> design effective information architecture in only 3 steps !
The structure of content is undeniably the very base of a successful website project : indeed this is all about smartly organising information to make it reachable for your users.
This work is what will later help to define the visual aspect of your page – never forget that design depends on content, not the other way around !
As you can see the magic formula is simple :
LIST > SORT > STRUCTURE
…and it’s what will allow you to build great navigation, pages structures with high usability and prioritized items, and so on.
Card sorting can be made internally, that’s to say working on your own if you’re a freelancer like me, or with your team if you have one. But it is generally recommended to include external people in your card sorting work : this allows you to step back from your project, and to get the observations of potential users/customers of your services or products. In other words it’s important to get the opinion of those who will be using your website – what are the expectations, their navigation habits, etc…
What you need :
- cardboard cards (or any pieces of paper)
- a pen
- a few envelops
- a mind-mapping software (mine is XMind, works fine !)
- optional : a bunch of volunteer users
How to proceed :
First is brainstorming time : on each card write down one feature or content you want to appear in your website.
Next on, sort your cards by regrouping them into categories. At this time you can remove or add cards, as well as renaming some to make them more coherent with your sorting. I advise you to place regrouped card in envelops, and to find a name for each group.
In the case of card sorting made with volunteer users, you will have to go through extra steps before getting on the next step :
- Immersion : start with presenting the cards to the user by dispatching them miscellaneously on a table. You can also give context info about your project such as objectives, pricing positioning, etc…
- Validation of contents : ask the user to analyse the names of contents, and why not to find more appropriate ones by renaming them. You can even offer him/her to add contents. During this step you might try to describe and discuss each item with your users.
- Regrouping : let user sort out card by organizing them according to their logic. You can allow him/her to duplicate cards if necessary – if one content can fit several groups. You’ll have to ask question to understand user’s sorting : “why did you put these cards together? how are these cards related to one another?“
- Labeling : ask the user to find name for the groups he/she just made. This is mainly to know why the cards where regrouped that way – it won’t necessarly be the names of the website’s sections.
And when all of this is done, you can launch your mind-mapping tool to start building final website structure :
Card sorting is essential for a quality user’s experience, as it’s a very good way for defining users routes through your pages according to your objectives and target audience. And you may have noticed this methods is quite cheap to set up, and it will make you easily get user-centered information – so your work is not only based upon ergonomics best practices.
To finish card sorting is a process that might be fully implemented to global project management, as it’s for sure a solid basis for deeply analyzing users needs and demand !