Labeled index cards, clustered in groups on a table. The groups are labeled with sticky notes. Pens used for labeling lie where they were last used.

Card Sort Analysis for the IA/UX Rochester Workshop

I finished up the data entry part of the card sort analysis that we started in the IA/UX Rochester Meetup. For the benefit of those who were not able to attend, here are some of the details:


After Scott Root’s presentation on card sorting, we did a card sort with the attendees. We broke up into four teams of three or four people each, after discussing the difficulties that can arise with team sorts. The cards were items from a grocery list. They included cards that were easy to group. They also intentionally included some cards that did not have obvious companions. The idea was to give participants a taste of the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of card sorting.

Participants peeled and applied numbered labels to index cards to create the cards for their own sort. Then, the teams sorted the cards. After sorting, the teams labeled their grouped cards with sticky notes. To capture the groupings, I asked the teams to record the number from each card onto the sticky note that labeled its group.

Pro tip: Use regular 3 x 3 inch sticky notes for labeling. I happened to have Post-it® Super Sticky notes on hand. I love them for facilitating group affinity exercises, but they are too sticky for card sorting. They stuck so well that they slowed the data entry phase.

 The group watched as I entered the results into the card sort analysis spreadsheet and we could begin to see patterns emerging. The next step was standardizing the group names. Since in my experience this step can be somewhat difficult to do well, and since the hour was getting late, we skipped that step and instead showed some examples of completed sorts.


Here are the spreadsheets:

There were some natural groups with high correlation between the teams, including one where every team chose the same name for the group. There were also some cards that were hard to group, and one team chose not sort these cards.

I’ve run this sort with about twice as many cards before. I used it as an exercise to introduce people to card sorting with very familiar items into groups before going on to sort technical items. I noticed in that sort that people (surprisingly, to me) had some difficulty sorting fish, chicken, shrimp, hamburg, hot dogs, and cold cuts. The IAUXROC groups seemed to have similar difficulties, but three of the teams used labels that included the word “protein” – an approach I don’t remember seeing before. We were in fairly close quarters, so there may have been some influence between the teams.

If you attended, what were your observations? How do you think sorting as a team influenced your result? Now that you see the results, what are your thoughts?

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