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Testing and improving your website structure and content

card sorting to improve your website content structure

This article is aimed at anyone who wants to improve the effectiveness of their website and improve the experience of their website visitors. You can use a technique called card sorting to do this. Card sorting uses real people to test whether your website content is organised intuitively or not. Don’t worry if this sounds complicated – it isn’t!

Introducing Card Sorting

It’s likely that you and other stakeholders in your organisation have agreed on the structure of your website. Or perhaps you’ve had input from your web designer or agency (supplier). That’s OK and this is completely normal. But are you testing whether the decisions you have made are correct? Card sorting helps to confirm this, whether you have an existing site or are planning a new one.

On the left, your card list. On the right, your website categories (navigation)

What is Card Sorting?

Card sorting is a research technique used to gather proven information on how best to categorise and organise website content. It involves participants sorting a set of content cards (or webpages) into categories (navigation) that make sense to them. By reviewing how users categorise and order this content, you get valuable insights into their preferences and expectations. You can then adapt how your website content is organised to address key findings. Easy!

Here is a video explanation from UX Club (launches in a new window)

The benefits of Card Sorting

  1. Improved website structuring: Card sorting helps you develop a clear and intuitive information architecture for your website. By understanding how users naturally group and categorise information, you can structure your content in a way that aligns with proven user preferences.
  2. Understand content popularity: Card sorting can help determine the content priority. By analysing how users group and order information, you can identify which content topics are most important to your audience. This knowledge enables you to focus on presenting favoured content prominently on both your website and related activities, such as within email marketing and social media.
  3. Enhanced user engagement: By involving your audiences in the card sorting process, you can foster a sense of ownership and engagement. People appreciate being heard and valued, which can contribute to a positive user experience and increased loyalty towards your organisation’s website and broader activities.

Conducting an online Card Sorting session in 5 easy steps

You can set up a card sorting session in person (with a group of participants) or online. The latter is easy to set up and ideal for your first card sort exercise, which is circulated with a simple web link. We are using a free trial with Optimal Workshop, but there are other platforms you could try. Many tools provide a free or lite option to get you going. Whichever you choose, the process is broadly the same:

  1. Define content (cards) and categories (navigation): Define the cards for each item. Optimal workshop allows you to create up to 20 cards within its free plan, which should suffice for most organisations. Then think about the categories the cards could belong to.
  2. Create your Optimal Workshop account: Signing up is free and only takes a minute. Go ahead and create your cards and categories within the platform. Instructions are provided at each stage. When finished you are provided a weblink (or QR code) you can circulate to your participants.
  3. Recruit Participants: Identify and invite a diverse group of participants who represent your target audience. Consider factors such as age, interests, and prior engagement with your organisation. You can invite them to take part via social media or email your database. Circulate your weblink and put your feet up!
  4. Analyse participant responses: Once the card sorting session is complete, analyse the data collected. Look for patterns and commonalities in how participants grouped the cards. Participants can also leave comments which provide further insight.
  5. Apply Findings: Use any insights to refine your website structure and prioritise content. You can repeat the exercise at a later date to confirm your changes.

Try our example card sorting exercise

We have set up an example card sorting session for you to try. This is based on an imaginary arts venue. Click the link below to see how it works:
(You will need this password: DCN2023)

See how easy it is? Now go ahead and create your own!

In conclusion

Card sorting is a valuable tool for any creative or cultural organisation or individual to improve the effectiveness of their website. It’s easy to set up and implement. By involving real people in the process, these organisations gain insights that can inform website structure and content prioritisation. Need help? See below…

What next?

The Digital Culture Network is here to support you and your organisation. Our Tech Champions can provide free 1-2-1 support to all creative and cultural organisations and individuals who are in receipt of, or eligible for, Arts Council England funding. If you need help or would like to chat with us about any of the advice we have covered above, please get in touch. Sign up to our newsletter below and follow us on Twitter @ace_dcn for the latest updates.

Request a free 1-2-1

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