Physical and Online Card Sorts: A Practical Overview and Case Study
This is a practical case study where I worked with an educational testing and assessment company to help them redesign their information architecture for their corporate intranet, using an open card sort.
So many companies build corporate intranets and then don’t do anything with them, so they just languish and are ignored by employees.
The company clearly saw the benefit of a corporate intranet and wanted to improve the site for its employees. It saw this as a competitive advantage.
Physical and Online Card Sorts: A Practical Overview and Case Study
Physical and Online Card Sorts:A Practical Overview and Case StudyBob ThomasKatelyn ThompsonMay 28, 2008
Outline• Scope, Goals, and Objectives• Current Navigational Hierarchy• Methodology• Card Sorts• Analysis of Results• Recommendations• Next Steps
Scope, Objectives, and Goals• Mission • “Our mission is to improve teaching and learning by providing customized assessment products and educational services.” (http://measuredprogress.org/aboutus/index.html)• Scope • This project is focused only on Insite, the company’s intranet web site for employees.• Objectives • To make it easier for Measured Progress employees to find information on the intranet, i.e., to “lead with the need.”• Goals • Redesign Insite, focusing on the navigation and organization • Make the site user friendly • Make the site attractive to employees
Home HR Policies and ProceduresThe goal is to unite the separate Insite and HR Policies and Procedures sites, eachcreated with different software applications.Participants commented that that they would like to use Search and Site Mapfeatures. These were linked only from the home page.
InService InForm“You’d think the [Accident and Injury Report] form is under InForm.”InService > HR > Policy Guide > General Administration > Operational Policies > Safety > Accident Reporting and InvestigationPlan > [Text… Scroll Down Page] … Accident Report Form (7 clicks) “A person could bleed to death before the form is even located!”
Current Navigational Hierarchy • Insite is broad and shallow • HR Policies & Procedures is narrow and deepInsite Job Request Form: Policies and Procedures Safety Form:InForm > Job Request Forms > Form (2 clicks) InService > HR > Policy Guide > General Administration > Operational Policies > Safety > Accident Reporting and Investigation Plan > [Text] … Accident Report Form (7 clicks)
Card Sorts: What• Participants sort “a series of cards, each labeled with a piece of content or functionality, into groups that make sense to” them - Maurer & Warfel (2004), “Card sorting: a definitive guide”• Closed card sorts • Participants sort cards into predefined bins• Open card sorts • Participants sort cards and define bins
Card Sorts: Why• “Card sorting is excellent for situations where you want the users’ mental model to drive the information architecture of the product.” - Courage & Baxter (2005), “Understanding Your Users”• “Open sorts are used for discovery. Closed sorts are used for validation.” - Rosenfeld & Morville (2006), “Information Architecture for the World Wide Web”
Card Sorts: When• Beginning of site creation• Beginning of a site redesign• Middle of a site redesign/creation
Card Sorts: Who• Regarding users • Recruit users familiar with the “lingo” • But be cautious in a redesign with users who are familiar with the website or application
Card Sorts: Where• Lab • Moderated • Physical or online• Remote • Moderated or un-moderated • Restricted to online
Card Sorts: How• Physical • Participants may be apt to put more thought into sorting• Online • Cheaper • Higher number of participants • Eliminates data entry
Card Sorts: How• Analysis • More information to sift through with open sorts • Dendrograms to see common groupings
Methodology• Create and run an open card sort with 15 MP employees, including follow-up interviews• Analyze quantitative and qualitative data• Make recommendations for a new navigational hierarchy and structure
Open Card Sort # Card name 1 Corporate Graphics 2 Floor Plans 3 Facilities and Locations 4 Contacts 5 Employee Directory 6 Corporate Travel 7 Glossary and Acronyms 8 Mission and Philosophy 9 Safety 10 Reimbursement 11 Payroll 12 Purchasing and Requisitions 13 Workplace Policies 14 Hiring and Employment 15 Benefits 16 Work Schedules 17 Personnel Records 18 Shipping and Distribution 19 Printing and Copying 20 Helpdesk 21 Forms 22 Computer and Networks 23 Corporate Marketing and Branding 24 Information Technology 25 Phone and Conferencing 26 Contracts 27 Wellness Programs 28 Diversity 29 In/Out Board 30 News and Announcements 31 Photo Gallery 32 Corporate Events 33 Department Sites 34 For New Employees 35 Workplace Conduct 36 Recognition and Accomplishments
Participant Demographics • All 15 participants had experience using Insite. • We had participants from 9 different departments. • We had 4 men and 11 women.P# Gender Department Used Insite? Hours Per Week Web Browser for Insite? What Do You Do on a Computer? 0-5 6-10 IE Firefox Word processing Emailing Web Browsing 1 F Testing Services Y x x x x x 2 F Human Resources Y x x x x 3 M Client Services Y x x x x x 4 F Human Resources Y x x x x x 5 F Testing Services Y x x x x x 6 F Office of Technology Y x x x x x 7 F Finance Y x x x x x 8 M Testing Services Y x x x x x 9 F Client Services Y x x x x x 10 F Operational Services Y x x x x x 11 M Scoring Y x x x x x 12 F Process Coordination Y x x x x x 13 F Marketing Y x x x x x 14 F Client Services Y x x x x x 15 M Marketing Y x x x x x
Sample Open Card Sort Results:Major Navigation CategoriesWHAT I WANT TO USE• Home Page• Contracts• FormsWHAT I WANT TO REFER TO• Department Sites• Employee Directory• Working at Measured Progress• Helpdesk
Analysis of Results• We began to see trends after the first day of testing (5 participants) Table 2. Main categories among first five participants.
Analysis of Results• After all 15 card sorts were completed, standardized the main categories.• Gave categories “with similar names or concepts a consistent name” and combined “groups where participants used the same basic concept but a slightly different label” - Maurer (2007), “Instructions for Use: Card Sort Analysis Spreadsheet”
Analysis of Results• We started with 106 original categories from all 15 participants, and applied consistent naming conventions. Table 3. Standardized categories derived from original categories.
Analysis of Results• Second, combined similar standardized categories and arrived at a total of 13 standardized categories. Table 4. Final list of 13 standardized categories. 0.67
Analysis of ResultsTable 5. Mapping the dendrogram groupings to primary andsecondary navigation areas.
Analysis of Results• “Mental image the user forms to understand how software works and how to operate it” - Arnowitz et al (2007), “Effective Prototyping for Software Makers” • In the case of Insite, many participants in our card study could not express a mental model of the website beyond the use of “In” headings • But many did express their mental model of the ideal Measured Progress intranet. One participant noted: • “There’s stuff there that people need to do their jobs. They need a reference library for working at the company… a big bookshelf of benefits and other [information].”
Analysis of Results• Participants wanted easier access to information using primary, secondary, and third-level navigation• Participants wanted a consistent navigational structure, i.e., one that didn’t change.• Participants wanted “HR Policies and Procedures” broken into two separate categories: • HR Forms (such as “Corporate Travel,” “Payroll,” “Requisitions”) • HR Policies (such as “Diversity,” “Safety,” “Workplace Conduct”)
Analysis of Results• Use a navigation hierarchy of medium depth and breadth • Use a primary navigation hierarchy of no more than 8 or 9 categories • Go 3 or 4 levels deep• Put Search at the top of every page• Put Site Map link on every page
Next Steps• Develop wire frames of all eight primary navigational categories.• Present the wire frames to the design team.• Develop paper prototypes of the Insite Home page and one other subsection, such as HR.• Test the usability of the paper prototypes with eight participants, using task-based scenarios. For example: “You are going on a business trip for Measured Progress. Using the web site, how would you complete the pre-approval process for your trip?”• Develop electronic versions of the Insite Home page and one other subsection, such as HR.• Test the usability of the electronic versions with eight participants, using task-based scenarios, as discussed above.• Redesign Insite based on results from the usability test.