I am struggling with a card sorting preparation. We want to improve the AI of an web applications and right now, I'm doing the audit of it. However, the application doesn't have so many pages or sections but so, many activities and interactions to perform on it. Like, create an item, delete it. Also, staus of the same thing. Like, pending orders, completed orders, so on. And, once you have ordered an item, this item has a status such as Pending, booked, on-going, finished, etc.

My question is about if there is any problem if I run a Card sorting based on actions instead of content?

For example, where would you include the "Order List" "Details of an order" or "Status of an item"?

1 Answer 1


Go for it! (with some precautions)

It sounds like you are trying to establish a menu structure for your application, and card sorting is a great way to do that.

There is a fine line in this case between an action and content since writing down the action makes it content, and card sorting can be used for all kinds of intangible things like actions, emotions, or concepts. So, don't worry about all that and just make cards for all the different things a user can do in the system. The card sort will give you a good idea of how users group the actions mentally, and in turn, you can use that to figure out how to present them in the interface.

Now the precautions.

It looks like you may have some cards that are sequential (order item, pending items, completed, etc.) and others that are similar but acting in a different context (delete item, delete order, etc.). This can lead to the creation of mutually exclusive groups backed by very strong mental models.

If some users put all the item related actions in one group, but other users put all the delete commands in a group, and still others group things by each step of the process, you will have to do additional research to figure out how to break the ties. None of those are wrong answers, so you'll want to find real users to work with so you can learn not just what actions go together, but which organization best fits the real-world use of your application. An open card sort can help, as the names people give the groups can give you insight into how they are approaching the problem.

You might also consider pairing connected commands to that they don't end up sorted in conflicting ways (one card for Add/Delete Item instead of two separate cards).

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