U.S. Department of Energy - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

EERE Communication Standards & Guidelines

How to Use Web Sort to Conduct an Online Card Sort

Card sorting is a usability activity that 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 Web Sort:

  1. Notify EERE's Web Usability Coordinator that you would like to use Web Sort to conduct a card sort. They will check to be sure the tool is available during your timeframe, and will set up a short call with you to:

    • Give you an overview of the process
    • Discuss your plans for advertising the sort (to help ensure you are in compliance with the Paperwork Reduction Act)
    • Answer any questions you might have.
  2. Conduct a content inventory on your existing website. Identify content that addresses user top tasks or program/business goals.

  3. 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.).
  4. 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)
  5. Send a copy of your card labels to the Web Usability Coordinator, who will take a quick look and provide feedback before you set up your sort.

  6. Set up your card sort using Web Sort. The Web Usability Coordinator will provide you with the login information and can answer question you might 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) using the methods you discussed with the Web Usability Coordinator.

Analyzing the Results

When your data collection is complete, you can begin the analysis. Web Sort 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?

When you are ready to start your analysis, please set up a 30-minute call with the Web Usability Coordinator. They will walk you through the various reports and suggest some strategies for analyzing your data.

After you finish your analysis, you may want to write up a short report on your results. If you choose to do this, please send a copy of your report to the Web Usability Coordinator as well (who collects EERE usability study materials and reports so other programs can use them as models).