Take the 2-minute tour ×
User Experience Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for user experience researchers and experts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I am not sure if tags based navigation would be easier for users. In our web we categorize software (like download.com) and categories maybe are hard to understand.

share|improve this question
    
This decision depends a lot on such information. Can you specify your application and target groups a bit more? –  Lode Apr 8 '11 at 16:23
    
See also ux.stackexchange.com/questions/6949/… –  James Crook May 30 '11 at 21:51
add comment

3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I personally prefer tagging to using categories.

The advantages of categories:

  • clearly defined
  • could be hierarchical
  • static (in most cases)

The advantages of using tags:

  • unstructured
  • could be very easy user-defined

The advantages of using tagging is that the amount of tags something can have is unlimited, and ultimately users can tag items themselves. This is allows for a nice level of user-interaction, and your data will improve by each user adding a tag.

Navigation based on tags is then actually searching on any combination of tags, and will allow to get a very precise wanted collection of results. E.g. very good examples of succesfull tagging are (imo):

  • stackexchange
  • gmail
  • flickr
share|improve this answer
add comment

I think it depends on your audience, if they are young and tech-savvie then tags could work well, but less experienced users can find them difficult and much less browseable. There was a similar question on stack oferflow and one of the answers from a google interaction designer was useful to me.

share|improve this answer
add comment

The relationship between items and categories typically is one-to-many (in a typical taxonomy items cannot belong to more than one category), while tags are many-to-many (multiple tags for each item). Categories are most often predefined, tags can more easily be user-defined. You can even use both at the same time, although that implies added complexity.

Which is better for your application depends on the domain, characteristics of your users, and the terms they are familiar with.

Some questions I'd ask:

  • Is it possible to define a single taxonomy that is clear to your users? Then categories could work well, and there may be no need for tags. You can test your existing scheme with reverse card sorting ('tree testing'), or try to find a better scheme and better terms with an open card sort.
  • What kind of search terms are your users using? Are they successful in what they are trying to accomplish? What kind of language do they use in the offline world? Especially if they are naive casual users of your application, it can be desirable to stay as close as possible to the terms they normally use.
  • What is the cost of a misclassification? How undesirable are wrong tags? This may influence your decisions on allowing users to do tagging versus keeping the classification in your own hands.

A pragmatic approach would be to test both. Take a subset of items, define both categories and tags, present these to some real people (in the hallway?) and watch how they react.

share|improve this answer
1  
How is it that "items cannot belong to one category"? There are often IA designs where an item only belongs in one category. Second, your definition of tags as many-to-many is flawed, particularly when "multiple tags for each item" is not an example of many-to-many. When you finally say that tags are often user defined, you are getting to the point. Category=taxonomy, while tag=folksonomy. The fact that tagging is user-generated means it cannot be wrong. You may not want to allow it because it's not very accurate (and that's often the problem with tagging - little meaning). –  jameswanless Apr 8 '11 at 17:37
    
Sorry, I should have proofread it better before posting, "items cannot belong to one category" is wrong and absolutely not what I intended. I've edited it know. Thanks for pointing it out. –  Marielle Apr 8 '11 at 21:20
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.