Tag Cloud Definition

22 Jan 2007 - 7:37pm
7 years ago
13 replies
1441 reads
Noemi Selisker
2006

We're including a tag cloud in a web tool we're building. I've done a
bit of tooling about the net to see what convention says about how a tag
cloud is best defined but still no real answer as it seems to vary from
place to place.

My understanding of a tag cloud is as follows:

-Holds the top x occurring tags occurring within the system (x being the
number of tags we want to be in out tag cloud).
-Is shown in alpha order or from most recurring to least recurring (but
this style to me doesn't seem to serve the aesthetic whimsy of using the
tag cloud in the first place. Just my opinion though)

Am I missing anything? Is my understanding of it correct?

Noemi Selisker
Web Business Analyst
McGovern & Associates
58 Fort St.
P.O. Box 3826 Shortland St.
City
Auckland
Aotearoa/New Zealand

O: +64 9 307 3435
M: +64 021 161 8055
W: www.McGovern.co.nz

Comments

23 Jan 2007 - 9:04am
Kiesel, Jeffrey...
2007

Many just show the tags in alpha order, and use a varying font size to
shows the varying degrees of popularity.

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of
Noemi Selisker
Sent: Monday, January 22, 2007 8:37 PM
To: discuss at ixda.org
Subject: [IxDA Discuss] Tag Cloud Definition

We're including a tag cloud in a web tool we're building. I've done a
bit of tooling about the net to see what convention says about how a tag
cloud is best defined but still no real answer as it seems to vary from
place to place.

My understanding of a tag cloud is as follows:

-Holds the top x occurring tags occurring within the system (x being the
number of tags we want to be in out tag cloud).
-Is shown in alpha order or from most recurring to least recurring (but
this style to me doesn't seem to serve the aesthetic whimsy of using the
tag cloud in the first place. Just my opinion though)

Am I missing anything? Is my understanding of it correct?

Noemi Selisker
Web Business Analyst
McGovern & Associates
58 Fort St.
P.O. Box 3826 Shortland St.
City
Auckland
Aotearoa/New Zealand

O: +64 9 307 3435
M: +64 021 161 8055
W: www.McGovern.co.nz

________________________________________________________________
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23 Jan 2007 - 4:50pm
Thomas Vander Wal
2004

You may want to do good user testing on tag cloud visualizations as
they often break the process with people trying to find information.
When tag clouds are used for navigation for a site or section of a
site/tool (as opposed to a collective understanding of terms related
to a single object) users often do not find what they are seeking as
they are often distracted by the visually strong weighted items.

Occasionally (but not often) the people using a site will actual find
benefit of tag clouds with out them distracting them from
accomplishing a task.

You really want to test before implementing.

All the best,
Thomas

On 1/22/07, Noemi Selisker <noemi.selisker at mcgovern.co.nz> wrote:
> We're including a tag cloud in a web tool we're building. I've done a
> bit of tooling about the net to see what convention says about how a tag
> cloud is best defined but still no real answer as it seems to vary from
> place to place.
>
> My understanding of a tag cloud is as follows:
>
> -Holds the top x occurring tags occurring within the system (x being the
> number of tags we want to be in out tag cloud).
> -Is shown in alpha order or from most recurring to least recurring (but
> this style to me doesn't seem to serve the aesthetic whimsy of using the
> tag cloud in the first place. Just my opinion though)
>
> Am I missing anything? Is my understanding of it correct?
>
>
> Noemi Selisker
> Web Business Analyst
> McGovern & Associates
> 58 Fort St.
> P.O. Box 3826 Shortland St.
> City
> Auckland
> Aotearoa/New Zealand
>
> O: +64 9 307 3435
> M: +64 021 161 8055
> W: www.McGovern.co.nz
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://listguide.ixda.org/
> List Help .................. http://listhelp.ixda.org/
> (Un)Subscription Options ... http://subscription-options.ixda.org/
> Announcements List ......... http://subscribe-announce.ixda.org/
> Questions .................. lists at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://ixda.org/
> Resource Library ........... http://resources.ixda.org
>

23 Jan 2007 - 6:25pm
Chris Pallé
2007

This really is true. I recently went to a site where they used this
convention. They had about 15 items to choose from in their left nav.
There were several that were interesting – a couple were even more
interesting i.e. relevant to why I was there – than the largest.
Guess which one I picked....

I'm not sure if I even came back to look through the other ones
because the navigation was SO disorienting. Main nav schemes need to
be consistent in look and style, IMO

Also, the labels need to be short and sweet.

w/r/t the weight being alphabetized vs. cloud like, that really is up
to personal appeal and the aesthetics of the site. Again, though i
think tag clouds only serve only as contextual navigation.

chrispallé, interactive media designer
--------------------------------------------------------
blueflameinteractive*
732.513.3570
chris.palle at blueflamecreative.com
http://blueflamecreative.com
http://www.linkedin.com/in/chrispalle
*water logic, meet functional form

On Jan 23, 2007, at 5:50 PM, Thomas Vander Wal wrote:

> You may want to do good user testing on tag cloud visualizations as
> they often break the process with people trying to find information.
> When tag clouds are used for navigation for a site or section of a
> site/tool (as opposed to a collective understanding of terms related
> to a single object) users often do not find what they are seeking as
> they are often distracted by the visually strong weighted items.
>
> Occasionally (but not often) the people using a site will actual find
> benefit of tag clouds with out them distracting them from
> accomplishing a task.
>
> You really want to test before implementing.
>
> All the best,
> Thomas
>
> On 1/22/07, Noemi Selisker <noemi.selisker at mcgovern.co.nz> wrote:
>> We're including a tag cloud in a web tool we're building. I've done a
>> bit of tooling about the net to see what convention says about how
>> a tag
>> cloud is best defined but still no real answer as it seems to vary
>> from
>> place to place.
>>
>> My understanding of a tag cloud is as follows:
>>
>> -Holds the top x occurring tags occurring within the system (x
>> being the
>> number of tags we want to be in out tag cloud).
>> -Is shown in alpha order or from most recurring to least recurring
>> (but
>> this style to me doesn't seem to serve the aesthetic whimsy of
>> using the
>> tag cloud in the first place. Just my opinion though)
>>
>> Am I missing anything? Is my understanding of it correct?
>>
>>
>> Noemi Selisker
>> Web Business Analyst
>> McGovern & Associates
>> 58 Fort St.
>> P.O. Box 3826 Shortland St.
>> City
>> Auckland
>> Aotearoa/New Zealand
>>
>> O: +64 9 307 3435
>> M: +64 021 161 8055
>> W: www.McGovern.co.nz
>>
>>
>> ________________________________________________________________
>> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
>> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
>> List Guidelines ............ http://listguide.ixda.org/
>> List Help .................. http://listhelp.ixda.org/
>> (Un)Subscription Options ... http://subscription-options.ixda.org/
>> Announcements List ......... http://subscribe-announce.ixda.org/
>> Questions .................. lists at ixda.org
>> Home ....................... http://ixda.org/
>> Resource Library ........... http://resources.ixda.org
>>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://listguide.ixda.org/
> List Help .................. http://listhelp.ixda.org/
> (Un)Subscription Options ... http://subscription-options.ixda.org/
> Announcements List ......... http://subscribe-announce.ixda.org/
> Questions .................. lists at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://ixda.org/
> Resource Library ........... http://resources.ixda.org

23 Jan 2007 - 5:36pm
Joe Lamantia
2007

On Jan 22, 2007, at 8:37 PM, Noemi Selisker wrote:

> We're including a tag cloud in a web tool we're building. I've done a
> bit of tooling about the net to see what convention says about how
> a tag
> cloud is best defined but still no real answer as it seems to vary
> from
> place to place.
>
What's the purpose of providing a tag cloud in this tool? Is it to
facilitate navigation, understanding, exploration, comparison; for
single items, people, groups, etc? What's the source for the tags,
and how are they part of the various flows of information within the
environment?

In other words, how does the tag cloud support user goals, and in
what sort of context?

> My understanding of a tag cloud is as follows:
>
> -Holds the top x occurring tags occurring within the system (x
> being the
> number of tags we want to be in out tag cloud).
> -Is shown in alpha order or from most recurring to least recurring
> (but
> this style to me doesn't seem to serve the aesthetic whimsy of
> using the
> tag cloud in the first place. Just my opinion though)
>
> Am I missing anything? Is my understanding of it correct?
>
You've identified some of the most common practices. Yet as Thomas
noted in his reply, common practice isn't necessarily useful or
appropriate for your situation. Assuming a tag cloud is appropriate
or mandated, there are many options for the structure, presentation,
and behavior of a tag cloud beyond common practice. Choosing the
right combination of options to support of user needs of course
depends on context and purpose within the larger user experience.

And if the only purpose for the cloud is aesthetic whimsy, then I'd
say you're free to do whatever you like - as long as it's
aesthetically satisfying, and whimsical...

Cheers,
Joe Lamantia

>
> Noemi Selisker
> Web Business Analyst
> McGovern & Associates
> 58 Fort St.
> P.O. Box 3826 Shortland St.
> City
> Auckland
> Aotearoa/New Zealand
>
> O: +64 9 307 3435
> M: +64 021 161 8055
> W: www.McGovern.co.nz
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://listguide.ixda.org/
> List Help .................. http://listhelp.ixda.org/
> (Un)Subscription Options ... http://subscription-options.ixda.org/
> Announcements List ......... http://subscribe-announce.ixda.org/
> Questions .................. lists at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://ixda.org/
> Resource Library ........... http://resources.ixda.org

joe at joelamantia.com | www.joelamantia.com

"...seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of the
inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space."

Italo Calvino -- Invisible Cities

23 Jan 2007 - 10:30pm
Noemi Selisker
2006

In my opinion, a tag cloud's primary purpose isn't a navigational one.

Primarily, it's a visual representation of the 'buzz' on the site and
secondly a tool for navigation. Any given user comes to the site, sees
the tag cloud and immediately knows what is the most popular/least
popular/middle-of-road popular items on the site based on the font size
(this is in reference to an alpha-listed, popular tag cloud--various
other types of TC exist). Which is why sites with tag clouds usually
always have more conventional forms of searching/navigating thru the
site, i.e. index browse, search form etc. And the tag cloud isn't placed
in a primary position on the page.

Let me clarify my original question:

We've made the decision to implement a tag cloud feature onto a site. No
rethinking necessary in this respect. In researching how MOST tag clouds
are designed, I haven't gotten a clear answer as to how the logic is
usually organized.

Sites such as Flickr and Webpress with tag clouds 'seem' to order tags
A-Z with those most occurring tags appearing in larger font sizes. The
curious thing is that there are no tags starting with the letters x, y,
or z. I find it really difficult to believe that in the whole of sites
likes these, there isn't one single tag out there which begins with the
letters x, y, or z.

What is the conventional logic for tag clouds? Does one exist?

Thanks,

Noemi Selisker
Web Business Analyst
McGovern & Associates
+64 9 307 3435

You may want to do good user testing on tag cloud visualizations as
they often break the process with people trying to find information.
When tag clouds are used for navigation for a site or section of a
site/tool (as opposed to a collective understanding of terms related
to a single object) users often do not find what they are seeking as
they are often distracted by the visually strong weighted items.

Occasionally (but not often) the people using a site will actual find
benefit of tag clouds with out them distracting them from
accomplishing a task.

You really want to test before implementing.

All the best,
Thomas

23 Jan 2007 - 10:44pm
Noemi Selisker
2006

'Aesthetic whimsy' was in reference to MY preference for an
alpha-ordered tag cloud as opposed to a descending one.

As I answered Thomas, the primary purpose of a tag cloud gives the user
a visual representation the 'buzz' around the site at that given moment
and not as a tool for navigation, as its primary purpose would still be
fulfilled if each tag was text on the screen and not linked anywhere.

So if you have any info in regards to the original problem--restated in
my last post--, I'd still appreciate your input.

Best,
Noemi

> We're including a tag cloud in a web tool we're building. I've done a
> bit of tooling about the net to see what convention says about how
> a tag
> cloud is best defined but still no real answer as it seems to vary
> from
> place to place.
>
What's the purpose of providing a tag cloud in this tool? Is it to
facilitate navigation, understanding, exploration, comparison; for
single items, people, groups, etc? What's the source for the tags,
and how are they part of the various flows of information within the
environment?

In other words, how does the tag cloud support user goals, and in
what sort of context?

> My understanding of a tag cloud is as follows:
>
> -Holds the top x occurring tags occurring within the system (x
> being the
> number of tags we want to be in out tag cloud).
> -Is shown in alpha order or from most recurring to least recurring
> (but
> this style to me doesn't seem to serve the aesthetic whimsy of
> using the
> tag cloud in the first place. Just my opinion though)
>
> Am I missing anything? Is my understanding of it correct?
>
You've identified some of the most common practices. Yet as Thomas
noted in his reply, common practice isn't necessarily useful or
appropriate for your situation. Assuming a tag cloud is appropriate
or mandated, there are many options for the structure, presentation,
and behavior of a tag cloud beyond common practice. Choosing the
right combination of options to support of user needs of course
depends on context and purpose within the larger user experience.

And if the only purpose for the cloud is aesthetic whimsy, then I'd
say you're free to do whatever you like - as long as it's
aesthetically satisfying, and whimsical...

24 Jan 2007 - 9:04am
Susie Robson
2004

I did some research on tags last year. Our original idea was that the
tag cloud would be the first thing people see and they would work from
that.

The convention "seems" to be that the list is alphabetical as you
mentioned with the fonts varying in sizes based on "how tagged" it was.

My research, however, determined that while users thought the tag cloud
was interesting, they had no interest in working from it and probably
wouldn't use it very often.

So, we kept the cloud but made it an option that they could use. We
added the option to see the list of tags alphabetically but all one
font, or they could toggle over to see the cloud view. Users were
unanimous that they preferred the long list over the cloud. And, it
became clear that the tags should be at least secondary to everything
else -- they should be used to enhance the site, not be the primary way
to navigate.

Once we realized this we redesigned our site so they had the option to
see the tags but not have them be the main way to navigate, our testing
went much, much better. Tagging still exists, adding tags, viewing tags,
viewing other people's tags, etc. but it all complements everything
else.

I believe Jared Spool's company (User Interface Engineering--I think
Josh Porter did a lot of the work [if I have his name right??]) had
similar findings. I'm sure they have info on their site www.uie.com.

FYI
Susie

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of
Noemi Selisker
Sent: Tuesday, January 23, 2007 11:30 PM
To: Thomas Vander Wal
Cc: discuss at ixda.org
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Tag Cloud Definition

In my opinion, a tag cloud's primary purpose isn't a navigational one.

Primarily, it's a visual representation of the 'buzz' on the site and
secondly a tool for navigation. Any given user comes to the site, sees
the tag cloud and immediately knows what is the most popular/least
popular/middle-of-road popular items on the site based on the font size
(this is in reference to an alpha-listed, popular tag cloud--various
other types of TC exist). Which is why sites with tag clouds usually
always have more conventional forms of searching/navigating thru the
site, i.e. index browse, search form etc. And the tag cloud isn't placed
in a primary position on the page.

Let me clarify my original question:

We've made the decision to implement a tag cloud feature onto a site. No
rethinking necessary in this respect. In researching how MOST tag clouds
are designed, I haven't gotten a clear answer as to how the logic is
usually organized.

Sites such as Flickr and Webpress with tag clouds 'seem' to order tags
A-Z with those most occurring tags appearing in larger font sizes. The
curious thing is that there are no tags starting with the letters x, y,
or z. I find it really difficult to believe that in the whole of sites
likes these, there isn't one single tag out there which begins with the
letters x, y, or z.

What is the conventional logic for tag clouds? Does one exist?

Thanks,

Noemi Selisker
Web Business Analyst
McGovern & Associates
+64 9 307 3435

You may want to do good user testing on tag cloud visualizations as
they often break the process with people trying to find information.
When tag clouds are used for navigation for a site or section of a
site/tool (as opposed to a collective understanding of terms related
to a single object) users often do not find what they are seeking as
they are often distracted by the visually strong weighted items.

Occasionally (but not often) the people using a site will actual find
benefit of tag clouds with out them distracting them from
accomplishing a task.

You really want to test before implementing.

All the best,
Thomas

________________________________________________________________
Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
List Guidelines ............ http://listguide.ixda.org/
List Help .................. http://listhelp.ixda.org/
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Announcements List ......... http://subscribe-announce.ixda.org/
Questions .................. lists at ixda.org
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24 Jan 2007 - 1:58pm
Alain D. M. G. ...
2003

--- Noemi Selisker <noemi.selisker at mcgovern.co.nz> a écrit :

> The curious thing is that there are no tags starting with the letters
x, y,or z. I find it really difficult to believe that in the whole of
sites likes these, there isn't one single tag out there which begins
with the letters x, y, or z.

I just took a look at Flickr and there are tags for yeoman, xylophone,
and zebra. There are also lots of photos tagged with them. Not
together, of course, since there are no yeomen playing xylophons on
zebras, not even one.

On the other hand I can see why the managers who set up the tag cloud
would want to exclude XYZ from the cloud given the low frequency of
these letters, even if many documents do bear the tags.

You have to take into account that most users, even the registered ones
who contribute documents, don't use tags much, and when they do they
are seldom thorough or competent. When you combine this with the fact
that the letters X Y and Z account for less than half of 1% of the
letters in the english language you probably can explain a decision to
exclude them from a visualisation system, just to simplify things. I
would not, but that's something else.

Alain Vaillancourt

__________________________________________________
Do You Yahoo!?
En finir avec le spam? Yahoo! Courriel vous offre la meilleure protection possible contre les messages non nollicités
http://mail.yahoo.ca Yahoo! Courriel

25 Jan 2007 - 5:08am
sajid saiyed
2005

On 1/25/07, Alain D. M. G. Vaillancourt <ndgmtlcd at yahoo.com> wrote:
>
> --- Noemi Selisker <noemi.selisker at mcgovern.co.nz> a écrit:
>
> > The curious thing is that there are no tags starting with the letters
> x, y,or z. I find it really difficult to believe that in the whole of
> sites likes these, there isn't one single tag out there which begins
> with the letters x, y, or z.
>
> I just took a look at Flickr and there are tags for yeoman, xylophone,
> and zebra. There are also lots of photos tagged with them. Not
> together, of course, since there are no yeomen playing xylophons on
> zebras, not even one.
>
> On the other hand I can see why the managers who set up the tag cloud
> would want to exclude XYZ from the cloud given the low frequency of
> these letters, even if many documents do bear the tags.
>
> You have to take into account that most users, even the registered ones
> who contribute documents, don't use tags much, and when they do they
> are seldom thorough or competent. When you combine this with the fact
> that the letters X Y and Z account for less than half of 1% of the
> letters in the english language you probably can explain a decision to
> exclude them from a visualisation system, just to simplify things. I
> would not, but that's something else.
>
> Alain Vaillancourt
>
>
> __________________________________________________
> Do You Yahoo!?
> En finir avec le spam? Yahoo! Courriel vous offre la meilleure protection possible contre les messages non nollicités
> http://mail.yahoo.ca Yahoo! Courriel
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://listguide.ixda.org/
> List Help .................. http://listhelp.ixda.org/
> (Un)Subscription Options ... http://subscription-options.ixda.org/
> Announcements List ......... http://subscribe-announce.ixda.org/
> Questions .................. lists at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://ixda.org/
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>

25 Jan 2007 - 5:09am
sajid saiyed
2005

Just to add to what everyone is talking. I would also agree that most
of the time, tag cluods are distracting. If the user is looking for a
specific information, he most probably wont like to use tag cloud
because he/she may not find what they are looking for in the first
glance.

A workaround, which I am not sure if anybody has tried yet, would be
to give the user an option to flatten the cloud if they want.

Flattening should make all tags in same weight.

Sajid

On 1/25/07, Alain D. M. G. Vaillancourt <ndgmtlcd at yahoo.com> wrote:
>
> --- Noemi Selisker <noemi.selisker at mcgovern.co.nz> a écrit:
>
> > The curious thing is that there are no tags starting with the letters
> x, y,or z. I find it really difficult to believe that in the whole of
> sites likes these, there isn't one single tag out there which begins
> with the letters x, y, or z.
>
> I just took a look at Flickr and there are tags for yeoman, xylophone,
> and zebra. There are also lots of photos tagged with them. Not
> together, of course, since there are no yeomen playing xylophons on
> zebras, not even one.
>
> On the other hand I can see why the managers who set up the tag cloud
> would want to exclude XYZ from the cloud given the low frequency of
> these letters, even if many documents do bear the tags.
>
> You have to take into account that most users, even the registered ones
> who contribute documents, don't use tags much, and when they do they
> are seldom thorough or competent. When you combine this with the fact
> that the letters X Y and Z account for less than half of 1% of the
> letters in the english language you probably can explain a decision to
> exclude them from a visualisation system, just to simplify things. I
> would not, but that's something else.
>
> Alain Vaillancourt
>
>
> __________________________________________________
> Do You Yahoo!?
> En finir avec le spam? Yahoo! Courriel vous offre la meilleure protection possible contre les messages non nollicités
> http://mail.yahoo.ca Yahoo! Courriel
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://listguide.ixda.org/
> List Help .................. http://listhelp.ixda.org/
> (Un)Subscription Options ... http://subscription-options.ixda.org/
> Announcements List ......... http://subscribe-announce.ixda.org/
> Questions .................. lists at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://ixda.org/
> Resource Library ........... http://resources.ixda.org
>

26 Jan 2007 - 9:13pm
Joe Lamantia
2007

Noemi,

On Jan 23, 2007, at 11:30 PM, Noemi Selisker wrote:

> In my opinion, a tag cloud's primary purpose isn't a navigational one.
>
> Primarily, it's a visual representation of the 'buzz' on the site and
> secondly a tool for navigation. Any given user comes to the site, sees
> the tag cloud and immediately knows what is the most popular/least
> popular/middle-of-road popular items on the site based on the font
> size
> (this is in reference to an alpha-listed, popular tag cloud--various
> other types of TC exist). Which is why sites with tag clouds usually
> always have more conventional forms of searching/navigating thru the
> site, i.e. index browse, search form etc. And the tag cloud isn't
> placed
> in a primary position on the page.

This is a sound understanding of some of the most common ways that
tag clouds are used. If your goal is to adhere to the (limited) set
of tag cloud conventions defined to date, then you're on the right
track. Employing tag clouds as one part of a balanced set of several
types of finding tools is also, as noted by several other list
members, a good plan for many contexts.

> Let me clarify my original question:
>
> We've made the decision to implement a tag cloud feature onto a
> site. No
> rethinking necessary in this respect. In researching how MOST tag
> clouds
> are designed, I haven't gotten a clear answer as to how the logic is
> usually organized.
>
> Sites such as Flickr and Webpress with tag clouds 'seem' to order tags
> A-Z with those most occurring tags appearing in larger font sizes. The
> curious thing is that there are no tags starting with the letters
> x, y,
> or z. I find it really difficult to believe that in the whole of sites
> likes these, there isn't one single tag out there which begins with
> the
> letters x, y, or z.
>
> What is the conventional logic for tag clouds? Does one exist?
>
Sounds like you need to make the specific decisions that drive the
visual presentation of a tag cloud that has to summarize "buzz". We
haven't discussed what buzz is for your context, so it will be
difficult to talk about the logic behind the cloud (by logic I mean
the rules determining how presentation is driven by analyzing and
interpreting applied tags).

It's easier to consider the presentation questions. Here's a few
recommendations:

1. Use a single color for the tags in the rendered cloud: this will
allow visitors to identify finer distinctions in the size
differences. Employ more than one color with discretion. If using
more than one color, offer the capability to switch between single
color and multiple color views of the cloud.
2. Use a single sans serif font family: this will improve the
overall readability of the rendered cloud.
3. If accurate comparison of relative weight (ie seeing the size
differences amongst tags) is more important than overall readability,
use a monospace font.
4. If comprehension of tags and understanding the meaning is more
important, use a variably spaced font that is easy to read.
5. Use consistent and proportional spacing to separate the tags in
the rendered tag cloud. Proportional means that the spacing between
tags varies based on their size; typically more space is used for
larger sizes. Consistent means that for each tag of a certain size,
the spacing remains the same. In html, spacing is often determined
by setting style parameters like padding or margins for the
individual tags.
6. Avoid separator characters between tags: they can be confused for
small tags.
7. Consider rendering in flash, or another vector-based method, if
your users will experience the cloud largely through older browsers /
agents: the font rendering in older browsers is not always good or
consistent.
8. If rendering the cloud in html, set the font size of rendered
tags using whole percentages, rather than pixel sizes or decimals:
this gives the display agent more freedom to adjust its final rendering.
9. Do not insert line breaks: this allows the rendering agent to
adjust the placement of line breaks to suit the rendering context.
10. Offer the ability to change the order between at least two
options - alphabetical, and one variable dimension (overall weight,
frequency, recency, etc.)

Hope this helps. And I'm curious to hear more about what buzz means
for your site.

Cheers,
Joe Lamantia

> Thanks,
>
> Noemi Selisker
> Web Business Analyst
> McGovern & Associates
> +64 9 307 3435
>
>
> You may want to do good user testing on tag cloud visualizations as
> they often break the process with people trying to find information.
> When tag clouds are used for navigation for a site or section of a
> site/tool (as opposed to a collective understanding of terms related
> to a single object) users often do not find what they are seeking as
> they are often distracted by the visually strong weighted items.
>
> Occasionally (but not often) the people using a site will actual find
> benefit of tag clouds with out them distracting them from
> accomplishing a task.
>
> You really want to test before implementing.
>
> All the best,
> Thomas
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://listguide.ixda.org/
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joe at joelamantia.com | www.joelamantia.com

"...seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of the
inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space."

Italo Calvino -- Invisible Cities

29 Jan 2007 - 8:38am
DrWex
2006

Joe, thank you. This is an excellent set of guiding points. I have
one additional question, below.

On 1/26/07, Joe Lamantia <joe at joelamantia.com> wrote:
> 5. Use consistent and proportional spacing to separate the tags in
> the rendered tag cloud.

How do you feel about the use of space as another dimension of
meaning? Elsewhere in the guides you suggest using Flash or other
encapsulated renderer, which opens up the possibility of manipulating
inter-tag space to, for example, place tags close together in visual
space if they are meaningfully grouped on the site.

--Alan

3 Feb 2007 - 12:21pm
Oleh Kovalchuke
2006

Clouds are simple and possibly fun to gaze upon, however they are not easily
rendered to scan for useful info - hence users prefer more ordered lists to
look for the relevant information.

How about this solution to improve "cloud" scanning:

1. Present the tags as an alphabetic list of 7-15 (depending on available
screen space) most popular tags. The list is ordered vertically. Provide
option to show more tags, if there are any.
2. Indicate tag popularity via font saturation (I would advocate using plain
grayscale from about 30% to 100% black or blue color).
2a. Provide numeric index of tag popularity (I think percentage would
work: for a picture of zebra playing xylophone the numeric index of
popularity could be - zebra (24), xylophone (3) or whatever other number the
users choose.
3. Provide an option to reorder tags by frequency/freshness etc.
4. Since tag clouds is exploratory tool, it should be presented as such,
and should be placed in the secondary area of the screen (the definition of
the "secondary" depends on design).

- it is easier to scan items rendered in the same font face/size.
- saturation difference in conjunction with the numeric index should be an
indicator obvious enough to indicate to user that black is more
important/exciting/strong color than gray.

--
Oleh Kovalchuke
Interaction Design is Design of Time
http://www.tangospring.com/IxDtopicWhatIsInteractionDesign.htm

On 1/24/07, Susie Robson <Susie.Robson at mathworks.com> wrote:
>
> I did some research on tags last year. Our original idea was that the
> tag cloud would be the first thing people see and they would work from
> that.
>
> The convention "seems" to be that the list is alphabetical as you
> mentioned with the fonts varying in sizes based on "how tagged" it was.
>
> My research, however, determined that while users thought the tag cloud
> was interesting, they had no interest in working from it and probably
> wouldn't use it very often.
>
> So, we kept the cloud but made it an option that they could use. We
> added the option to see the list of tags alphabetically but all one
> font, or they could toggle over to see the cloud view. Users were
> unanimous that they preferred the long list over the cloud. And, it
> became clear that the tags should be at least secondary to everything
> else -- they should be used to enhance the site, not be the primary way
> to navigate.
>
> Once we realized this we redesigned our site so they had the option to
> see the tags but not have them be the main way to navigate, our testing
> went much, much better. Tagging still exists, adding tags, viewing tags,
> viewing other people's tags, etc. but it all complements everything
> else.
>
> I believe Jared Spool's company (User Interface Engineering--I think
> Josh Porter did a lot of the work [if I have his name right??]) had
> similar findings. I'm sure they have info on their site www.uie.com.
>
> FYI
> Susie
>
>
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
> [mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of
> Noemi Selisker
> Sent: Tuesday, January 23, 2007 11:30 PM
> To: Thomas Vander Wal
> Cc: discuss at ixda.org
> Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Tag Cloud Definition
>
> In my opinion, a tag cloud's primary purpose isn't a navigational one.
>
> Primarily, it's a visual representation of the 'buzz' on the site and
> secondly a tool for navigation. Any given user comes to the site, sees
> the tag cloud and immediately knows what is the most popular/least
> popular/middle-of-road popular items on the site based on the font size
> (this is in reference to an alpha-listed, popular tag cloud--various
> other types of TC exist). Which is why sites with tag clouds usually
> always have more conventional forms of searching/navigating thru the
> site, i.e. index browse, search form etc. And the tag cloud isn't placed
> in a primary position on the page.
>
> Let me clarify my original question:
>
> We've made the decision to implement a tag cloud feature onto a site. No
> rethinking necessary in this respect. In researching how MOST tag clouds
> are designed, I haven't gotten a clear answer as to how the logic is
> usually organized.
>
> Sites such as Flickr and Webpress with tag clouds 'seem' to order tags
> A-Z with those most occurring tags appearing in larger font sizes. The
> curious thing is that there are no tags starting with the letters x, y,
> or z. I find it really difficult to believe that in the whole of sites
> likes these, there isn't one single tag out there which begins with the
> letters x, y, or z.
>
> What is the conventional logic for tag clouds? Does one exist?
>
> Thanks,
>
> Noemi Selisker
> Web Business Analyst
> McGovern & Associates
> +64 9 307 3435
>
>
> You may want to do good user testing on tag cloud visualizations as
> they often break the process with people trying to find information.
> When tag clouds are used for navigation for a site or section of a
> site/tool (as opposed to a collective understanding of terms related
> to a single object) users often do not find what they are seeking as
> they are often distracted by the visually strong weighted items.
>
> Occasionally (but not often) the people using a site will actual find
> benefit of tag clouds with out them distracting them from
> accomplishing a task.
>
> You really want to test before implementing.
>
> All the best,
> Thomas
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://listguide.ixda.org/
> List Help .................. http://listhelp.ixda.org/
> (Un)Subscription Options ... http://subscription-options.ixda.org/
> Announcements List ......... http://subscribe-announce.ixda.org/
> Questions .................. lists at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://ixda.org/
> Resource Library ........... http://resources.ixda.org
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://listguide.ixda.org/
> List Help .................. http://listhelp.ixda.org/
> (Un)Subscription Options ... http://subscription-options.ixda.org/
> Announcements List ......... http://subscribe-announce.ixda.org/
> Questions .................. lists at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://ixda.org/
> Resource Library ........... http://resources.ixda.org
>

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