DonnaM » Blog Archive » Card sorting tools – a short summary

Card sorting tools – a short summary

Here is the up-to-date list of card sorting tools: Card sorting software (and online) tools


I was preparing a bundle of cards for a workshop today, and reminded by the recent discussion on a discussion list and peterme about cluster analysis, thought I’d have another look at computer-based card sorting tools. I was vaguely thinking of dropping the results into a couple of tools, comparing them and seeing if my reservations about cluster analysis were still valid.So here’s a summary of the current tools in no particuar order. I have put card details into those that work, but haven’t put any results in yet. Will report on that in a few days:

  • WebCAT – Online tool. I can’t follow the install instructions, so have never tried it. Oops!
  • uzCardSort – a Mozilla extension. Needs a lot more work, clunky interface and somewhat buggy.
  • Card Zort – Windows application. Card titles display as 20 characters maximum (but can be stored as longer), which isn’t terribly useful. I got around it by putting some stuff in the ‘description’ field, but this isn’t sustainable for a real-life situation. Spatial sorting metaphor – dropping cards into piles seems more sensible than moving text around. It has its own clustering tool. Some potential, pending results and analysis.
  • WebSort – this is a commercial service, runs online and has an online demonstration. It is pretty easy to set up a sort, but the model is backwards – you have to create categories then add content to them. It might have had some promise otherwise.
  • CardSort – Windows application. Card titles are limited to 18 characters. Not useful at all.
  • IBM’s EZSort and EZCalc – Windows applications. Easy to enter cards into, slightly clunky sorting interface (but it at least groups then labels), cluster analysis tool available. Reported to flunk out with over 100 cards.
  • Classified – Windows application. It uses categories and content and participants have to determine which category the content goes into. If the participant doesn’t select the ‘correct’ category, they get an ‘incorrect, please try again’ error message. For this reason alone, I wouldn’t use it.

Bit of a disaster all ’round, methinks!

Here is the up-to-date list of card sorting tools: Card sorting software (and online) tools

16 Responses to “Card sorting tools – a short summary”

  1. Paul Trumble Says:


    Your forgetting Classified, I’ve used it, it’s not bad. The subjects can’t define their own categories though.

  2. Donna Maurer Says:

    Thanks Paul, but I didn’t really think of this as a card sorting tool. I’ve added a summary to the list of tools.

  3. Mark Thristan Says:

    I have used Jorge Toro’s Card Zort in the past, and got decent results out of it – but you’re right, it does have a couple of drawbacks in terms of titling cards – go over the 20 chars limit and you can’t see the grouping results properly. A while back I also suggested to Jorge that he might want to run word frequency analysis on card groupings – hasn’t happened yet, but would make the tool more useful.

  4. Small Paul Says:

    Would you ever be interested in using a computer-based card sorting tool? I thought perhaps the nice simplicity of just getting a bunch of cards would be worth more than any value you’d get from computerising.

    Especially as I’ve heard it stated ( that you get more from listening to users doing the sorting, and thus getting more insight into how they think, than their eventual groupings.

  5. Donna Maurer Says:

    Small Paul – I’ve been saying that for a long while. I sometimes just like to go back and check that I’m not missing something. I don’t think I’ll be changing my low-fi method for a while yet ;)

  6. Mark Thristan Says:

    In my experience this is generally the case with most user-focused techniques – some value is gained from from the exercise itself whether affinity diagramming, card-sorting, or content prioritisation, but a great deal of additional value comes from user comments or discussions while the exercises are being run. As an additional point, I tend to mix lo-fi and hi-tech approaches – as it is true that the tactile nature of file cards can get users more engaged in the activity, but feeding the results into a clustering engine can save a deal of time in analysing the results.

  7. Divya Says:

    I am planning on doing a card sort with over 100 cards. I will be using physical cards. Cluster analysis seems to be the best way to analyse the data and I know there are statistical softwares to help do that. What I dont understand is how to get the data in the format so I can feed it to a stat software. Do you know any resources for this?

  8. Donna Maurer Says:

    Hmmm…magic software to take the results from the cards to the cluster tool. Don’t know about that.

    I tag each of my cards with number or letter, then use that to make it a bit easier to enter into the software – it is easier to read a letter than the whole title.

  9. Adam Says:

    Imagine wanting to do a card sorting exercise, except all of your users are on mine sites, the closest of which are 10 hours away, require 1-2 days induction to even enter the site and there is no facility nearby that is off-site, and there’s only an average of two people on any given site.

    Traditional card sorting is simply not an option.

  10. Shannan Says:

    Can anyone tell me what software program that they currently using for card sorting that is free and user-friendly. Donna listed 7 card sorting programs, but then follows by saying “a bit of a disaster all round”. It has been 4 years since this study was done. Can anyone help. :-)

  11. Donna Spencer Says:

    Shannan – you definitely should check out Optimal Sort ( It is terrific.

  12. Aapo Puskala Says:

    OptimalSort lacks in analysis tools. This is why I wrote a free on-line tool to analyze OptimalSort results. Please take a look at (there is a sample file to try it with).

    I’m planning on including a downloadable result PDF, better output format and clarity, and support for all major card sorting tools. If you have sample files which you would like to have supported, please send them to me (you’ll find my email in the URL above).

  13. Cheryl Marks Says:

    I have been using OptimalSort with some success. One of my complaints is that it only provides for general comments. Participants can not make a comment about an individual card or group. I “thought” I read that one of the online card sorting services included that capability. Do you know of it?
    Meanwhile, I’m eternally grateful for the wonderful articles you’ve written to guide me in my quest in understanding our users!

  14. Donna Spencer Says:

    Thanks Cheryl. I know the Optimal folks had that on a todo list, but haven’t talked to them for a while about things like that. I can’t recall seeing it in any of the other tools.

  15. Laura Says:

    Hey Donna
    I’m looking for a card sorting tool that allows participants to place the same card in more than one category…can you help me out?

  16. maadonna Says:

    Hi Laura – that’s easy. None of them :)

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