Seeing Things in the Clouds: The Effect of Visual Features on Tag Cloud Selections

Scott Bateman, Carl Gutwin, Miguel Nacenta

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

174 Citations (Scopus)


Tag clouds are a popular method for visualizing and linking socially-organized information on websites. Tag clouds represent variables of interest (such as popularity) in the visual appearance of the keywords themselves – using text properties such as font size, weight, or colour. Although tag clouds are becoming common, there is still little information about which visual features of tags draw the attention of viewers. As tag clouds attempt to represent a wider range of variables with a wider range of visual properties, it becomes difficult to predict what will appear visually important to a viewer. To investigate this issue, we carried out an exploratory study that asked users to select tags from clouds that manipulated nine visual properties. Our results show that font size and font weight have stronger effects than intensity, number of characters, or tag area; but when several visual properties are manipulated at once, there is no one property that stands out above the others. This study adds to the understanding of how visual properties of text capture the attention of users, indicates general guidelines for designers of tag clouds, and provides a study paradigm and starting points for future studies. In addition, our findings may be applied more generally to the visual presentation of textual hyperlinks as a way to provide more information to web navigators.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHT 08 Proceedings of the nineteenth ACM conference on Hypertext and hypermedia
Pages193 - 202
Number of pages10
ISBN (Print)978-1-59593-985-2
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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