March 21, 2011
Our team recently had a healthy debate over tag clouds. It came down to this. Although they are quickly dying out, do they serve a useful purpose, at least one that makes up for their obnoxious presence? Or should they go silently into the night never to return?
For those of you not familiar, the basic function of a tag cloud is to display popular content of a website in the form of words. These words, or tags, link to content that is associated with the tag. A tag is usually a single word and its importance is often depicted by font size or color. When these words (tags) are crammed together, excuse me, placed together they form the appearance of a cloud.
But there is more to a tag cloud than hurts the eye. They can have SEO benefits. After all, a tag cloud is a collection of your sites most popular keywords as text links which search engines adore. And they serve as a navigational component to get users directly to popular content. They even sort it for them with the most popular content being the biggest and most eye-catching. And perhaps they have a use on search results and 404 error pages where a user needs help finding something specific.
But traditional tag clouds are really just a filter and may or may not get the user to their intended content, assuming they click the right tag in the first place. And they are often so obnoxious and such an eye sore, many are hoping they just go away.
Here’s what some are saying:
“I love my tag cloud, but it’s only really useful to me.”
“I say that if tag clouds can be designed well, then they should be used liberally.”
“Tag clouds are ugly. Please stop using them. Thank you, and have a nice day.”
“I’ve found that I get a good amount of hits from search engines to the tag search pages.”
“In my opinion, tags are most definitely more powerful on a single blog than a site living off of aggregated content.”
“I’d argue that tag clouds are good for customizable content but pointless for general navigation.”
There are ways to accomplish the same things as tag clouds without being so obnoxious such as a “Most Popular” module or search options within content. But, perhaps tag clouds are the best solution given the right circumstance - if it’s not too late.
Where have all the tag clouds gone?
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