The Death of the Tag Cloud

Image from Wikipedia

It seems that tag clouds are hard to find these days. Almost like a good movie from Hollywood lately.

Not that long ago, tag clouds seemed to be on a lot of web sites, including mine.  They basically took all the categories a web site used to group content and presented them as hyperlinks in a ‘cloud’ that a visitor could click on to see all the articles in that category or tag.  The tags that had more articles were often larger.

But now, if you look at some of the larger blogs, tag clouds are no where to found.  Here are few blogs to see for yourself:

From a user experience point of view, tag clouds are really ineffective.  You are basically pushing random words into visitor’s faces with the hopes that they will relate with your category.  They also take up siginficant screen real estate as well.

Final note: use tags to categorize your content, but don’t use tag clouds.

What do you think? Do you use tag clouds? Please share your thoughts.

  • Paul Olyslager

    I've been doing some research on it as well for an article I wrote on tags and tagclouds. I see tagclouds more as a trend from the 90's and it doesn't really provide your visitors with a useful way of navigating. As you said, the keywords are just thrown in their faces, hoping that they'll find what they were looking for. People need to understand how a tagcloud works (why are words bigger, bolder, smaller and have different colours than others) before they can use it. Instead, provide them with a nice overview of tags or categories which is alphabetically or chronologically arranged.

  • Martina

    I don't tag my blog posts, but I use categories. I feel it's friendly enough for the user to click the category at the bottom of the post they want to read more about than to junk up your blog margin. Tag clouds look like someone's screaming at me. LOL

  • Cameron D

    To me, tag clouds are basically cool for the first few seconds of playing around with them, and then they get really annoying.

    I've seen tag clouds pop up when you select a link from a tag cloud. It's like recursion in visual format!! (Repeat the previous sentence until you pass out.)

    Nice, user-friendly drop-downs are soooo much better – in my opinion.

  • Mike McCready

    Hi Cameron,

    Thanks for the comment. I agree with you. It seems that the novelty of tag clouds wore off very quick. They may be a crutch for poor information architecture.

  • Mike McCready

    I use categories and tags for my blog posts. I just don't use tag clouds. But I haven't looked to see if the tags or categories are being used. I suspect they are not.

  • Mike McCready

    Hi Paul,

    Thanks for your comments.

  • jprins

    I’ve used them on my reports for the past couple years as a visual.  E.g.  

    Visual appeal is about all they are good for. 

    I was designing a website for a brick and mortar book store.  The owner and I played with a tag cloud based on categories of historical book sales.  The resulting tag cloud suggested the book store only carried certain genres which is NOT the impression the owner was after.  We stuck with an alphabetical listing of book categories.