Capturing the users mental model

Client: A large financial institution in U.S.
Project Characteristics: Open card sort | multiple user groups | Online tool
Industry: Finance

One of the major financial institutions in the U.S. was in the process of redesigning their online portal (post-login) for private and business customers. They had some concerns regarding the information architecture and wanted to see how it could be improved. I was the project manager/lead consultant for the open card sort study devised to address these concerns.

Project goals:

  1. Understand how users mentally group information on the online portal.
  2. Provide suggestions for improving the information architecture.
  3. Collect data assessing whether the client’s customers sort information differently than other institutions’ customers.


  1. Finding business participants who also used the client’s online system without compromising sampling methodology.
  2. Finding an appropriate mix of cards the participants would sort in the study.


We were able to provide insight regarding how participants mentally structured information on the client’s site, which correlated to navigational issues we noticed in a previous usability test. Even though our research supported previous findings and demonstrated a mismatch with the client’s architecture, they still kept their original design.