Garrick Schmitt from Avenue A | Razorfish is giving a presentation at the IA Summit called “Do People Really Use Tag Clouds.” See the description in Summit program or the slides for the presentation on SlideShare.
Seems like much of the presentation is based on a survey they did of 475 Americans about their use of Web 2.0 features and artifacts, like wikis and such. See their Digital Consumer Behavior Study.
The thing that caught my eye was the statistic on use of tab clouds (which gives the presentation its name, obviously). 65% of those surveyed reported never having used a tag cloud, and 23% using them only once in a while. (12% use them more frequently).
Interestingly, those numbers change when asked, Do you find tag clouds helpful? Here, 39% said never, 29% once in a while, 24% most of the time, and 7% all of the time.
This mirrors a claim I made in Designing Web Navigation (Chapter 3):
“As a navigational mechanism, tag clouds seem to have limited value. If a visitor has a known information need, for instance, a cloud of links isn’t really efficient. They seem to be more of a novelty than an effective navigation mechanism. But the visual weighting of links provides valuable information: it shows at a glance what others are talking about or about the concerns of a community. Tag clouds reflect a certain zeitgeist for a site or topic.”
I was glad to come across some data that supports my claim.