I'm working on a redesign of an ecommerce. Right now I'm thinking about IA.

I thought it could be a good idea to run a Card sorting session to discover what are the best labels to use and how to categorize contents.

Before start the card sorting I have to create some labels to put on cards, and here is my question.

What level of granularity they should have?

I read about content audit which helps to develop some labels for the cards have to be used during card sorting.

My doubt is what kind of label have I to develop? labels based on single products (there are more then 200 products and services on the site), or based on product type (ex. skirt, jeans..).

What approach do you follow to structure cards' labels for card sorting session?

Thank u so much


Thank for your answers. I'm struggling with this technique especially for this kind of ecommerce project. There are many products of different type. There are clothes, body creams, massages, pills and food supplements etc. My big doubt is what kind of category I have to create to stay under the limit of 60/100 cards. In this ecommerce, for example, I have pills (which could be categorized under food & alimentation - or just pills). But these pills aim to get you slim. In the same way there are pills for anti-aging in the same way there are creams which have the same goals. So I don't know if develop categories based on product type (pills, creams, massage) or based on goals (weight loss, slimming, workout). I think that , for navigation purpose, the second one could be better, but there are some products that can't be categorized in that way (clothes, lipstick, etc.).


Before you start your card sorting session, I would recommend that you define the objective of your card sorting session along with the audience you are going to be working with as that would define your approach and flow..

If this is your first session, since you are just trying to find the structure of the information architecture, a good approach would be to go with generalized categories as that would help you define what goes into each category. This would prevent information overload by by not requiring the participants to categorize each and every element and also ensure you can get a consistent view of the IA. To quote this article

Use representative cards in a category, rather than an exhaustive list

It is not necessary to have every page in a category represented as a card. What we are looking for are cards that are representative of a given class of information.

For example, including all the items under an “HR” category would add extra load for the participants without gaining much additional information.

Also I wouldn't recommend going with a single product level approach since you have close to to 200 products and that would be too much content for users to assimilate. To quote this article from boxesandarrows

Number of cards.

While there is no magic number, we have found that between 30 and 100 cards works well. Fewer than 30 cards typically does not allow for enough grouping to emerge and more than 100 cards can be time consuming and tiring for participants

Once you have defined the high level categories, say Jeans, t-shirts, summer,winter,casual etc, you can then go for a second level of card sorting session where you drill down into the products that would be in those categories and what would overlap. This can be done with a smaller audience speeding up the process and enabling a faster resolution.

This would help you define the high level and granular view of your information architecture and also ensure you dont overload your participants with the amount of content.

  • thank you for your answers. I've edited my question to add more details cause I'm struggling with categorization for certain kind of products – Matteo Vacca Apr 30 '15 at 9:06

The labels you pick are, obviously, very dependent on your particular situation. How granular you go depends on how granular you expect the page to ultimately be. Multiple card sorts are not uncommon to focus on particular elements of a larger system.

Usability.gov breaks down Card Sorting with several best practices. One points they make:

Limit the number of cards. It is tempting to want the participant to sort "ALL" of your content, but be mindful of participant fatigue. We would recommend 30 to 40 at the absolute outside, especially for an open sort.

If you throw all 200+ possibilities at a participant you will likely tire them out. Although such a large set it useful in finding certain patterns, those patterns may not appear consistently as certain participants tire out and just want to get it over with.

But if you limit the cards too much, for example offering "jeans" and "shirts", you can not capture that users might tends to classify "polo shirt" under "formal wear" and "t-shirt" under "casual wear". In these situations the multiple card sorts become useful.

Perform a few sessions with higher level concepts. You can then perform more detailed card sorts within those higher level concepts to help tease out patterns local to "shirts", "jeans", or other category.

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