Dan Thomas on Card Sorting for UX

I'm delighted that Dan Thomas of Moov2 has shared with us his experience of using Artefact Cards for 'Card Sorting' in UX work... thanks Dan :)


Card sorting with Artefact cards
Card sorting is a popular UX exercise for planning and organising a website or application's IA (information architecture). It's a quick, low fidelity starting point to get an indication of content requirements and helps to organise and prioritise structure and navigation.

What is card sorting?
The basic premise is to catalogue representative content items onto individual cards and then task people to organise them into logical groups. This is best carried out by representative users and can be done either "open" or "closed". Open card sorting enables the team to define what they consider to be logical groups with which to organise the content whereas closed dictates the grouping and tasks users with associating cards to those groups. For more details of approaches to card sorting check this article on Boxes and Arrows or wikipedia.

One of the merits of card sorting is that it's a great collaborative exercise and can really help promote empathy within a team of mixed objectives and responsibilities. It also brings to the forefront of a project how involved and complex the content considerations might be. Something which is usually just assumed to be someone else's problem and not deserving of time and attention.

Why Artefact cards?
Despite the name, card sorting is often carried out using post-its or other similar scraps of paper as these are the resources typically to hand. Recently (and finally getting to the point) I had the opportunity to utilise a couple of sets of Artefact cards for such an exercise and it had a subtle but noticeable impact on the output. Using an unfamiliar, premium product seemed to trigger pause for thought and more care and attention when committing to writing on card.

A typical card sorting workspace can become cluttered and messy with a crumpled, scribbled and torn notes but with Artefact cards much more importance was seemingly subconsciously placed on the task. The glossy finish allowed cards to be passed around the design surface easily (much like dealing a new set of playing cards) and generally gave the exercise a more quality "feel".

These are subtle points and certainly a pack of post-its is a cheaper option but working with quality materials sets a good tone for working with a new project team. If something as simple as cards for note taking is given a plush feel then you're setting a good standard for the rest of your engagement.


Dan has been at the helm of Moov2, a digital technology agency (or “bunch of software geeks” to the buzzword averse) for more than a decade. During this time he has helped develop many web, desktop and mobile applications for the likes of Barclays, Hasbro and Mars. His focus of late has been closely following the exciting rise of HTML5 and its exorbitant influence on the modern web and device evolution.


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