Tag Cloud Dos and Don’ts

I have been seeing a disturbing number of blogs with some creepy tag clouds. Some have no CSS spacing implemented and others, well, they really are a ‘drag’ on the layout’s load time. I am not going to draw this article out, as I would like feedback from you all on your tag cloud practices.

I get a lot of questions whether if people should use tag clouds on their site or not. I usually ask them if they tried one on their site and made an opinion of its look and whether it fits with their site. Then, I would ask them if they had categories and if it was necessary that they have the tags when they also offer a search form. These are just a few factors I have always considered.

However, I want to focus on the aesthetics of the tag cloud. I have pulled one example of a ‘do’ and one of a don’t. Then I will give you my best advice. Out of respect of the webmasters the screen shots of these tag clouds belong to, I am not naming them.

Tag Cloud Don’t
This tag cloud was actually rotating the tag words. This slowed the load time of the site down and it was annoying as I tried to play catch to click on the tag word. It looked like the big bang theory happened in the sidebar of this person’s page. It was definitely a do not. The tag cloud had no real value except to look like a nifty tool. In fact, the webmaster used it on a Compositio WordPress layout by Design Disease and it severely detracted from the original layout. Also, as a note, the small screen shot was cut down in length from the actual size.

What can be learned from this Don’t:
:arrow: There is no reason to make a tag cloud look like it is a blog all on its own or something you tossed cookies on. Keep your tag clouds simple and relevant to your site.

Tag Cloud Do

This tag cloud is much better than the previous. The tags are spaced well and they are in alphabetical order. Another great example, although the webmaster does not have the tag cloud up anymore. It is a shame as I thought it was one of the best yet. What they did was instead of alphabetical order, they specified the parameter of their tag cloud as largest count to smallest and from that, adjusted the CSS to have a pleasant rainbow type color effect.

The WordPress Codex talks about customizing your tag cloud template by changing the parameters like excluding certain tags, specifying how many should be listed and even the tag order. I recommend taking a look at it and finding out what is best for your blog if you do like to use tag clouds. You may just want to create a tag cloud archive page instead of listing your tags in your sidebar. In fact, it might be a nice addition to your 404 page.

Do you use a tag cloud? Why and what are your suggestions on improving how a tag cloud should be displayed? Any tricks to share?