The sorting of cards

In which cards are sorted.

I have been going on a bit about card sorting on Twitter. Really, what is the big deal about sorting cards?

An unnatural position.

Our intranet is organized into departmental silos, for the most part. To organize content according to the way an employee would logically look for it is a mark of organizational maturity. It’s not a natural way for a large organization to arrange the content, although it is probably best for the employees. After nearly 18 years working on our intranet I feel as if we are finally being given the chance to fix it.

So, what is a card sorting exercise?

A card sort allows the people who are organizing some collection of things – in this case, content items on a web site – to discover the mental model of the people who are going to have to find things in the final organizational scheme.

We have recruited 20 people from around the company to do card sorts.  For our exercise, there are 50 cards. Each card is labeled with the name and description of a content item, like “Job Postings”, or “Medical Benefits”.  Each person is asked to sort the cards into groups, and label the groups if desired.

We carefully record the groupings and category labels, and once we have data for all 20 people, we’ll do an analysis to determine which content items tend to be grouped together most frequently across all the people. This will guide the final organization of the site.

Back to why this is so exciting – to me, anyway.

Pretend that for 18 years you worked on something you loved, but you never had the power to steer in the direction you knew was right, while helplessly watching it become more and more entrenched in the wrong model.

And then one day you rattled off this off-the-cuff idea to fix a few problems, and it suddenly turned into a mandate from the top of the company that your little tiger team should fix it.  The whole thing. Fix it, go do it.

Card sorting is the first, biggest, most definitive step along the path to truly fixing it, this web site that 16,000 employees use every day to do their jobs and pay your paycheck and the paychecks of many in your family.

So forgive my excessive card sorting posts to Twitter, I am pretty excited.

Card sort
No really.. it’s exciting!