Thursday, November 03, 2005

The Perfect Tagging UI

Enough whining. I'm going to try to be constructive by listing what are the behaviors that will make me fall in love with a tagging thingie:
  1. Clearly mark the tag boundaries
    • Why? we still have a mess with different conventions regarding what separates tags - spaces, commas, semicolon, ... until we figure out it, we need a way to provide a visual hint to the user whether they got it right or wrong.
    • Reasonable: Flock. Tags are comma-separated; whenever you type the comma, the previous tag is visually surrounded by a gray bubble indicating that it's a "single unit".
    • Bad but not awful: Flickr. You can't tell as you type the tags if you got it right or wrong, but when you click the "Add" button, you get immediate visual feedback by inspecting the tags list above the entry line.
    • Terrible: Zoundry (which other then this is a pretty cool product, I am using it to write this post :). You won't know if you did it right or wrong until you see your post
      on the blog...

  2. Support copy and paste of tags
    • there, and paste them here. Using a standard copy-and-paste interface, mind you.
    • list, but selecting the tags in the list is hard, and pasting them results in a mess.
    • Good: delicious.

  3. Auto-complete
    • Why? I love tagging, they make life easier. I don't like typing, it makes life shorter.
    • Reasonable: blinklist.
    • Bad: RawSugar. The auto-suggest does not follow well with the typing process. I can't press enter to choose the currently selected auto-complete suggestion and then proceed to type the next tag. I am forced to leave my typing context to select the tag, and after it's selected, to use the mouse to move back to where I was in the tagging line.

  4. Auto-suggest
    • Why? I'm not always in the mood to generate tags. Sometimes I am feeling lazy. Comeon, you know so much about me and about other users, use it to make my life easier, not just the search engine life :)
      • Based on tags that I've often used together with the tags I've already typed
      • Based on tags that other users often use together with the tags I've already typed
      • Based on tags that other people who tagged this page used
    • Good: delicious
    • Bad: Flickr

  5. No hierarchy, classification, or anything else that disrupts the cognitive process
    • Why? Because I find it distracting. And I have a good excuse for this :)
    • Good: Flickr
    • Bad: RawSugar

  6. Ability to edit tags like text
    • Why? because I make typos and change my mind, and I want to be able to quickly go back during the tagging process (or later) and fix it
    • Good: Flickr, Delicious. Though none of them makes it too easy to edit the tags once they are submitted.
    • Bad: Flock. The visual bubble around the tags, which I mention in #1, really gets in the way when you see a typo in a tag you just typed and you want to fix it.

  7. Search previously tagged items with an already-typed tag without disrupting the tagging process
    • Why? Because I'd like to borrow the tags I used when I tagged related items in the past
    • Good: Flickr. Modless tagging interface, I can always open a new window and search.
    • Bad: Flock (modal dialog...), Microsoft Live Favorites.

Funny, if you scan the "Bad:" examples, you'll note that the application that I am pretty much addicted to - Flickr - scores pretty high on the Bad list. Which kinda puts my rumbling in perspective :)

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eyal said...

Here's another suggestions for "Auto-suggest":
- Based on tags that I and other people who tagged similiar content used.

You can use a similiarity algorithm to find related aritcles and see what tags were used for them.
Very handy for blog posts, as this is content that was never tagged before (so you can't use method 3), but in most cases contains subjects already discussed 1000s of times before..

YanivG said...


You are right, that's another important source for auto-suggest.