Any Studies Out There On Tag Cloud Usability?

13 Mar 2006 - 1:07pm
8 years ago
4 replies
2730 reads
nhoh
2004

Hi All,

So tag clouds aka weighted list (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tag_cloud) seem to be pretty popular and gaining more usage as they seem to be associated with Web 2.0 companies. I see the pros of having them i.e. allowing users to see what the hot topic is within a site and a quick way to search. I also see the cons depending on where they are used the context of what these tags mean may be ambiguous, the time span that these tags were used is also unknown by your typical tag cloud, and the term tag may not mean anything at all to users right away. Now I've read a lot of blogs/articles with opinions on why tag clouds are good or bad, but I haven't really seen any studies to back these opinions up. Has anyone done or read any studies relating to the usability of tag clouds? Any and all information would be greatly appreciated and I'll summarise the feedback I get to this question and send it to the list.

Cheers,

Nick Hoh

Comments

13 Mar 2006 - 2:50pm
dmitryn
2004

Great question. On a related note, has anyone come across design
guidelines for tag clouds (whether substantiated by studies or not)?

Dmitry

On 3/13/06, Nick Hoh <nickhoh at yahoo.com> wrote:
> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted material.]
>
> Hi All,
>
> So tag clouds aka weighted list (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tag_cloud) seem to be pretty popular and gaining more usage as they seem to be associated with Web 2.0 companies. I see the pros of having them i.e. allowing users to see what the hot topic is within a site and a quick way to search. I also see the cons depending on where they are used the context of what these tags mean may be ambiguous, the time span that these tags were used is also unknown by your typical tag cloud, and the term tag may not mean anything at all to users right away. Now I've read a lot of blogs/articles with opinions on why tag clouds are good or bad, but I haven't really seen any studies to back these opinions up. Has anyone done or read any studies relating to the usability of tag clouds? Any and all information would be greatly appreciated and I'll summarise the feedback I get to this question and send it to the list.
>
> Cheers,
>
> Nick Hoh
> ________________________________________________________________
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--
Dmitry Nekrasovski
http://www.smallmultiples.com

13 Mar 2006 - 3:14pm
Thomas Vander Wal
2004

I don't know of current research, but there is are rather deep pockets
of research around visual weghts of text in interfaces (what tag
clouds are doing). The research showed it was not helpful.

I know of companies that have been testing tagclouds with their users,
but their research is not public. Summaries of their findings based
on testing with regular users trend toward confusion on the part of
the user.

Aside from weighted text most user I have teested with tag clouds have
problems finding what they are seeking on broad services often do not
see what they are seeking in the tag cloud and do not dig any deeper.

All the best,
Thomas

On 3/13/06, Nick Hoh <nickhoh at yahoo.com> wrote:
> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted material.]
>
> Hi All,
>
> So tag clouds aka weighted list (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tag_cloud) seem to be pretty popular and gaining more usage as they seem to be associated with Web 2.0 companies. I see the pros of having them i.e. allowing users to see what the hot topic is within a site and a quick way to search. I also see the cons depending on where they are used the context of what these tags mean may be ambiguous, the time span that these tags were used is also unknown by your typical tag cloud, and the term tag may not mean anything at all to users right away. Now I've read a lot of blogs/articles with opinions on why tag clouds are good or bad, but I haven't really seen any studies to back these opinions up. Has anyone done or read any studies relating to the usability of tag clouds? Any and all information would be greatly appreciated and I'll summarise the feedback I get to this question and send it to the list.
>
> Cheers,
>
> Nick Hoh
> ________________________________________________________________
> 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
>

13 Mar 2006 - 4:44pm
nhoh
2004

Hi Thomas,

Thanks for sharing your insights! Hope you don't mind some follow up questions.

From: Thomas Vander Wal vanderwal at gmail.com

I know of companies that have been testing tagclouds with their users, but their research is not public. Summaries of their findings based on testing with regular users trend toward confusion on the part of the user.
[Nick] Do you know what the confusion was over? What was the purpose of the test and function of the tag cloud? Was it to give feedback on content, ease search?

Aside from weighted text most user I have teested with tag clouds have problems finding what they are seeking on broad services often do not see what they are seeking in the tag cloud and do not dig any deeper.
[Nick] So for the test you performed was there no mechanism for the user to search? Is this why users could not find what they wanted with the tag cloud? Was their only means to find content/data on the site through the tag cloud? If so I could definitely see it failing for that task either that or become unmanageable because to show all the tags used on a site would require a huge cloud for any site with a reasonable amount of content on it.

Looking forward to your responses.

Cheers,

Nick

All the best,
Thomas

13 Mar 2006 - 5:31pm
jstanford
2003

I have seen beginning users try to use tag clouds and the confusion I have
observed was that people who were not tech savvy did not guess why the
differences in size. Instead, they thought that there was something wrong
with the service.

Julie

_____________________________________
Julie Stanford
Principal, Sliced Bread Design | www.slicedbreaddesign.com
650-799-7225

> -----Original Message-----
> From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
> [mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On
> Behalf Of Nick Hoh
> Sent: Monday, March 13, 2006 1:44 PM
> To: Thomas Vander Wal
> Cc: discuss at ixda.org
> Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Any Studies Out There On Tag
> Cloud Usability?
>
> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant
> quoted material.]
>
> Hi Thomas,
>
> Thanks for sharing your insights! Hope you don't mind some
> follow up questions.
>
> From: Thomas Vander Wal vanderwal at gmail.com
>
> I know of companies that have been testing tagclouds with
> their users, but their research is not public. Summaries of
> their findings based on testing with regular users trend
> toward confusion on the part of the user.
> [Nick] Do you know what the confusion was over? What was the
> purpose of the test and function of the tag cloud? Was it to
> give feedback on content, ease search?
>
> Aside from weighted text most user I have teested with tag
> clouds have problems finding what they are seeking on broad
> services often do not see what they are seeking in the tag
> cloud and do not dig any deeper.
> [Nick] So for the test you performed was there no mechanism
> for the user to search? Is this why users could not find what
> they wanted with the tag cloud? Was their only means to find
> content/data on the site through the tag cloud? If so I could
> definitely see it failing for that task either that or become
> unmanageable because to show all the tags used on a site
> would require a huge cloud for any site with a reasonable
> amount of content on it.
>
> Looking forward to your responses.
>
> Cheers,
>
> Nick
>
> 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
>

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