Recruit participants

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Since one of the goals of card sorting is to get inside the minds of the people you design for, take time to establish, recruit, and manage participants that will give you the most true-to-life data. For card sorting participants, we recommend:

  • sourcing participants that represent the demographics of your intended users
  • including moderated participants for qualitative data

How to source participants

You can recruit participants in a bunch of different ways, and how you do so will depend on a few different factors. If you have access to a pool of participants (like employees if you’re working on an internal product, or your customer mailing list) then sending them an email invitation, along with an incentive or chance to win a prize, can be a useful way to get responses. Similarly, you could invite people via your social media channels or add banners to your website.

Keep in mind that if people don’t receive an incentive or are not obligated to participate, you’ll need to invite a whole lot more people than your minimum required.

If you’re recruiting participants via the above sources, we always recommend using a screener survey to make sure you only receive responses from participants that meet your criteria. You can read more about creating a screener survey here.

You can also make use of high-quality recruitment panels, which can be effective if you want fast, pain-free options with minimal effort. You can recruit participants from quite specific demographics, and be confident that the participants will take your study seriously (they are getting paid, after all).

After you’ve launched your card sort you’ll be given the option to recruit participants via our integrated panel from within your Optimal Workshop account. You’ll then enter your required demographics and be presented with a quote based on the types of participants and the complexity of your study. After hitting ‘Go’, you can sit back and watch the results come in while you get on with other work.

Recommended number of participants

Running an open card sort with OptimalSort is a generative exercise: the results give you lots of ideas of how you could label and organize your website content. Therefore, the quantitative numbers you need for techniques like tree testing and first-click testing may not be your objective. Instead, you’ll want enough completed card sorts to get ideas and see consensus forming, but not so many that you’re overwhelmed with the data.

Also, keep in mind that the more participants you have completing your card sort, the more complex your analysis might be – it’s a lot easier to narrow your results down to an effective structure from 40 different categorizations than it is from 200 different categorizations. 

If you want to gather as many suggested categorizations as you can, though, don’t be afraid to recruit more than 50 participants.