Information Organization for a Portal Using a Card-Sorting Technique

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Authors: Vicki Ahlstrom
Kenneth Allendoerfer, PhD.

Ahlstrom, V., & Allendoerfer, K. (2004). Information organization for a portal using a card-sorting technique (DOT/FAA/CT-TN04/31). Atlantic City International Airport, NJ: Federal Aviation Administration William J. Hughes Technical Center.


The Office of Knowledge Management at the Federal Aviation Administration’s William J. Hughes Technical Center asked researchers from the National Airspace System Human Factors Group to provide human factors input for a new enterprise information portal. The portal would contain a large amount of information. In order for the portal to be successful, the portal needed to provide information so that the users could easily find what they needed. Researchers from the William J. Hughes Technical Center used a simple method called a card sort to organize the information in a way that would reflect the mental model of the users. This document describes the card-sorting methodology. The researchers developed a set of information that potentially could be included in the portal through a combination of items identified by the sponsor as high priority items, information provided on the current employee intranet, and structured interviews with potential portal users. The researchers placed the information items on index cards. Participants representing various types of end users sorted the cards into categories and then named the categories. The researchers grouped similar categories and analyzed the data to determine categories and strength of association between items. The analyses led to the development of a taxonomy for the organization of information items within the portal. This report describes the card-sorting methodology and provides lessons learned on the application of this technique. Although the card-sorting technique alone will not produce an effective information architecture, it is a valuable technique that can lead to a more usable end product.