User interfaces for computers in general and web sites in particular seem to be getting on my nerves these days. It's really hard to browse for what you are looking for on a number of buzzword-complaint websites today. Most of them seem to throw a tag cloud and/or search box at you and call it a day.

Search boxes suck as a navigation interface because they assume I already know what I'm looking for. I went to the Google Code - Project Hosting website and wanted to see the kinds of projects hosted there. Below is a screenshot of the website from a few minutes ago.

Notice that the list of project labels (aka tags) shown below the search box are just 'sample labels' as opposed to a complete classification scheme or hierarchy. They don't even list fairly common programming topics like VisualBasic, Javascript or FreeBSD. If I want to browse any of these project labels, I have to resort to poring over search results pages with minimal information about the projects.

Using tag clouds as a navigation mechanism is even more annoying. I recently visited Yahoo! Gallery to see what the experience was like when downloading new plugins for Yahoo! Messenger. On the main page, there is a link that says Browse Applications which takes me to a page that has the following panel on the right side. So far so good.

I click on the Messenger link and then was taken to the following page.

What I dislike about this page is how much space is taken up by useless crap (i.e. the tag cloud full of uninformative tags) while the actual useful choices for browsing such as 'most popular' and 'highest rated' are given so little screen real estate and actually don't even show up on some screens without scrolling down. The tag cloud provides little to no value on this page except to point out that whoever designed is hip to all the 'Web 2.0' buzzwords.

PS: Before anyone bothers to point this out, I realize a number of Microsoft sites also have similar issues.


Wednesday, August 2, 2006 11:38:42 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Re: Google Code project hosting

I don't think I've ever looked for or found an Open Source project by browsing a hierarchy. In that particular context, I think search is highly appropriate. SourceForge has a classification hierarchy and I've wandered through it before, but when I actually want to look for something, I search for it (and usually with Google, not the built-in SourceForge search).
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