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I understand the premise of card sorting and its benefit.

My question, how do you use card sorting to determine the correct term that we want to use on the site.

For example under Media we can have Video or Films or Movies - these are all good terms, how do I use card sorting to find out which is the best?

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5 Answers

From Card sorting: a definitive guide:

There are two primary methods for performing card sorts.

  • Open Card Sorting: Participants are given cards showing site content with no pre-established groupings. They are asked to sort cards into groups that they feel are appropriate and then describe each group. Open card sorting is useful as input to information structures in new or existing sites and products.
  • Closed Card Sorting: Participants are given cards showing site content with an established initial set of primary groups. Participants are asked to place cards into these pre-established primary groups. Closed card sorting is useful when adding new content to an existing structure, or for gaining additional feedback after an open card sort.

So, you should use open card sorting.

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If I understand you correctly the grouping isn't what you are concerned with. In other words, you aren't trying to identify what group to put "Video" or "Films" or "Movies" into as you already have that defined (i.e. "Media"). Instead you are interested in what to label the individual items. If that's the case then I don't believe a card sort is the technique you should be using.

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Finding the appropriate term is brought about by deliberation within the participants and building a consensus. If there is still ambiguity then I would propose to go in for -

  1. Forced ranking method - where ranks are made for each items and they are added up across, say 4 participants rank an item A: 1+2+3+4 = 10 (the minimal number in the gross seems to be the most agreed term - since 1+1+2+2 = 6 is mostly top with the priority

  2. Dot voting method - Ask participants to vote for the each of the item (Give 5 votes for each participant) and ask them to vote on the terms.

If in case you want to divulge from these methods, do usability testing with these terms with a fresh set of participants or colleagues. This could be informal and could provide lots of insight.

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Note: I represent Optimal Workshop, the company who makes the tool I propose below.

I suggest you try Reverse Card Sorting, also known as Tree Testing. This is done once you have formed your proposed/prototypical IA. An online Tree Testing tool, such as Treejack, helps you validate your IA (and the labels you want to use in it) in a task based context. This is instead of a series of Closed Card sorts. You may find it beneficial to do multiple Tree Tests to refine your IA by comparing the results of various labeling strategies before moving on to other stages of the project (so don't use up your whole database of potential study participants in the first hit). If your tree is large (thousands of content items) it could also be useful to segment your users based on behaviour profiles and to test each segment with appropriate tasks against the same tree (IA).

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You can create 3 cards:

  • Video
  • Films
  • Movies

And 3 categories:

  • Like it
  • Don't care
  • Hate it

and let users drag your cards into those categories. The analytics should convert results into percentages and show you grouped results.

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