Optimal Sort – New Card Sorting

Optimal Usability, a usability consulting company in New Zealand, has a beta version of their new card sort program called Optimal Sort.

On the surface of things it looks to be quite good. I only tried out the online demo so far–the participant’s view of a sorting exercise–and it was very smooth. It’s Flash based with drag-and-drop interaction. Easy to move items around and label boxes and stuff like that.

Once the screen started getting full, however, some of the categories were cut off towards the bottom (on my computer at 1024×768), and it became difficult to move items in and out of those boxes. Otherwise, it’s simple enough for any participant to get the hang of in a matter of seconds. Both open and closed sorts are possible.

In general, one of the advantages of card sort programs is that they can help with analysis. Yet, most of the programs available overcomplicate results with dendograms and clustering and not-so intuitive statistical formats. Though I didn’t see the results from Optimal Sort in the demo, it looks to be cleaner and more straight forward from the screenshots and descriptions.

I particularly liked this claim on their site: “use common sense and experience to spot patterns.” Imagine that: you have to use your intuition as a designer to interpret the results.

The process of administering tests seems to be easy as well. In a SurveyMonkey-like fashion, you can send a link out to participants, and they can then complete the sort on the web. Of course, this leaves out what I consider an important part of card sorts: talking to people about why they grouped things together and observing where they have difficulty grouping things. But the ease of getting people to take part and efficiency this tool offers makes it valuable.

Sam Ng from Optimal Usability tipped me off to this. Thanks, Sam.

They’re still offering free sign registration with the beta version until August. Check it out.

About Jim Kalbach

Head of Customer Experience at MURAL


  1. Susan

    Have you used Optimal Sort (beyond the tour you mentioned)? I was liking what I saw but when I checked out the open questions, there is a reference to a “superbug” problem they are having. I love that they are willing to help fix this … but I don’t want to be $600 USD/yr for a buggy service!

  2. James Kalbach

    Hi Susan,

    I’ve personally not used it yet, but my colleague has. From what I’ve heard, the test (which we’re doing right now) is going well with the tool.

  3. Hi James

    We just signed up for the free version, but haven’t used it yet.

    Any feedback on this service since you have conducted your test in June? Tips?

    Scott :)

  4. James Kalbach

    We got some valuable feedback from the test we conducted. No specific tips on using the tool apart from what Optimal Sort already said about the tool.

  5. Steve

    Another similar but better priced tool is at: http://www.usabilitest.com/card-sorting

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