By Rahel Bailie, Intentional Design, special to

World Usability Day 2006 has come and gone for 2006, and the results of the global online card sort are in. From the brief demographic survey before the card sort, we know that about five hundred people in 19 or 20 countries – it depends on how countries are counted – participated in the exercise. Participants represented six of the seven continents – the only one not represented was Antarctica, and that wasn’t for lack of effort. Just over half of the participants were from the United States, with strong participation from the UK, Canada, The Netherlands, and Israel. The type of participants have tremendous range: from high school students to retirees, from minimal to heavy weekly internet use. The only predominant commonality was the type of work – only two dozen or two participants did something other than an indoor desk job.

Now that the results are in, we need to analyze the data from the card sort itself. The card sort was done in two languages, English and Farsi, and the two sets of data amalgamated. Over the next few weeks, the results will be analyzed for similarities and differences in how people categorized weather. The suspense is already getting to me – in a conversation with my spouse, who also completed the exercise, we discovered that we thought of weather categories very differently. Whereas my spouse thought of weather in terms of like types of phenomena: “rain” and “snow” my categories were more focused on experience: “pleasant” and “uncomfortable.” If we can have those kinds of differences in a single household, I can imagine the differences around the world!

The data will take a while to compile, as the volunteers who take this on will have to fit the task around their regularly-scheduled work. However, once we have some results to report back, we’ll be publicly sharing that, and announcing our findings in all the same places we’re making this announcement, so please do stay tuned for more information.

And last, but definitely not least, I personally would like to thank some very important people who helped make this whole event happen: the Society for Technical Communication (STC) volunteers who targeted me as an initially reluctant committee leader, and the STC staff who scrambled to build web pages and send out news releases, the World Usability Day volunteers who encouraged me, the Content Management Professionals volunteers who brought their expertise to the table and donated their survey tool, the folks at who donated their card sort tool, the card sort committee members who put in a lot of hard work, the group organizers who spread the word far and wide to make the world a little bit better by spreading the word about usability, and ultimately the 500 participants who helped make the event a success. I am indeed grateful to all of you.