I’ve become a bit of a tag cloud hawk recently, looking for examples of their use and what I think is abuse, or just plain old misunderstanding.
My definition of a useful tag cloud is something that allows you to get a feel for the “mood” of the information tagged on a site. On the web, it’s traditionally been hard to communicate this in any other way apart from using numbers (for example with faceted navigation) or worse, plain old lists.
So I quite like this application on Movietally (a site set up by a 14-year old, apparently – that’s pretty Web 2.0 if you ask me…). If I’ve never heard of the film, I can get a good feel for what to expect from it in about 0.5 seconds. Great for people like me with a gnat-like attention span. Compare the summary with the cloud – which would you choose?
But other times it’s just, well, wrong. Like Yahoo! Tech‘s home page. What the hell is that tag cloud doing? Slap bang in prime screen position too. Yahoo! Tech is basically an ecommerce site with reviews. The help text tells you “The more popular a product type is, the larger its word.” So, I’m looking to buy a monitor – what does the tag cloud tell me? That I should in fact want a laptop? It maketh no sense. The fact that they feel the need to have to explain the tag cloud is also an indication that they have not much of a clue about the context of their own site.
But then I’ve always thought Yahoo! were muppets – easy targets. Here’s a new example from a hitherto unknown (to me) outfit: Collectivex.com. Have a look at that cloud. Looks nice, doesn’t it? Go ahead, click on something.
Gotcha! It’s fake. Still, have to admire them for effort – lets hope for their sake their VCs don’t click through too!