Run closed card sorting
PRO

Create better user experiences by running a closed card sorting test. Check your website categorizations, integrate outliers, and shape design decisions more effectively with help from your best resource—your users.

Template by

Steve Howe, Content Strategist

What you’ll learn

Dive deeper into your website architecture to make sure information is organized in a way that makes sense to your audience.

Do your users understand the way categories have been grouped across your product or app?

Discover outliers to your categorizations and make informed decisions of how to integrate better.

Use open questions to gain more specific insights from your users into category confusions—and how to improve them.

Instant visualizations for faster insights

Card sorting results are showcased as agreement rates, a similarity matrix, and an agreement matrix to speed up your time to insight.

How to use

1

Log in to your Maze account (if you haven’t got one, don’t worry—it’s free to join).

2

Select this card sorting template from the gallery.

3

Modify blocks and copy to your preference.

4

Do a pilot test with somebody in your organization (preferably, not on your team).

5

All good? Then it’s time to set it live and wait for the feedback to roll in!

When should I use closed card sorting?

Closed card sorting is a great way to test an existing structure, validate decisions when adding new items to an existing system, reorganize or rank content. You can use this method to:

  • Find out if users understand your categorizations.
  • Pinpoint misleading categories and make informed decisions on how to improve.
  • Ensure information is organized in a way that makes sense to your audience.
  • Learn how users prioritize and rank information within existing categories.

What are some best practices to run a digital card sorting session?

As with any type of research, card sorting requires some planning to ensure you get the best results. To help get started with your own closed card sorting test, you should:

1. Document your assumptions. It helps before starting to define your objectives and research goals for your card sort. This includes writing down your assumptions to know what to look for during analysis. During the sessions, keep an open mind to new perspectives and ideas from the participants—even if they contradict your assumptions.

2. Choose a topic based on your research goals. Be sure to carefully curate and prioritize your topic hierarchy based on your research objectives. That means identifying the topic you’ll be testing (e.g. the settings options in your app) and writing down all the ideas that need to go into that.

3. Prepare the card sorting test. After selecting your topic, write the ideas on the cards as words or phrases. For example, if you’re trying to group the information that should go into the Setting page of an app, the cards should include words that represent the different options available, such as ‘About me’, ‘Add a credit card’, ‘Reset your password’, etc.

*In the case of a closed card sorting session, you’ll also have to create the categories that participants will group cards into. In the example above, examples of cards could be ‘Account information’, ‘Payment information’, etc.

4. Run a dry test before a real session. Practice, practice, practice. Before taking your card sorting live with real users, run a dry test with a colleague to ensure any potential gaps in your instructions or confusing details are taken care of.

5. Launch the study. Now that you’re confident with your card sort, you’re ready to launch. Allow your participants to sort the cards into the categories that make the most sense to them, and if it’s a moderated session, encourage users to think out loud to understand the thinking behind their decisions.

6. Hold follow-up interviews for additional analysis. After the card sorting session ends, running follow-up interviews will help you dig deeper into the participants’ mental models and what they thought the cards and groupings represented. This will uncover useful information that will help you come up with actionable items.

7. Analyze the results. Start by taking an overall look at the results as a whole. Try to find common patterns in how the actual cards have been sorted and the category names have been given by participants. Does anything jump out as surprising? Are there similarities or differences between participant sorts? It’s important to focus on the big perspective before looking at the details such as comments, wording, and quantitative data. Ultimately, this analysis will help you understand the information that will be most useful for users to see in a particular group or category.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is UX card sorting?

UX card sorting is the practice of running a card sorting session as part of UX research. In a card sorting session, an individual or group of people are given information on cards—physical or digital—and must group them into different categories that feel right for them.

What is card sorting used for?

Card sorting (also called UX card sorting) is a UX research method that helps you discover how people understand and categorize information.

What types of card sorting are there?

There are three main types of card sorting you can use for your user research:

  • Closed card sorting. This type of card sorting doesn't reveal how users naturally categorize a set of topics. Instead, it's usually used to test if your existing category labels are clear to users and to check if alterations are needed.
  • Open card sorting. Participants organize topics into categories that make sense to them and then create their own names for these categories. This type of sort is typically good for creating new information architectures or improving existing ones, find patterns in how users expect to find content, and generating ideas for how to structure and label your website or app information architecture.
  • Hybrid card sorting. This type of card sorting combines both open and closed card sorting methods. Participants can group a set of cards into predefined categories, but they can also create new categories.

Are there any disadvantages to card sorting?

As with all research methods, there are both advantages and disadvantages to card sorting. Some of the disadvantages include:

  • Unmoderated card sorting may not provide deep enough insights
  • Analyzing the results of a card sort (particularly a paper one) can be very time-consuming
  • Card sorting does not account for tasks at hand and wider context—for example, we may group tomatoes under ‘fruits’, however if the context was within a supermarket, they may be categorized under the ‘vegetable aisle’.

How many users is enough for a card sorting study?

With card sorting, between 20-30 users is an ideal number of participants. However, some studies feature up to 100 users or less than 15 participants. Regardless of number, if you’re going for a moderated card sort, it’s good practice to divide users up into smaller groups—often around four or five people per group.

Related templates

Get a head start with Maze

Maze empowers teams to unlock invaluable user insights—and improve products continuously.

Welcome screen

Card Sort

Card Sort

Were there any categories you were unsure about? 

Yes/No

Which categories were you unsure about? 

Multiple Choice

Why were you unsure about the products category?

Open Question

Why were you unsure about the real estate category?

Open Question

Why were you unsure about the services category?

Open Question

Why were you unsure about the jobs category?

Open Question

Why were you unsure about the community category?

Open Question

Thank you screen