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Customer Experience and Design

Is Your Website Navigation User-Friendly? Try UX Card Sorting

Think about how you organize the utensils in your kitchen. It’s easy for you to find a spoon because you know where you put them. You put them in a place that makes sense to you. When you have relatives over, and they want a spoon, they would know to look in the kitchen, but they probably wouldn’t know what drawer in your kitchen. From the concept of organization, your website shares some common principles with how you organize your kitchen.
How you organize and how your customers organize things are often very different. So, how do you develop confidence that your users will be successful in finding what they want using your website navigation? Simple, a UX card sorting exercise.

Organizing and refining your website navigation

UX researchers have an amazing methodology at their disposal that allows participants to help them refine your navigation through the process of organizing cards into groups. You provide research participants with a stack of small index cards. Each card has printed on it the name of one of the website pages you think belongs in your navigation. You then ask your participants to place the cards into groups that make sense to them. UX card sorting exercises are usually kept to a maximum of 60-80 cards so not to overwhelm your participants. Tests can even be conducted online with special software where you don’t have to have a researcher present.
There are two types of UX card sorting, open and closed. Open means that after a participant has placed the cards in groups, they are asked to give each group a name. Closed means that participants are shown a row of cards at the top of the table. Each of these cards has a category name already printed on it. Participants are then asked to place each card next to the category they think best represents where it belongs. After your participant has finished organizing the cards, your researcher can ask questions to gain additional insights into what kind of navigation would be easy for them to use.
UX researchers then analyze what each participant did and provide an analysis of what cards were more frequently thought to belong together. By performing an open card sort first, participants can organize and name groups based on what makes sense to them and, therefore, would be easy for them to use. Conducting a closed card sort is an excellent way to confirm with participants what your UX team thought were the most common groupings of an open card sort. If the results of the closed card sort match what the team thought would be successful with users, then the development team can move forward with confidence that your navigation is likely going to work for your users rather than against them.

Nailing down your naming conventions

During the card sorting process, the usability and user-friendliness of the card and group names also end up being tested. Names that are vague or confusing are normally discovered during this process. It then becomes the responsibility of the UX researcher to revise the names to align with how users think. A common flaw in website navigation design is to mimic the structure of their company. How your company is organized might not translate easily into a navigation that works for users.
A card sort is a great tool where your Perficient Digital UX researcher can provide your company with qualitative and quantitative data. Qualitative to understand the patterns between your participants thought processes and quantitative data to measure how many times cards were placed together. These complementary data types can help guide your UX decisions about the development of your website navigation.
At the end of this process, you can have confidence that you are providing users with a navigation that is working for them, not against them. In a sense, if they came to your website to buy spoons, you have made it very easy for them to buy all the spoons they want.

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