randomly sized fonts for "keywords"

1 Feb 2006 - 3:32pm
8 years ago
5 replies
596 reads
Troy Brophy
2005

I'm sure most of the WebDev people are familiar with "tags" or "keywords."

Flickr uses them as a way to search for groups of photos containing a tagged
concept.

Hot or Not's "Meet Me or Not" and community sites like Friendster and
MySpace use them to track user interests.

On Flickr, when a page of these tags is displayed, variable font sizes
indicate the relative number of images tagged with a particular word.

If "Tom" is larger than "Fred," you know that there will be more photos to
see in the "Tom" album (ostensibly, pictures containing Tom), than in the
Fred album.

Given this usage, I now have a client who is employing tags in a similar way
that Friendster and MySpace use them. But this client really likes the
variable font sizes that they see on Flickr. They've asked me to display
lists of tags with font sizes set RANDOMLY, meaning that there is absolutely
no meaning to the fact that "Tom" is bigger than "Fred," and if you refresh
the page, "Fred" may now be bigger than "Tom."

I've tried to explain that the user will anticipate some reason for the
variation in sizes, and will be confused and/or frustrated when no obvious
reason comes to light.

Unfortunately, this client seems to like to learn things the hard way,
rather than accept advice from their Web Dev/Design specialist. They insist
that the variation of the font sizes adds "interest" to the look and feel of
the page, and that users in their late-twenties and up are not going to have
the same expectations as "young, hip" users of Flickr.

I would really appreciate any feedback on this, as it will help me know
whether this is a battle worth fighting.

Thanks,

Troy

Comments

2 Feb 2006 - 2:22pm
James Melzer
2004

If the sizes of the keywords are truly random, does it matter that the
users have size-based expectations? Tag clouds are intentionally
unusable for purposeful browsing. So we can assume that people won't
use them for that. Tag clouds obscure all paths except the road most
taken, and that path is self-reinforcing. Since they are designed for
serendipitous browsing, totally random behavior actually shouldn't be
that surprising for users.

~ James

p.s. james /= tag cloud fan

On 2/1/06, Troy Brophy <troy at bitspark.com> wrote:
> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted material.]
>
> I'm sure most of the WebDev people are familiar with "tags" or "keywords."
>
>
>
> Flickr uses them as a way to search for groups of photos containing a tagged
> concept.
>
> Hot or Not's "Meet Me or Not" and community sites like Friendster and
> MySpace use them to track user interests.
>
>
>
> On Flickr, when a page of these tags is displayed, variable font sizes
> indicate the relative number of images tagged with a particular word.
>
>
>
> If "Tom" is larger than "Fred," you know that there will be more photos to
> see in the "Tom" album (ostensibly, pictures containing Tom), than in the
> Fred album.
>
>
>
> Given this usage, I now have a client who is employing tags in a similar way
> that Friendster and MySpace use them. But this client really likes the
> variable font sizes that they see on Flickr. They've asked me to display
> lists of tags with font sizes set RANDOMLY, meaning that there is absolutely
> no meaning to the fact that "Tom" is bigger than "Fred," and if you refresh
> the page, "Fred" may now be bigger than "Tom."
>
>
>
> I've tried to explain that the user will anticipate some reason for the
> variation in sizes, and will be confused and/or frustrated when no obvious
> reason comes to light.
>
>
>
> Unfortunately, this client seems to like to learn things the hard way,
> rather than accept advice from their Web Dev/Design specialist. They insist
> that the variation of the font sizes adds "interest" to the look and feel of
> the page, and that users in their late-twenties and up are not going to have
> the same expectations as "young, hip" users of Flickr.
>
>
>
> I would really appreciate any feedback on this, as it will help me know
> whether this is a battle worth fighting.
>
>
>
> Thanks,
>
> Troy
>
>
>
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
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--
James Melzer
http://www.jamesmelzer.com
http://del.icio.us/jamesmelzer

2 Feb 2006 - 6:49pm
ian swinson
2005

Troy,
If your client is missing the point of tagging but seem attracted to the idea of scaling and randomness why not fullfil their dream? You definitely don't need to code up a folksonomy presentation engine - just put a bunch of links on screen and, instead of having them change size on reload, have the link sizes change randomly while sitting on the page. It'll be like watching the twinkling of the stars or raindrops falling into a still pond. Maybe have them fade in and out too?

It might not be functional but it could be purty :)

Ian

discuss-request at lists.interactiondesigners.com wrote:
------------------------------

Message: 2
Date: Wed, 1 Feb 2006 12:32:12 -0800
From: "Troy Brophy"
Subject: [IxDA Discuss] randomly sized fonts for "keywords"
To:
Message-ID: <20060201203226.4F9911BB30 at che.dreamhost.com>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"

I'm sure most of the WebDev people are familiar with "tags" or "keywords."

Flickr uses them as a way to search for groups of photos containing a tagged
concept.

Hot or Not's "Meet Me or Not" and community sites like Friendster and
MySpace use them to track user interests.

On Flickr, when a page of these tags is displayed, variable font sizes
indicate the relative number of images tagged with a particular word.

If "Tom" is larger than "Fred," you know that there will be more photos to
see in the "Tom" album (ostensibly, pictures containing Tom), than in the
Fred album.

Given this usage, I now have a client who is employing tags in a similar way
that Friendster and MySpace use them. But this client really likes the
variable font sizes that they see on Flickr. They've asked me to display
lists of tags with font sizes set RANDOMLY, meaning that there is absolutely
no meaning to the fact that "Tom" is bigger than "Fred," and if you refresh
the page, "Fred" may now be bigger than "Tom."

I've tried to explain that the user will anticipate some reason for the
variation in sizes, and will be confused and/or frustrated when no obvious
reason comes to light.

Unfortunately, this client seems to like to learn things the hard way,
rather than accept advice from their Web Dev/Design specialist. They insist
that the variation of the font sizes adds "interest" to the look and feel of
the page, and that users in their late-twenties and up are not going to have
the same expectations as "young, hip" users of Flickr.

I would really appreciate any feedback on this, as it will help me know
whether this is a battle worth fighting.

Thanks,

Troy

---------------------------------
Yahoo! Mail - Helps protect you from nasty viruses.

2 Feb 2006 - 7:12pm
mariaromera
2005

Troy,

Is there any chance you can throw a prototype together? There's really nothing like a quick and dirty usability test to answer questions like these.

Let's say you can't do an interactive prototype and you don't have a budget to recruit "real" users.... I recommend you put together a page by page book of paper prototype screens that leads you through a typical interaction. Recruit your friends and offer to pay them with lunch. As you take them through the pages of your "book", ask questions like "What do you think is happening here?", and "What can you do with this?", and especially "What do you expect will happen if we..."

You won't publish it, but you'll get a good idea of what users think. Maybe you'll find out you don't need to be concerned, or maybe you'll have some ammunition, er, *data*, to go back to your client with.

Cheers,
Maria

discuss-request at lists.interactiondesigners.com wrote:
From: "Troy Brophy" <troy at bitspark.com>
To: <discuss at lists.interactiondesigners.com>
Date: Wed, 1 Feb 2006 12:32:12 -0800
Subject: [IxDA Discuss] randomly sized fonts for "keywords"

I'm sure most of the WebDev people are familiar with "tags" or "keywords."

Flickr uses them as a way to search for groups of photos containing a tagged
concept.

Hot or Not's "Meet Me or Not" and community sites like Friendster and
MySpace use them to track user interests.

On Flickr, when a page of these tags is displayed, variable font sizes
indicate the relative number of images tagged with a particular word.

If "Tom" is larger than "Fred," you know that there will be more photos to
see in the "Tom" album (ostensibly, pictures containing Tom), than in the
Fred album.

Given this usage, I now have a client who is employing tags in a similar way
that Friendster and MySpace use them. But this client really likes the
variable font sizes that they see on Flickr. They've asked me to display
lists of tags with font sizes set RANDOMLY, meaning that there is absolutely
no meaning to the fact that "Tom" is bigger than "Fred," and if you refresh
the page, "Fred" may now be bigger than "Tom."

I've tried to explain that the user will anticipate some reason for the
variation in sizes, and will be confused and/or frustrated when no obvious
reason comes to light.

Unfortunately, this client seems to like to learn things the hard way,
rather than accept advice from their Web Dev/Design specialist. They insist
that the variation of the font sizes adds "interest" to the look and feel of
the page, and that users in their late-twenties and up are not going to have
the same expectations as "young, hip" users of Flickr.

I would really appreciate any feedback on this, as it will help me know
whether this is a battle worth fighting.

Thanks,

Troy

---------------------------------
Relax. Yahoo! Mail virus scanning helps detect nasty viruses!

2 Feb 2006 - 1:34pm
Jared M. Spool
2003

At 12:32 PM 2/1/2006, Troy Brophy wrote:
>I would really appreciate any feedback on this, as it will help me know
>whether this is a battle worth fighting.

I was once given a piece of advice that I refer to often in situations like
this. Here it is:

"You can never stop people from sticking beans up their nose."

I've found this to be generally true. If someone is committed to sticking a
bean up their nose, no amount of logic, statistics, wisdom, experience,
money, or test data will persuade them to do otherwise.

In the game of Go (ancient Asian chess-like game), one quickly learns that
the best defense to a strong offense is to fade back and look at the big
picture.

Maybe you could just ignore this particular desire of the client and,
instead, focus them on how they'll measure if the overall experience is
working for them. One of three conditions will happen: either (1) their
random-weight tag cloud will cause user confusion and prevent them from
achieving their goals, (2) their implementation, as odd as it is, will
delight and amuse the users, causing them to be wonderfully satisfied with
the interface, or (3) it will have no affect on the objectives of the user
or the site. Without knowing anything about the business, the users, or the
context of use of your nifty little widget, I can't predict what outcome is
likely.

If you can't convince them to stop sticking beans up their nose, maybe you
can set up a context where they will learn from the pain as quickly as
possible. Maybe after a few attempts of this, they'll learn that there are
better ways to achieve their goals.

Hope this helps,

Jared

Jared M. Spool, Founding Principal, User Interface Engineering
4 Lookout Lane, Unit 4d, Middleton, MA 01949
978 777-9123 jspool at uie.com http://www.uie.com
Blog: http://www.uie.com/brainsparks

6 Feb 2006 - 6:29pm
Karen Graham
2006

Troy,
Thank you for today's entertainment!

Sometimes when clients suggest ideas like this I think it is because they
are trying to say something else - but lack the language to say it. Maybe
your client wants more color or "movement" to the page. Maybe the text is
too small for them to read.

It might be worth one more conversation that works towards finding out why
they like this idea instead of why it's wrong.

Karen Graham
16x16

Message: 2
Date: Wed, 1 Feb 2006 12:32:12 -0800
From: "Troy Brophy"
Subject: [IxDA Discuss] randomly sized fonts for "keywords"
To:
Message-ID: <20060201203226.4F9911BB30 at che.dreamhost.com>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"

Given this usage, I now have a client who is employing tags in a similar way
that Friendster and MySpace use them. But this client really likes the
variable font sizes that they see on Flickr. They've asked me to display
lists of tags with font sizes set RANDOMLY, meaning that there is absolutely
no meaning to the fact that "Tom" is bigger than "Fred," and if you refresh
the page, "Fred" may now be bigger than "Tom."

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