Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tag Clouds and Cognition

Tag clouds have been very popular that last few years, even overused in certain circumstances. Trying to present useful information in a tag cloud seems way out of bounds. But what I've been wondering about lately is how to present information to the user in a tag cloud type of presentation where the weighted links and general organization of items is more intuitive.

Tag clouds generally don't make sense to a new user. It's just a jumble of different-sized words. But it is clear that some things are more important and those words come to the forefront. So, when presenting data to a user, perhaps it makes sense to present the more often-used data in bolder text. I'd like to consider contrasting the matrix format with a tag cloud presentation.

Here is an example:

Name: Bo Campbell
Address: California
Phone: 805-867-5309


Name Bo Campbell
State California
Phone 805-867-5309

It is important here to know what the user is looking for, so let's assume after exhaustive user research we know that the user is first looking for the name and then the phone number. He doesn't really care about the state. I am setting up some surveys for this, but my hunch is that the time it takes to find the data will be very similar. However, the experience may be much different. Instead of scanning line by line, it may be much easier for the eye to catch the words that are presented to them larger and in the right location.

This is more how our brain has to work in the real world. We don't have danger categorized and ordered for use to scan. We have more important dangers that we look out for and keep our eyes open for. Perhaps the expression of data is easier to comprehend in this format.

1 comment:

  1. You are so right! If they could make the words you need larger and in a different location it might be SO much easier. Our brains have been re-programmed by all the electronic gadgets. For the older generation it is sometimes confusing when all the numbers pop up when you really don't want them right there in what you are doing. I like the format you are suggesting..!!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.