Yesterday I had a meeting with some smart people – really, legitimately smart people – to discuss creating a Web presence for the organization they run. I’d brought a few examples of sites that show a balance between presenting as an expert group and an advocacy group. One of these included a tag cloud on the front page.
Several people voiced concern that the tag cloud could be confusing or alienating and that it was something that didn’t add anything to the site. I’ve been thinking about that since yesterday and totally disagree. This is a device for visualizing the prominence or popularity of ideas. It can be viewed as the equivalent of an index for non-linear content. Would these smart guys argue that books would be better without indexes? I don’t think so. If you think about it though, an index is a far less intuitive means for displaying and organizing ideas.
First of all, you need to know which ideas are important before the index will do much good. You also need to remove yourself from the content in order to access the index; and finally, it is only by reviewing the contents of an index (which may span several pages) carefully that you can get a sense of the weight or prominence of the ideas it includes. Compare that to a tag cloud. It can be persistent on every page of content. By using size, it makes it very easy to see which ideas are most important and it allows access to those ideas in a simple and organized way.
I don’t know, it makes perfect sense to me. Does anyone find tag clouds confusing?
[tags]tag clouds, social media, generation gap, index. visualization[/tags]