Problems with UI and Tagging

Just read an interesting post by an Anonymous Usability Designer about how Human Interaction Interfaces (i.e. operating system user interfaces) are still in the stone age. I couldn’t agree more. And I’m not just talking on your computer either, I think this problem is even worse on the Web.

I mean think about it. How many clicks does it require you to do something as simple as saving a bookmark even? How about saving something on del.icio.us where you have to tag and classify the info you want saved? It’s nuts. No wonder people are getting frustrated with technology. Instead of it working for us, we are working for it. It shouldn’t be this way. What would I like to see instead? Two things actually. More utilization of dragging and dropping. And, more usage of auto-tagging or auto-classifying of information that you are saving, which is where most people waste their time (or have to work for the technology).

For example, when I save a file or bookmark, I should be able to search or view those bookmarks by name, tag, date, and most importantly of all, relationship. Yes, relationship. I don’t know how many times I’ve remember a site I had visited because I remembered the original source site I found it through. By remembering this referrer site, I browse through it and again find the site I was looking for. But as I said above, I should also be able to search by name, sort by date (i.e. I found it a few days ago), or by tag (i.e. technology-related site).

Now this is where it gets interesting and you could probably save yourself a lot of time. Of name, tag, date, and relationship, tagging is the only thing that requires you to actually decide what you want it to be. Everything else can be automatically determined. The date and name are added by the system and yes, even the referrer, could even be tagged by your browser (since it just looks at the referrer site to the one you are on). Tagging though still requires your thought and interaction. But what if you created your categories ahead of time? Would that make things easier? I think so. Let me explain.

If you utilized a dragging and dropping method to grab a bookmark and drop it to say a side panel folder (which is always easily accessible), you could actually tag the bookmark while moving it. To do this, you just drag the bookmark and drop it upon the appropriate subfolder to place it within the appropriate category. That’s it. You’ve just sorted and tagged your bookmark by dragging and dropping it in one motion. What if you had multiple sublayers of tags? You could still accomplish this, assuming your folders were spring loaded. You just move the bookmark over the appropriate folder, it opens automatically to view more folders, and then you drop it on the one you want.

I actually wondered if there was another way auto-tagging could be accomplished and I realized that the sites themselves could auto-tag their own site, so that when a person saves the bookmark, those tags go along with it to define it. There is a problem with this approach though. Everyone has their own naming convention for their tags and, even more so, my usage of a site may differ from your usage of it (and therefore the tag could be totally different).

Again, all said and done, the most important thing here is that information should be auto-organizing and auto-tagging as much as possible. The less a person has to do to save a file or open a file, the more productive and focused they can be with their work.

BTW I’ve been utilizing something like what I’ve described above for the past couple of months and I’m enjoying the simplicity of it. I basically have my left 4/5ths of my screen space for where I display my current application in use and the right 1/5th of the screen is where I display folders to my files and information. Therefore, when I download a file, it is immediately accessible from this right side folder. Also whatever I’m currently working on, these files are immediately accessible in this right side folder area as well. I don’t have to go digging for them.