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I am helping a friend of mine create a story website. He says he wants Genre as well as Tags for his site. Implementing Genres is easy and useful enough.- I can have a genre list like:

 - Romance 
 - Horror  
 - Humor  
 - Tragedy
 - ...

The author can select couple of these while writing his story. The reader can also search/filter using these genres. We can word-cloud the genres, show number of writings in each genre etc.

The problem with tagging that I have, is that it can become too convoluted. Stories can be tagged for just about anything. And tags can start becoming duplicated due to spelling mistakes, slightly different words used etc. This can end up with the site getting cluttered with tags and it can really be no value add at all (?)

So should tagging be there? As a reader/writer how would you expect a tagging functionality to work for a writing site?

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3 Answers 3

I can understand your concerns regarding messy tagging, however i think you should allow tagging. There are a couple of things you could implement to guide the user in the tagging process.

First of all, i think it's sensible to only allow a small amount of tags, say 3. This forces the user to really think about the tags, and prevents tag lists like vampires werewolves exciting OMGsocute teamEdward beststoryeverr - you get the idea.

The second thing you should do is providing a little on-screen guidance close to your input elements. As I am writing this answer, this site shows some do's and dont's in a yellow block right above the editor. Not the most elaborate explanation, but a few bullet points to help me write a (hopefully) useful answer.

To combat misspelled tags, try providing real-time suggestions when the user is typing the tags. Offering synonyms would be awesome, but requires a bit more technology. You could also consider a form of auto-correcting after submission. For example, if one user tags vapmires while other stories in the same genre or by the same author are all tagged with vampires, it is safe to assume the first tag is wrong. You should take caution though, so it might be a good idea to not fully automate this process.

TL;DR:

  • Genres, yes (maybe even more at once, for romantic tragedies etc.)
  • Tags, yes, but with guidance and restrictions.
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I would allow users to add tags with a link rather than just add them from any text they type, this would make them think about new tags and stop the majority of spelling errors (this should be a comment I know but I wanted to add the mock-up).

mockup

download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

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Atop of @Tom's suggestions, if you involve your community you can crowdsource tag cleaning up. This might be a bit difficult to relate to the authors – other people being able to change MY tags?! –, but sites like StackExchanges and some flavours of image boards (ourobrous and clones) run fairly successfully that way. Without necessarily limiting the tag list in a preordained way, but more as emergent behaviour.

The StackExchange communities strongly encourage limiting the tags to a few relevant ones and you'll get poked if you don't do that. On some image boards, entries have dozens of tags which can be fairly well curated.

Jeff Atwood has writen about how they "gamified" StackOverflow to encourage the kind of community and behaviour they want on the site.

Taking cues from that could help with finding the UX you seek. What kind of people do you want to have on your site, how would you like them to act, how can you steer that behaviour?

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Thanks for that link - it was useful, as was your answer –  open_sourse Jul 1 at 12:26

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