Categorizing devices for the library’s website
A card sorting case study
In summer 2022, two different technology lending units at the University of Arizona were consolidated into the Borrow Technology program, which was managed through the University of Arizona Libraries. In this project, I worked with the UA Libraries UX team to organize the tech lending collection into useful categories.
Screenshot showing two images of students working on laptops, labelled MacBook and PC laptop.
Categories of technology available to borrow from the University of Arizona Libraries. This screenshot illustrates how categories were displayed in the legacy system, which was redesigned in summer 2022.
Our goal
To organize content so that users could easily find the items they wanted to borrow in a collection of more than 100 types of devices

My role
UX researcher

Collaborators & stakeholders
UX designer, content strategist, technology manager, Access & Information Services team

Core skills
• card sorting
• interpreting analytics

From a list of technologies available to borrow, our team identified eight categories of devices that might be confusing for users. Each category included at least one item that we were unsure how to categorize. In an open card sort, we asked users to generate a list of any number of categories and sort 25 devices into them. 23 students participated in this unmoderated study, which was conducted in Optimal Workshop.
After the card sort, I analyzed the data using a spreadsheet and analytics in Optimal Workshop. I looked specifically for patterns in how items were sorted, patterns in names of categories, and differences between the original categories and common card sort categories.
Screenshot showing four columns of a spreadsheet: item, current category, most popular suggestion, and other suggestions.
I used a spreadsheet to compare findings from the card sort to the original category for each device. Items are sorted by most popular suggested category. Color-coded labels were helpful for identifying devices that needed to switch categories.
Screenshot of dendrogram, showing items that tended to be grouped together..
This color-coded dendrogram from Optimal Workshop was helpful for identifying devices that users tended to group together. For example, most users grouped “monitor,” “keyboard,” and “mouse” (pink group in middle) even though these devices had originally been in three separate categories.
Findings and recommendations
Our team had four main recommendations based on salient findings from the card sort:
• Most users put laptops together with tablets. We recommended listing laptops and tablets in the same category.
• Many users created a category called “accessories” and a category called “adaptors” and/or “power.” We recommended creating two categories for peripherals using users’ wording: “Laptop/tablet accessories” and “Adaptors & power cords.”
• Users tended to group “monitor,” “Bluetooth keyboard,” and “mouse” together, even though these items had originally been listed in three different categories. We recommended putting these items in the same category, “Laptop/tablet accessories.”
• Some items could fit in multiple categories. We recommended allowing items to be cross-listed so they could be found by multiple paths.

I presented our findings to stakeholders from the Access & Information Services team in July 2022, and they decided to implement all of our recommendations.
Screenshot of a HiFi prototype of the main Borrow Technology page.
This screenshot of a HiFi prototype shows the category names and descriptions, which were informed by findings from the card sorting study.
The Borrow Technology pages went live in July 2022.
• Visit the Borrow Technology website (still in beta release).
• Read an article on the uxEd blog about how this study informed UX design, information architecture, and documentation for the Borrow Technology webpages.

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