How to Use OptimalSort for Card Sorting

Card sorting helps you understand how users organize and label your site's content. These are the steps you'll follow when conducting an online card sort using OptimalSort:

  1. Go to the Web Governance Team and explain that you are conducting a card sort. They will discuss your project plan and whether you will need approval from the Office of Management and Budget to run your project.
  2. Notify EERE's Web Usability Coordinator that you would like to use OptimalSort to conduct a card sort. They will check to be sure the tool is available during your timeframe.
  3. Conduct a content inventory on your existing website. Identify content that addresses user top tasks or program/business goals.
  4. Select 30-50 "pieces" of content from across your site to create a series of card "labels." The number of cards you select will depend on the complexity of the information being sorted. The content you select should:
    • Represent user and website goals
    • Represent the breadth and depth of the site
    • Represent existing and potential information
    • Span information types (i.e. forms, applications, how do information, etc.).
  5. Edit card labels for leading clues. For example:
    • Avoid existing structures and language of the interface
    • Avoid format words (i.e. "form" or "manual")
    • Avoid repetitious terms that lead to artificial grouping (i.e. "list of" or "new")
    • Use synonyms (i.e. license vs permit)
  6. Set up your card sort using OptimalSort. The Web Usability Coordinator will provide you with the login information and can answer any questions you have on how the tools works.
  7. Ask one or two people to try out your card sort before you deploy it to your target audience(s). Adjust card labels as necessary based on feedback from your testers. Ideally, you want this activity to take about 15 minutes. If it is taking longer, consider reducing the number of cards you are using.
  8. Advertise your card sort to your target audience(s).

Analyzing the Results

When your data collection is complete, you can begin the analysis. OptimalSort offers several reports to assist you with the data analysis. Look for patterns in sorting strategies across all user types and look for differences between groups. For example, do different groups sort the content differently (i.e. by role, topic, technology, etc.)? Are your users communicating preferences, such as "things that don't apply to me," for example?