Programming Contest: Usability – Free Card Sorting Tool

Card Sorting

As part of our Discovery process, we strive to engineer an information architecture that results in a website navigation system that is intuitive, efficient, and easy to use.  We want people to easily navigate the websites that we build.  One method that was developed a few years back is called Card Sorting.

Programming Contest

I always brag about how brilliant my developers are.  When I consult with clients and discuss problems or functionality that needs to be created, I tell them how one of my guys could probably knock it out in his sleep, in just a couple hours.  So, late last night, I decided to surprise the team with a programming contest.

When they came into work, I notified them that we would stop work at 10:30 am to receive the assignment.  They would each have thirty minutes to study the requirements and then 60 minutes to produce results.  At the end of 60 minutes, we realized that more time was needed.  So, we took a quick 30 minute break and then programmed for another 60 minutes.  At the end of that time, everybody published their programs and we evaluated the results.

Results

In the end, we had 7 rapid prototypes.  One prototype was clearly the best, head and shoulders more useful.  The other 6 prototypes had great features and each developer approached the problem in a different way.  This was an amazing experiment to see how programmers solve problems in different ways.  The experiment also revealed how important it is to do a thorough job of defining the problem, along with use cases, so that programmers can better understand the purpose of the tool.  Most importantly, the programming contest revealed how important it is to have a Usability Expert work along with highly technical developers to apply human interface design techniques to the interface.

So, stay tuned and in a couple days we’ll launch this Card Sorting tool.  At that time, we’ll welcome your feedback on how useful it is in engineering your own information architectures.