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atomic unit of the web: from site to page to tag? July 30, 2006

Posted by electrica in basic blogology, blog business tools, deep blogology, information architecture, tagging, web usability.
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Jakob Nielsen once said, in his Designing Web Usability book, that the atomic unit, the smallest coherent unit of the web was the web page.

At first, people linked to static, or infrequently updated, web sites. Then, as web sites became more complex, requiring site maps, site indexes, and clearly, relevantly labeled tabs, the exact page of a site grew in importance.

Weblogs made linking even more page oriented, with frequent posting on more varied topics. While site search and sidebar post categories were a step in the right direction, they were often unsatisfactory, hit or miss, and time-consuming.

We link, ideally, in most cases, to a specific post we are quoting, rather than to thehome page of a site. Linking to the site’s main index or home page forces the user to navigate to the specific page containing the quote or image or whatever is being referenced. This enables users to go immediately to the specific information, audio, video, photo, or art image we want them to check out.

This is why hardcore bloggers will keep a notebook with post URLs (web addresses) for each post they publish.

Now, tagging each post is all the rage, especially for what is called Web 2.0 designers and advocates. Adding tags to posts is a way to provide a context or keyword identification of a post’s content, prior to actually reading the post. Tags also enable users to see other posts, at other sites, that are tagged with the same words, thus, hopefully, relevant to the same topic.

Many problems arise with tagging. You rely on the honesty and intelligence of the site author who adds a tag or tags to a post. Plus, who knows how relevant and information-rich the posts are going to be, the posts all tagged with a specific word?

Worse yet, and you can see this in YouTube as an example, some sites that you provide content to will not have a good tagging system.

What I mean is this: say you want to tag a post “vaspers the grate”. If the site tells you that the tags must be separated by commas, or put in quotes, you’re alright. You can type in the tags “vaspers the grate, web usability analysis, blogology” (excluding the quotes) for example. Or just “vaspers the grate” (in quotes).

But wait. At some sites, like YouTube (and I’m not picking on them), your tags can be only one word. That’s why my own videos are tagged “CEOblogs” and “vaspers”, rather than “CEO blogs” and “vaspers the grate” (excluding quotes). Because the tag “CEO blogs” are two words, two separate tags, “CEO” and “blogs”, and NOT “CEO blogs”.

This distinction becomes absurd with something like “vaspers the grate” (excluding quotes) as a tag. The tags, plural, become “vaspers”, “the”, and “grate”. I jam two or three words together, as a workaround.

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