Ask people to group cards into categories, and use the results to guide your information architecture design.
There are three types of card sorts: closed, hybrid, or open. The prep and analysis time will vary depending on the size of the project.
Closed card sorts take the least amount of time to complete, because you are dictating all of the categories and topics that will be used; users only sort the information. Users typically finish these in 10-15 minutes.
Hybrid card sorts take a little longer because users have the option to add new information along with the already established information. It will take users a little longer, so plan for 15-20 minutes for these sorts.
Open card sorts take the most amount of time to complete, 15 minutes to an hour, because users have the most freedom in creating topics and categories, as well as thinking about how they would restructure the information architecture.
Moderating the card sort can help to cut down on time because the users know that there is an established timeframe, along with someone watching them.
When you are designing a website and don't know how to organize the content. Card sorts also help if you are adding content or want to reorganize established websites based on user feedback.
Decide the format and type of the card sort. Decide if it will be closed, hybrid, or open, and if it will be physical or online. If the cart sort is online, follow the instructions on the card sorting tool's website for a proper setup.
Prepare the content. Create a list of subjects that you want your users to sort. These could be the titles of pages on a website, or more general topic areas. Try to keep the list between 35 to 50 topics so that your users don't get overwhelmed.
Decide if you want people to work as individuals or in teams. If in teams, group together participants from different backgrounds or experiences. An advantage of teams is they'll have to negotiate decisions and you can learn more about their varied perspectives. Teams take longer, though, and we recommend no more than 3 people per team (2 works better).
Prepare the cards. If you are conducting a physical card sort, write the individual topics on index cards, sticky notes, or pieces of paper. Tips: