The use of text clouds can offer a fun, visually appealing method of displaying the frequency or popularity of words on a web page. Through the creation of various algorithms, text clouds can be presented in an array of shapes and sizes. Often the frequency or popularity of text within the clouds is represented through increased font-sizes, font-weights or color. The text or terms within the cloud are often placed randomly within the cloud shape as seen in the following figure:
Merely relying on font-sizes, weights and color to convey hierarchy can exclude some users from accessing important information on the website, though. Without the proper HTML structure, a non-sighted user, for example, may not have the ability to determine the importance of one term over another. To simulate this experience, find a text cloud on the web and ignore style sheets within the browser. Most likely, all of the hyperlinks within the cloud will appear the same, without any presentation or structure to aid in the intended purpose.
There are many open source examples of tag clouds (text clouds, collocate clouds, data clouds) on the Internet. Many of these do not focus on accessible HTML structure; some come close to providing the optimal solution. If you are looking for a text cloud solution, ensure that the raw cloud data is ultimately structured with HTML list elements (ordered lists defined by the
OL tag). Be mindful that some open source solutions merely use unordered lists (
UL tag). Although unordered lists can accurately convey the total number of cloud items, unordered list structure will not provide the means to denote the importance or frequency of the list items (i.e. tags within the cloud). To properly convey the frequency or popularity of the text clouds through HTML markup, ordered lists must be presented on the page.
By ensuring that the raw data is structured with