information architecture · planet drupal – what we learned from the card sort

If you’ve been following this project you’ll know that we’ve been doing an online card sort recently to help inform the information architecture for To date we have had more than 200 people participate in this card sort exercise, which is a tremendous effort and a bucketload of data! Thank you all!

In particular we were interested in understanding how we group and label different types of content, and whether the language (as in terminology) varied between insiders and outsiders.

The card sort is still running but we have done an initial analysis of the results to date – the findings are not really so surprising, but nonetheless, useful to have available.

Essentially, what we found is that insiders and outsiders generally use similar words to group and label content where that content is not particularly specific to Drupal, or doesn’t involve ‘Drupal-Speak’

So, for example, for both insiders and outsiders there were lots of occasions where a significant majority of users grouped terms into the same category, for example:

  • ‘Local User Groups’ was grouped into ‘Community’
  • ‘Installation Documentation’ was grouped into ‘Documentation’
  • ‘General Concepts’ was grouped into ‘Getting Started’
  • ‘Getting started’ was grouped into ‘Beginner/New/Getting Started’ and ‘Documentation’ – both equally split in this way in both groups!
  • ‘Features and Mission of the Drupal Project’ was grouped into ‘About’
  • ‘Administer Drupal’ was grouped into ‘Documentation’

However, when it came to content items or terminology that was particular to (or used in a particular way within) the Drupal community, the split became  more apparent. Drupal ‘insiders’ familiarity with the current structure of the website also seemed to come into play – in fact, sometimes people actually responded with a specific URL! (eg. Examples of these kinds of content include:

  • Contributed Modules – responses from ‘outsiders’ were all over the place and didn’t show much of a trend at all. Terms included community, customise, design, development, features, modules, enhancing Drupal, understanding Drupal, getting involved, mastering and  more. On the other hand, ‘Insiders’ showed two very strong categories – Download (where modules reside in the current IA) and Developer
  • Core Project – most ‘outsiders’ put this in a category called ‘About Drupal’, where as ‘insiders’ unsurprisingly used the same cateogories as for Contributed Modules (both are considered ‘downloads’ in the current IA
  • Themes – again, the categories suggested by ‘outsiders’ was wide ranging, but most commonly suggested was ‘Customise’ and ‘Themes’, were as by FAR the most common category suggested by ‘insiders’ was ‘Downloads’.
  • Same for Translations, which clearly went into a ‘Downloads’ category for ‘insiders’ but left ‘outsiders’ perplexed – again, no clear trend emerged from them and suggested categories ranged from Customise, to Advanced Help to Projects.

You  may also have noticed that, in general, suggested categories were quite broad – there was extensive use made of the categories ‘About’, ‘Community’, ‘Documentation’, ‘Developing/Developers/Development’, ‘Get Involved’.

So, what does this mean for our project?

A card sort is never intended to ‘set’ the information architecture, but is rather used as a ‘probe’ into the existing and potential audience to get a sense of how they make sense of the content that you are trying to organise. We are not going to take the labels suggested by most participants and map the content to those labels and call that our IA, but we have learned some very valuable lessons. Including:

  • We need to be very careful and aware of Drupal-speak – it causes no end of confusion for people who are not familiar with Drupal. This doesn’t mean that we abandon it – after all, it is part of the efficiency of communicating within the community. But we need to make sure that we don’t use it for major ‘sign posts’ in the information architecture and that when we do use it, we add ‘supports’ for new players (outsiders)
  • Opportunities for cross-referencing – there were several instances where a piece of content showed more than one ‘trending’ category, for example the inclusion of ‘getting started’ content in both a ‘beginners/getting started’ category as well as a ‘documentation’ category. There are several instances like this where we can ensure that content is cross-referenced from one section (or sub-site) to another based on expectations shown in the card sort data.
  • Category naming – for example, a term like ‘Community’ is not currently represented on the website but are widely expected by both ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’ alike. This supports the consolidation of the more ‘social’ aspects of Drupal (groups, forums etc.) into a major section labeled ‘Community’.

Going forward

We will use the insight we have gained to date from this card sort to help inform the proposed Information Architecture for the website, which of course we will continue to share with you as we proceed.

It is *possible* that we may conduct a further card sort in the near future, however this one will be a ‘closed’ sort, where you will be asked to place content into a set of pre-defined categories. I’m only half convinced that this is a good approach (having had mixed success with closed card sorts in the past… ), so I’d be interested in any thoughts you have about whether this would be an interesting and useful exercise.

I’m glad to hear that several of you really enjoyed participating in this exercise and I do thank you for taking the time to do so.

6 thoughts on “ – what we learned from the card sort

  1. Hi Leisa,

    I’d be interested to know, having just finished the cardsort, where people put “Professional services” and “Jobs”, which were two things I ended up putting in “Stuff that didn’t fit elsewhere”. Hope I was the only one to suggest that category (although I am guessing that there are quite a few people who used “Other” or “Miscellaneous”, am I right?)


  2. A closed card sort could be useful to see whether the set of category names that are candidates for actually being used on the new site would be interpreted by insiders and outsiders as intended. It can help to find confusing category names.

  3. Leisa,

    I think a closed card sort could be very useful if you already know the answers you’re looking for… i.e. come up with your own IA and then build a card sort to see if your previous data, plus your experience, matches the general response of the community. That way your not polling us for more data, so much as your polling us to confirm your beliefs/suspicions.

    Just a thought. :-)

  4. I’m currently evaluating CMS options for a collaborative/community based site, and every time I look at the Drupal website I get a headache, so I’m really thrilled to see you’re on the case. :) Just one comment I’d make about an ambivalence in the word ‘Community’ – it could either refer to modules, downloads, and functionality for use on a Drupal site to enable inter-user communication, or it could refer to opportunities for interaction on the Drupal site itself.

  5. hi Dave – sorry for the delay getting back with this information, but here it is:

    for jobs the top two categories were:
    Insiders: 1. community, 2. corporate/business
    Outsiders: 1. community, 2. about drupal

    for professional services they were:
    Insiders: 1. community, 2. business
    Outsiders: 1. about, 2. jobs/services

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