designing a human-computer interaction, one of the main goals is to
match users' mental models of the interface to the conceptual model
intended by the designer. This is especially important when deciding
how to group a large number of items (e.g., links or menu selections)
into meaningful categories (e.g., menus) in order to facilitate user
navigation and decision-making.
One powerful method that
can be used to aid in such decisions is the card-sort. Card-sorting is
a research method where users sort cards representing relevant concepts
into categories. This method has a long tradition in the Human Factors
field as well as other fields, such as marketing research. Traditional
card-sorting presents a number of challenges, including:
exercises can require a large amount of physical space and time
depending on the number of items to be sorted. This can hinder
collection of large enough sample sizes to achieve statistical
Tracking items and categories during a
sort can be frustrating for the participant and prone to errors,
especially with a large number of items.
Analysis and interpretation of results is very tedious and time-consuming.
card-sorting tools have addressed these problems, with varying degrees
of success. Many of the available card-sorting tools have their own
usability problems. The online tool that we have found to be the best
is Websort. We have used it extensively in refining terminology and
menu structures for software used in the financial sector (online
banking, teller systems) and CRM.