IA Issues? Online Card Sorting is Not Enough.

by Andrew Schall


Understanding how your users think about the organization of content.
If your users can’t find the information that they are seeking, it might as well not be there at all. An intuitive information architecture (IA) is a core part of a user’s experience, but how do you know what would make sense to them?

Card sorting is a technique that can help gain insights into how your users think about the organization of your content. This user research method can be performed using an online tool or in-person using physical cards.

The benefits of online card sorting.
Online card sorting has become a very convenient and common way to collect this information from users. The benefits of online card sorting include:

  • Fast and easy data collection – participants can log into a website and perform the activity at their convenience.
  • Large sample size – it is easy to obtain a large sample size for statistical analysis.
Image provided by Optimal Workshop (www.optimalworkshop.com/optimalsort)

“Image provided by Optimal Workshop (www.optimalworkshop.com/optimalsort)”

Online card sorting has become the predominant way for user researchers to collect this type of data, but it can’t tell you everything you need to know about how to design an intuitive information architecture.

Online card sorting tells you what, but not why.
Collecting data on how your users sort items into categories tells you what they did, but not why they did it. The reality is that designing an information architecture is a messy job, and card sorting can sometimes lead to inconclusive results, especially if the items are particularly challenging for participants to sort.

Qualitative survey questions at the end of an online card are useful, but can’t really help you to get a full understanding of the user’s mental model. There is no way to probe deeper, and participants often give minimal responses to these questions.

Gaining deeper insights with moderated in-person card sorting.
Moderated in-person card sort sessions are typically scheduled for an hour and are conducted one-on-one with a facilitator. Participants are provided with physical materials that include cards labeled with the name of each item to be sorted, pens or markers for making notes, and sometimes color-coded stickers for further annotations.

Image from chapter 6, Information Architecture & Web Navigation, Eye Tracking in User Experience Design.

“Image from chapter 6, Information Architecture & Web Navigation, Eye Tracking in User Experience Design.”

The ability to manipulate physical cards provides many benefits to the participants including:

  • Easier to complete – physically sorting cards into groups requires less instruction compared with learning how to use a new online tool.
  • More flexibility – participants can put aside cards on a table and spread out as much as they need. They can write on the cards, cross things out, make suggestions, and draw out connections between cards, including cross-linking.
  • Higher engagement – participants tend to be more engaged when they are physically moving cards around. They are also less likely to be distracted compared with performing the activity remotely on their own.

The ability to sit with a participant as they sort cards provides many benefits to the researcher including:

  • Understand participant’s thought process – think-aloud protocol can be used to have the participant explain why they are sorting cards in a certain way.
  • Observe nonverbal responses – do they appear confused or frustrated? Do they visibly hesitate to place a card or create a label for a category?
  • Provide motivation – card sorting is a laborious and mentally demanding task. Participants often lose motivation to complete the activity. The facilitator can provide encouragement to the participant to keep going.

Moderated in-person card sorting is more time-consuming both in data collection and analysis than online studies. However, tools are available to reduce the time needed to analyze data.

  • Bar code scanner – bar codes can be used to tag each card and can then be scanned into a computer.
  • Utilize software tools – the same analysis tools can often be used to analyze the results from an in-person card sort.

Combining the best of both methods.

A hybrid approach that includes online and offline card sort activities will provide a more holistic understanding of how your users envision an information architecture. In this approach, it is recommended to start with an online open card sort study to see general trends in how users sort items. Next, follow up with an in-person study with a smaller sample size to understand a participants’ thought process including insights into how they would use the content.

KLUE Labs Announces the Release of KLUE Mobile

PRESS RELEASE  KLUE Mobile Simplifies Mobile User Testing: Unique Tool Records On-Screen Activity and Gestures Along with Audio of Mobile Users Wherever They Are.
KLUE Labs, a new company formed out of a partnership between leaders in user experience research and mobile app development Key Lime Interactive and Crucian Point, has announced the beta release of their flagship product KLUE Mobile. KLUE Mobile is a tool that captures user interaction with mobile websites and immediately delivers video clips complete with on-screen activity, gestures and audio to design teams and researchers looking to see their products in action.
With KLUE Mobile design teams and researchers can use their own list of iOS users or utilize the diverse panel offered by KLUE Labs to screen in participants for qualitative mobile user experience studies. Users can take studies from anywhere in the world at a time and place that is most comfortable for them. This tool eliminates the need to schedule test time or have participants visit a test facility.
Once a study has been designed using the KLUE Mobile web interface, KLUE Labs will notify participants that a study is live via email or push notification. Participants can be targeted by gender, age, education, household income and location. Users who opt to participate are presented with a task to complete on a defined site while KLUE Mobile records user interaction. KLUE Mobile then delivers spoken audio and playbacks of gestural movements.
Unlike other remote testing products for mobile, KLUE Mobile does not require any modifications to an existing mobile site. Additionally, intelligent management solutions immediately notify clients when results have been captured and they can easily select, download and share video clips as they wish. Optionally, follow up surveys can be launched to gather satisfaction metrics and much more.
“User testing on mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets, is in high demand,” says Ania Rodriguez, Founder & CEO of KLI. “Our researchers are spending a lot of time observing and surveying users to intimately understand mobile behavior and trends for our clients. In doing this, we identified that a tool that would allow us to capture the same data remotely would help our clients reduce the time spent on various design cycles and save them money; KLUE Mobile was born.”
KLUE Mobile is available for independent use by parties interested in capturing qualitative data with mobile interfaces. Designers will be able to closely approximate the perspective of their audience by watching live interaction and qualitative user behavior can be analyzed by researchers as products are in development or being improved. They can draw conclusions from feedback and behavior to understand where challenges or strengths are present in the tested interface, and more.
KLUE Labs will be offering a sneak peak tutorial and question answer session via web conference on Tuesday, November 27th at 1:30pm EST. Interested parties are encouraged to attend and share the registration with others. To register: http://bit.ly/KLUEMobileIntroduction
If there is an interest in using this product for research, KLUE Labs is accepting registration to participate in their beta program. To register send your inquiry to info@kluemobile.com.
About KLUE Labs:
KLUE Labs (http://www.kluelabs.com) is an independent company formed by Key Lime Interactive (https://dev.keylimeinteractive.com ), a global leader in user and consumer research and Crucian Point (http://www.crucianpoint.com) a mobile app development group. KLUE Labs has a mission to simplify user testing and user experiences by providing tools and solutions for use by industry professionals so that they may make informed design decisions and improve their products. KLUE Mobile is their flagship product and is a response to industry-wide need for testing solutions for the growing development of digital properties for mobile devices and tablets.

Disney Cruise Lines Ranks #1 for Family Cruising

Earlier today, we presented the high-level results for the cruise industry benchmarking study that ran in late March on 4 sites: Disney Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Lines and Carnival Cruises.
Here are our high level findings:
» Most popular brand? Disney Cruises
» Mostly likely to be recommend to friends? Disney Cruises, Royal Caribbean
» How important is FUN when planning for a family vacation? 91% of participants indicated that FUN and PRICE are equally important
» Brand perceived as most fun? Disney Cruises
» Site that offers the best search and booking experience? Disney Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Lines has opportunities to improve
» Perception of the Facebook page? Carnival does the best job
Want more details? Request for a copy of the study: info@keylimeinteractive.com

10 reasons why to conduct remote automated usability testing

10) large sample size will give client statistical validity to decisions about what features/interactions with the site require attention

9) Unlimited geographic reach allows you to get information from users’ regardless of their location

8) Users do these tasks at home in their own natural environment

7) While using your analytics tools you may get input as to how a user is navigating a site, you don’t get feedback as to what specifically is frustrating them or what can be improved. Some travel sites originally had a sign-in process that was required before showing users the price for a cruise. One VP of Sales argued that this was helpful for getting the call center to follow-up as well as sending emails. However, that site experienced a large drop in conversion during the time they had that implemented. A competitive study revealed that removing this would boast their online conversion by over 60%. The sign-in process was removed and when a longitudinal study was ran, the lift on customer experience satisfaction was over 20% and sales was reported to have increase by a whopping 63% in online sales that month.

6) For companies that are in their redesign process, then competitive research can help with reducing future development costs. One financial company I consulted had to scrap an application they built because they found a fundamental flaw during the UAT testing rather than early on during product development.

5) Get answers to what it takes to acquire new users of the site. Some companies like to differentiate themselves by making customer experience a competence, not a function. Hence, optimizing the site reinforces the brand with every interaction. A large retailer achieved 67% more repeat customers the year they started to integrate usability testing into their development.

4) Increase efficiency of users by streamlining processes. A study with one of the large online retailers showed that adding a “heavy footer” to their site helped users find what they needed more quickly and hence over 50% returned to make additional purchases during that season.

3) Starts you down the course of building “experience-based differentiation” where besides making incremental changes to improve the customer experience, product groups create a road map to get the competitive advantage based on customer feedback rather than feature management

2) Develops an outside-in approach which can help many companies make key decisions based on the voice of the customer rather than a very limited (and sometimes inaccurate) view of small sample of customers or internal silos

and #1) …if you pick KLI to conduct your research you will have a highly qualified team that have been cherry picked and will work hard to get you actionable results!