Word clouds

Word cloud or tag cloud, is a weighted list in visual design. It is a visual representation of keyword metadata (tags) on a website or to visualise free form text. Tags are singe words, with the importance of each tag being shown using font size or colour.

It is used to quickly identify prominent items, locating them alphabetically to understand their relative importance to one another.

Word or tag clouds became prominent in early 21st Century through Web 2.0 websites and blogs.

There are three types of word or tag cloud applications in social software:

  • Frequency of each item;
  • Aggregated frequencies of each item; and,
  • Categorised cloud, where the item size indicates the number of sub-categories.

Words clouds are good for identifying differences and important items (size, colour highlighting), but western reading conventions and cloud layout can bias the focus of the viewer when scanning the cloud. Clouds are not effective when specific, less important items require identification.

Useful links

Boulos, M.N.K, Wheeler, S. 2007. The emerging Web 2.0 social software: an enabling suite of sociable technologies n health ad healthcare education. Health information and libraries journal, Wiley & Sons, London. Available at: (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1471-1842.2007.00701.x/full) , Accessed:[10/10/2015].

Sinclair, J., Cardew-Hall, M., 2008. The folsonomy tag cloud: when is it useful? Journal of information science, 34 (1), Sage, London. pp15-29 Available at: (http://jis.sagepub.com/content/34/1/15.short), Accessed:[10/10/2015]