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Re: Are Tag Clouds Accessible


From: mike.osborne@accease.com
Date: Apr 27, 2007 5:10PM

I think the notion of accurately reperesenting the relative relationships
is going beyond the function and purpose of a tag cloud. A tag cloud is a
very inexact device - based on popularity - but does provide a browsable
directory of items with an "at a glance" feature for selecting more
popular tags on the premise that the user will be more likely to be
interested in a more popular tag. Just how much more popular a tag is over
another is somewhat irrelevant in my opinion - the point is to find a tag
that catches your interest and then go to its page. A tag cloud is less a
content item and more a navigational device.

In my opinion the del.icio.us is pretty accessible since they provide the
sort by size option. The only information a visual browser user gets that
a screen reader user doesn't get is when a size "step" has changed - but
does this really matter?

I'd also suggest that a screen reader user could get fairly tired of
hearing the repetitive "photos are tagged with". In fact the numbers could
well become a distraction "seven hundred and twenty-three photos are
tagged with" and so on. The example used Flickr tags - but on del.icio.us
(or other social bookmarking sites) the numbers could regularly be in the
hundreds or thousands if not higher. You'd probably then need to factor
that down to some sort of scale e.g. 1 to 100 to deal with cumbersome
numbers - but then some bright spark will argue that doesn't represent
actual numbers properly - and so on - until the tag cloud omelette has
been well and truly over-egged.

If we think about the mobility impaired for a moment - I'd suggest they
find it more difficult to click on the smaller tags. So, when del.icio.us
shows us the list in descending "size" i.e. popularity we don't really
need the links to become smaller (although it's a nice metaphor and visual
reminder) - perhaps the ratio of sizes could be reduced to provide a more
uniform clickable area without losing the visual cue completely.


> Patrick wrote:
>> Philip Kiff wrote:
>>> I haven't used tag clouds myself, but at a superficial glance, the
>>> del.icio.us usage in your example seems accessible enough to me:
>>> they offer the option of sorting the list alphabetically (default)
>>> or "by size". If you sort the list of tags by size, then a
>>> non-visual user agent will be able to extract the same information
>>> that is currently conveyed by size/colour to other users.
>> I'd argue that, even when sorted by size, a non-visual user agent only
>> conveys the order, and not the actual relative relationship. For
>> instance, if we had
>> apples (10) oranges (15) bananas (400) coconuts (10)
>> in the visual way, the link for bananas would be considerably larger
>> than the others by quite a large factor. Just putting that list in
>> order
>> bananas oranges apples coconuts
>> indicates the relative order, yes, but the fact that bananas were just
>> so overwhelmingly more tagged than the others, and that apples and
>> coconuts are on par, is lost.
> Mmmm...yes, I can see that now. And the 24ways article you point to gets
> at
> the same kind of thing. Without some added number or data column, those
> relative relationships will indeed be lost.
> Phil.