Playing Tag

Ex-Colleague and interface philosopher Christian Jung had some thoughts on tagging patterns recently, which got me thinking too. The idea of tagging is a good one, but tag clouds have always irritated me. We all know how they work and what they look like. So where’s the problem?

  • Readability: So many font sizes in one block of text makes tags more difficult to read than they need to be
  • Focus: Huge tags lead to a most-looked-at status for items with that tag, although the most frequent tags are likely the most general, i.e. least likely to meet a person’s needs
  • Chaos: Although tags are a way of organising content, dynamic font sizing imparts a feeling of disorganised content

Thinking Out Loud

Color coded tagsColor coding: Tags in a structured block could be color coded or faded out in a monochrome palette, with the least used being the lightest. None of us can really differentiate between more than (a guess) five different greys on a screen, but who really needs to know more specifically than five groups how popular a tag is? The illustration is done in five greys from 10% to 100% black. Possibly improves readability (although the less popular tags are a little light), definitely solves the chaos problem, but only slightly improves focus in comparison to normal tag clouds, as the least popular tags drift into the background.

Tagging Bar ChartBar chart: Each tag in a structured block could be given a subtle colored background, the width of which would indicate popularity. This allows for more fine differences than color coding, and gives an intuitive feeling for the relationships of the individual tags in the whole of the tag collection. This definitely solves readability and chaos better than color coding, and does a much better job with focus as well.

I’m interested, has anyone seen any of these ideas – or for that matter any tag designs which solve these problems – implemented anywhere?