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PoolParty CardSorting

Read the interview with Dr. Ian Piper about PoolParty CardSorting. Find out what he had in mind to initiate the tool and what advantages you can get from the tool when using PoolParty Semantic Suite. 

Why do you think Card Sorting in general is a good approach?

Card sorting is a well established tool for designing and creating structured information in systems such as website navigation schemes. It works well because  

  • it enables groups of people to collaborate, capture and share ideas,
  • it does not require technical expertise, and
  • it allows the capture of a team’s knowledge into a common environment – a collection of collaboratively written cards.

In a conventional card sort, the first stage involves a group of people each writing topics or concepts drawn from their knowledge domain onto index cards. Everyone in the group can see all of the cards, and can explain their thinking to others in the group. Each collaborator brings their own perspective to the exercise, so if a good blend of knowledge is in the room then the chances are high that there will be a good level of coverage across the knowledge domain. At the end of this first stage the group should have assembled a good wide-ranging collection of cards. 

“If a good blend of knowledge is in the room then the chances are high that there will be a good level of coverage across the knowledge domain.”

 The second stage of a card sort also works well because it lets people decide on how information should be pulled together into a logical structure. In this stage the group decides which of the cards are appropriate for the knowledge domain, which are related to others, and the right hierarchical structure for the cards. This stage also helps to highlight where there are gaps in the coverage; putting cards into a structure immediately shows where cards need to be added to provide a complete picture.

Although card sorting has been used for many years as a general information architecture tool, it has not been widely used to build taxonomies, until now. 

What is the value of PoolParty Card Sorting Tool?

Card sorting has many benefits, but there are also some drawbacks. The group of subject matter experts need to be in the same room, and they need to be there at the same time; it’s a contemporaneous real-time process. This is purely because of the physical nature of the process of handling cards and simultaneous discussion, so any technology support that we can bring to the process should be very helpful.
Another downside of conventional card sorting, whether it is for web navigation or taxonomies, is the need for a further stage of transcribing the card sort results – the cards and their hierarchical structure – into the website or into PoolParty.

“PoolParty Card Sort Tool means that you don’t need to be a taxonomist to build a taxonomy!”

This is where the PoolParty Card Sorting tool comes in. It dramatically simplifies the process, supporting the collaborative nature of card sorts, and also addresses all of the issues identified above.

  • The application runs through a web browser, so the users don’t need to be in the same room.
  • The workspace changes in real time. Even if users are in different countries, they will immediately see new cards added by other users. Even moving a card in the workspace updates the view for all logged-in users in real time. This is a great user experience feature.
  • The state of the card sort session is captured, so the process does not need to be run in real time; it is quite feasible to run a session over a period of days, with collaborators joining and leaving whenever they need to during the session.
  • Comments and discussions are captured during the session, so the participants can follow the developing ideas at the time or later on.
  • As well as discussion, users can up-vote and down-vote ideas that have come from other users.
  • The team decides when a card is appropriate for the taxonomy by approving it. Unlike a physical card sort, it is possible to move back and forth between the two session stages at will. However, cards that have been approved go into the second stage of the session and cannot move back.
  • In the second stage, the workspace contains all of the approved cards. The UI also loads the PoolParty taxonomy project that will be used to hold the developing taxonomy. This stage is the time-saver for the taxonomist; she can at this stage simply drag the card across and drop it onto the taxonomy hierarchy. The result is that the new concept is added directly into PoolParty. That is, rather than having to manually transcribe concepts from a physical card, it is simply a direct transfer of the data written by the team into the PoolParty taxonomy.

It should also be stressed that the PoolParty Card Sort Tool means that you don’t need to be a taxonomist to build a taxonomy; you don’t even need a PoolParty account! The user interface is designed to make the process of designing and building taxonomies intuitive and fast, using visual tools that are familiar to users without needing extensive training and without knowing anything about SKOS taxonomy tools. It can be used by any business user. If you are a taxonomist, it helps you too, because it works hand in glove with PoolParty enabling hierarchy building using drag and drop, avoiding manual re-keying.

The Semantic Web Company—vendor of PoolParty—has been named a Visionary in the 2019 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Metadata Management Solutions.