Why Card Sorting is Important for Intranet Communication

get started on card sorting
What is Taxonomy and IA?

Intranet information architecture (IA) and taxonomy use terms that matches employee’s expectations when searching for content and results in clean navigation that makes sense for your company. 

Card Sorting 101

Card sorting is a well-known technique for creating intranet taxonomy and is an important step in designing your intranet as it helps build your intranet Information Architecture (IA) and taxonomy structure that matches user-expectations.  

Poorly designed intranets can usually be traced back to when the IA was planned as the navigation was likely taken from the intranet team’s personal perspectives. This leads to a self-centred, complicated site that only matches how the intranet team believes the site should be used, and not how the users understand the content. 

With card sorting, the intranet team can go beyond their own viewpoint and build an IA for the company intranet that employees are more likely to buy into. 

In card sorting, members of a focus group will typically draw from several sources, including existing industry-wide classification schemes, business functions, and structures already in place within your organisation. These are then pulled together to create a larger or more complete taxonomy structure.  

 There are two ways to do a card sorting exercise; manually using flash cards or online using a card sorting software, such as OptimalSort. 

Card sorting by hand
Do it yourself or use software?

Card sorting software


  • Analysis tools are built-in, and the results are easy to export 
  • Reach more people, including remote workers 
  • Faster for the tester to input data and faster for the participant to answer, with an average of 100 cards per hour


  • Less engagement for the participants 
  • Less opportunity to ask questions or be part of a discussion 
  • Faster does not necessarily mean better; participants tend to be less enthusiastic and aim to finish as soon as possible  


Offline card sorting


  • Focus groups work together and can discuss while sorting 
  • Increased level of engagement as it’s a group exercise and not an individual exercise 
  • Better quality results and insight as the tester is present with the participants 


  • More time is needed to prepare for the exercise, gather data and analyse results 
  • More staff is needed during the card sorting exercise for note-taking and assistance 

It’s highly beneficial to your organisation to keep on top of knowledge management from the very beginning of your intranet project. Sometimes though, the IA can be neglected or only considered until much later. While reorganising might take longer at this point, it’s still well worth the effort, especially if it means saving your intranet. 

Top tips to remember
  • Before you launch your intranet, think seriously about how to create a basic knowledge taxonomy unique to your business – it makes total sense to do this work at the beginning.
  • Tagging old content is a job nobody wants. If you start it from the very beginning, however, it will be considerably easier later on.
  • Don’t make taxonomies too simple or too complex – the goal is to create a common structure that will benefit the whole organisation.
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