Lets build on the analysis of tag clouds from Tag Clouds Evolve: Understanding Tag Clouds, and look ahead at what the near future may hold for second generation tag clouds (perhaps over the next 12 to 18 months). As you read these predictions for structural and usage changes, keep two conclusions from the previous post in mind: first, adequate context is critical to sustaining the chain of understanding necessary for successful tag clouds; second, one of the most valuable aspects of tag clouds is as visualizations of semantic fields.Based on this understanding, expect to see two broad trends second in generation tag clouds.
In the first instance, tag clouds will continue to become recognizable and comprehensible to a greater share of users as they move down the novelty curve from nouveau to known. In step with this growing awareness and familiarity, tag cloud usage will become:
1. More frequent
2. More common
3. More specialized
4. More sophisticated
In the second instance, tag cloud structures and interactions will become more complex. Expect to see:
1. More support for cloud consumers to meet their needs for context
2. Refined presentation of the semantic fields underlying clouds
3. Attached controls or features and functionality that allow cloud consumers to directly change the context, content, and presentation of clouds
Together, these broad trends mean we can expect to see a second generation of numerous and diverse tag clouds valued for content and capability over form. Second generation clouds will be easier to understand (when designed correctly…) and open to manipulation by users via increased functionality. In this way, clouds will visualize semantic fields for a greater range of situations and needs, across a greater range of specificity, in a greater diversity of information environments, for a greater number of more varied cloud consumers.