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.