Measuring the User Experience

Card-sorting Tools

by Tom Tullis
Last updated March 3, 2015

Beyond the Usability Lab

Card-sorting is a great way to learn how users, or prospective users, of a website perceive the logical relationships among the various elements of the site. There are three basic steps to any card-sorting project:

  1. Define the cards to be sorted. These are commonly brief descriptions of the candidate pages of a website, not including pages that are purely for navigation.
  2. Have representative users sort the cards. In most cases, the participants are allowed to create and name their own categories.
  3. Analyze the results. Two of the common techniques for analyzing card-sorting data are hierarchical cluster analysis and multi-dimensional scaling.

Card-sorting is one of the "Special Topics" we discuss in Chapter 9 of our book, Measuring the User Experience. Specifically, we discuss the analysis of data from two different types of card-sorting studies: Open Card Sorts, where participants are allowed to create and name their own categories for the cards, and Closed Card Sorts, where participants are given the names of the categories that they are to sort the cards into. Both methods are useful and have their place. Open card sorts are particularly useful near the beginning of a project. Closed card sorts are more useful later on when you have some candidate organizations that you want to evaluate.

Here are some of the examples from the book of the analysis of open card-sort data:

The following are some of the tools that can help you do card-sorting studies.

Concept Codify


A web-based service. Supports giving a random subset of the full set of cards to each participant (e.g., 20 out of 25 cards to each participant). Includes a variety of analysis features. Currently free; soon to be $15 per study after the first study.

Concept Codify Screen

Usability Tools

A web-based service. Card-sorting is one of several tools included in their UX Suite. Includes a 14-day free trial. Supports both open and closed card-sorts. Supports randomization of cards and categories.

Optimal Sort logo


A web-based service. One of several UX-related tools developed by Optimal Usability, a consulting company in New Zealand. Includes a variety of analysis features. Free version allows for up to 10 participants per project, 30 cards per project, and 3 projects. Licenses available for unlimited use. Also see the free tool for analysis of OptimalSort data by Aapo Puskala.

OptimalSort screenshot
User Zoom logo


A web-based service. One of several UX-related tools provided by UserZoom. Supports up to 100 items to sort and up to 12 categories. Supports both open and closed card-sorts. Analysis tools include an interactive dendogram.

UserZoom card-sorting dendogram


Runs on Windows, Macintosh, and Linux versions of Mozilla. Provides basic browsing of the data. All data is saved in XML files. Open Source.

uzCardSort screenshot


A Macintosh application. Developed by EnoughPepper, a company in Lisbon, Portugal. Provides a variety of reports and analysis tools, including hierarchical cluster analysis. Free.


xSort screenshot
UsabiliTest logo

UsabiliTest Card-Sorting

A web-based service. Provides online data analysis and visualization features, including hierarchical cluster analysis. Provides a free 3-day trial, or unlimited-use paid subscriptions for one month or one year.

UsabiliTest screenshot
Simple Card Sort Logo

Simple Card Sort

A web-based service. Supports open, closed, and hybrid card-sorts. Provides online data analysis. Provides a free demo account or unlimited-use paid subscriptions for one month or one year.

Simple Card Sort Screen
UX Sort Logo


A free Windows application. Sort up to 1,000 cards. Supports sorting into multiple levels deep. Includes hierarchical cluster analysis.

UX Sort Screen shot

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