I have an interesting problem that pertains to UX. I have a QA website for doctors who specialise in respiratory medicine. It's a Rails app and I use the acts as taggable gem for user interests tags and for question topic tags. That way I can easily search for questions that pertain to the users specialist interest. These tags are quite specific - they really drill down on small topics (and interests). But when a user first signs up I want to present him/her with a small modal asking for their interests so before they get started I can already give them some tailored content. Here lies the issue.....bear with me:

The tags are specific like:

Pulmonary nodules

Lung cancer


These are all related to the concept of "pulmonary oncology". You'd never ask a new user if they are interested in pulmonary nodules (it's too specific) but you'd definitely have "pulmonary oncology" as a broad topic. What I need is some kind of hierarchy where all the specific topics fall under perhaps 6-7 key over-arching headings. I thought that maybe I could allow the user to, in this case, select pulmonary oncology but under the hood, I'd add all the related tags to their profile. But then they end up with all these interests in their profile that they didn't specifically select - they selected pulmonary oncology. I don't want to tinker with the acts as taggable gem - I want to leverage this gem to do all the lifting when getting tailored feeds for user etc. is this a bad user experience - to automatically select interests for them based on their expressed "general interests"?

I hope I have explained this correctly.

2 Answers 2


You should use stack exchange as your example....the scenario you have described is similar to this platform. I think using this and when onboarding a potential user you should go through these checkboxes of interest in its hierarchal order. So if they check off oncology then you can dive deeper into it. Or you can do keyword search that will save those queries as a condition for the new profile enter image description here

something like this where user searches for keywords of interest. I would also make it so the user can go into their profile setting and tweak those keywords as they see please, whether its adding more or deleting existing. And do 80%/20% split of content delivery 80 being their keyword tailored results 20 general content, giving them an option to explore.

  • Marked as correct answer simply because I have chosen to adopt this approach. The other answer is also very helpful and much appreciated
    – GhostRider
    Nov 8, 2015 at 8:49

This is bad practice possibly. I wouldnt add all related tags to a parent topic and assume they all interest a user.

Heres one design (not sure if its the best just what i thought of).

Its based on a site called Hashtagify.me while searching for rails. enter image description here

I would do the following

  • Show them the general topics they select.
  • Show them the sub topics linked to it and let them toggle them if they are also interested
  • Ie i could see alot of people not caring about python with rails. Or the other way
  • I could also see people not caring about say html if they are just making data levels with rails served up via RESTful APIs.

Figure out what the idea user experience is and strive for that. Dont let the architecture of your software influence the User Experience or user workflows. Find the right user experience that makes sense and then refactor your gems/classes/rails code to achieve what is the optimal solution. When determining optimal user experiences you cant be biased by the current state of the code.

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