Card Sorting is a great method for seeing what's in individuals' heads. It is similar in spirit to Card Collection, but it is used as an exercise with individuals, not with groups, as the focus is on understanding individual mental models. This method is often used in designing information architecture and web site menu/navigation/structure design.
The participant is given a set of cards with ideas written on one side and a number (used to identify the card) written on the other. The participant is then asked to sort the cards according to the groupings that make the most sense. You can provide the participant with blank cards as well to express ideas that he or she thinks are missing.
After the participant is finished sorting, ask him or her to name each cluster of cards, and to explain why he or she organized them this way. There are two ways of doing this: open card sorting and closed card sorting.
Finally, record the clusters using the numbers on the back.
You generally perform card sorts with 3-5 people in order to get a range of individual mental models. The alignment in the results suggests ways to organize the information in a way that would make sense to a broader group of people. The differences in the results suggests different types of people (also called “personas”) you may want to account for when organizing your information.
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Simone Staiger (s.staiger [@] cgiar.org)
card sorting; monitoring and evaluation; brainstorming
Josien M. Kapma: