Imagine a web service where users post notes grouped by tags. Notes are public and the tags are essential, because other users will see notes based on its tags (they can 'follow'). I want users to post as many notes as possible, but I also want them to tag their notes properly.

  1. Should I give users two input boxes (one for note text and second one for comma separated tags).
  2. Or should I give them just one input box where they can incorporate tags into note text in form of #hashtags (as in Twitter). This would of course include some hints and tutorials for the beginners.

The service is aiming to be as simple as possible. Notes will have limited length and it must be very fast and easy to insert a note.

The question is: is it worth make input process faster by removing input field for tags? Are young people generally able to learn to insert tags using hash sign (#)?

If the question is too abstract I would gladly provide more details.

2 Answers 2


Choose option 1; users won't guess they can use hashtags. Even if they've been exposed to twitter, they won't assume they can use twitter-like conventions unless they read instructions otherwise - and users never read instructions. What they will spot, however, is an open second field to complete before submission - and there's your opportunity to introduce tagging.

Another thing: users may have trouble grouping content into a set of consistent tags. They don't know the taxonomy, and may not guess the terminology their peers will use. Might I suggest tag autosuggestion, based on keyword detection?


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Perhaps after repeated exposure, your application could provide a 'tip' that adding a hashtag automatically adds a topic. This creates a more efficient interaction that users will be bothered to learn because they already have an investment and relationship with the service.

  • I was going to suggest allowing both forms of tagging. Make it discoverable via tooltips or suggestions on other ways to use the service as Jimmy mentions.
    – ChrisF
    Jul 21, 2012 at 23:17
  • Thank you Jimmy, your arguments are valid and reasonable. The autosuggestion is a good way to go, but I am not sure if it will be reliable, as notes will be very short and perhaps without repeating keywords. I will definitely implement tags autocomplete when typing. I also like your idea to call those groups 'topics' instead of 'tags'.. I guess it sounds more natural to ordinary people. THX one more time
    – jakubka
    Jul 22, 2012 at 0:13
  • @ChrisF I am afraid, that allowing both forms may introduce confusion.. what should happen when user enters tag in text? Shall the tag be automatically copied to the lower field? And what if the user deletes this tag from the lower field? The maximum number of tags is limited, so it has to be tracked somehow. I am not saying it is a bad idea.. just that I have to come up with a good way to combine those two ways of entering tags.
    – jakubka
    Jul 22, 2012 at 0:17
  • @jakubka - yes, when the text is tagged, add it to the lower field. When the user removes the tag in the field, fade the hash character before pulling the rest of the text up. Another idea is to have tagged words turn into tag icons that resemble those in the tag field below, reinforcing the tie (though I'd probably test to make sure users didn't think they were separate, duplicated tags). Jul 22, 2012 at 2:48
  • I have thought a lot about it and I decided to do the way you suggested. Thanks a lot!
    – jakubka
    Jul 24, 2012 at 20:18

By default, show two boxes. One for the note itself, the other for tags.

As the user enters tags, convert the words in the note to hashtags automatically (if they exist) or insert them at the end of the question text.

Give them the option to hide the second 'tags' box, or just hide it when you notice this user no longer uses it.

You could extend this further with Jimmy's suggestion of automatic tagging - highlight words that you detect as possible keywords and give the user an option to turn them into hashtags.

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