designers gain valuable insights into how users think and navigate through information. This blog post will explore the step-by-step process of conducting a card sorting session and provide tips on how to effectively analyze the results to inform design decisions.

How to Use Card Sorting in UX Design

How to Use Card Sorting in UX Design

As a UX designer, you know that creating a seamless user experience is crucial for the success of any digital product. One effective technique that can help you achieve this is card sorting. Card sorting is a user-centered design method that allows you to understand how users organize and categorize information. In this blog post, we will explore what card sorting is, why it is important, and how you can use it in your UX design process.

What is Card Sorting?

Card sorting is a technique that involves asking users to organize and categorize a set of cards representing different pieces of information. These cards can be physical or digital, depending on your preference and the context of your project. By observing how users group and label the cards, you can gain insights into their mental models and understand how they expect information to be organized.

Why is Card Sorting Important?

Card sorting is important in UX design for several reasons. Firstly, it helps you understand how users think and how they expect information to be structured. This knowledge can inform the information architecture of your product, ensuring that it aligns with users' mental models and is intuitive to navigate.

Secondly, card sorting can help you uncover patterns and similarities in how users categorize information. This can be valuable for creating effective navigation systems and organizing content in a way that makes sense to your target audience.

Lastly, card sorting allows you to involve users in the design process, making them active participants in shaping the user experience. By including users' perspectives and preferences, you can create a product that better meets their needs and expectations.

Types of Card Sorting

There are two main types of card sorting: open card sorting and closed card sorting.

Open Card Sorting

In open card sorting, participants are given a set of cards and asked to organize them into groups that make sense to them. They are also asked to label each group in a way that reflects the content or theme of the cards. This method is useful when you want to understand how users naturally categorize information without any predefined categories.

Closed Card Sorting

In closed card sorting, participants are given a set of cards and a predefined set of categories. They are then asked to place each card into one of the categories provided. This method is useful when you already have a predefined structure or taxonomy that you want to test or validate with users.

How to Conduct a Card Sorting Session

Now that you understand the importance of card sorting and the different types, let's dive into how you can conduct a card sorting session.

Step 1: Define Your Objectives

Before conducting a card sorting session, it is important to define your objectives. What specific questions do you want to answer? What aspects of your information architecture or navigation system do you want to improve? Having clear objectives will help you design a card sorting session that is focused and effective.

Step 2: Prepare Your Cards

Next, you need to prepare the cards for the session. Each card should represent a piece of information or content that you want to test. Make sure the cards are clear and concise, and avoid using jargon or technical language that may confuse participants.

Step 3: Recruit Participants

Recruit participants who match your target audience. Aim for a diverse group that represents the different user personas you have identified. The number of participants can vary, but a good rule of thumb is to aim for at least 5-10 participants to ensure a range of perspectives.

Step 4: Conduct the Session

During the session, explain the purpose of the card sorting exercise to the participants. Make sure they understand that there are no right or wrong answers and that you are interested in their thought process and reasoning.

For open card sorting, ask participants to group the cards into categories that make sense to them. Encourage them to label each group and explain their reasoning behind the categorization.

For closed card sorting, provide participants with the predefined categories and ask them to place each card into the appropriate category. Again, encourage them to explain their choices.

Step 5: Analyze the Results

Once the card sorting session is complete, it's time to analyze the results. Look for patterns and similarities in how participants grouped and labeled the cards. Identify any inconsistencies or areas where participants struggled to categorize the cards. These insights will help you refine your information architecture and improve the user experience.

Tips for Successful Card Sorting

To ensure a successful card sorting session, consider the following tips:

  • Clearly explain the purpose and instructions of the card sorting exercise to participants.
  • Use a mix of open and closed card sorting methods to gather different perspectives.
  • Consider using online card sorting tools to streamline the process and collect data more efficiently.
  • Include a diverse group of participants to capture a range of perspectives and avoid bias.
  • Be open to unexpected insights and avoid leading participants towards a specific outcome.
  • Iterate and refine your card sorting sessions based on the insights you gather.


Card sorting is a valuable technique in UX design that can help you understand how users organize and categorize information. By involving users in the design process, you can create a product that aligns with their mental models and expectations. Whether you choose open or closed card sorting, remember to define your objectives, prepare your cards, recruit participants, conduct the session, and analyze the results. With these steps and tips in mind, you can leverage card sorting to create a seamless and intuitive user experience.

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