Methods > Gather Insights > Card sort

Card sort

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  • Card sorting allows you to understand how users organize information and concepts


  • Understand how individuals break down big concepts and their motivations in decision making
  • Gaining quick input on how users mental model is built up to ensure systems are structured to fit their way of thinking.


1/2 day


1 person


Tip: it will help to reach out to an expert for guidance on these methods.


Recording device (audio/video), Camera Cards with text Release forms, note taking material, post its for synthesis

Detailed steps

1. Define
Determine the area for exploration. Depending on the project, the area could be something broad (i.e., “Family” or “Travel”) or something very specific (i.e., a particular website or application).

2. Set it up
Create a set of cards that highlight what you want sorted from the user’s perspective

3. Conduct
Give the user the cards in a unsorted stack or spread randomly out on the table. Ask the user to group them based on their own perception of how things should be prioritized or sequenced, do not guide them at all at this step. Follow up with questions to understand why the cards were grouped as they were. Ask the user to label the groups and optionally rank them in importance.

4. Synthesize
With a full understanding of each user response, take time to soon after your last interview review your data and start synthesizing it into insight. Extract key findings: How did users structure their priorities? What didn’t you expect? Does their mental model align with your system and thinking? What have you learned from their priorities?

5. Communicate
Create a concise summary document that is useful to you first and foremost, and can also be used to keep stakeholders up to date.