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Today I want to talk to you about something that we see a lot in UI. We tend to not really look more deeply into what they truly are. Tags are often overlooked and full of hidden complexities.

The reason why I’m bringing this up is because at work, we have had a lot of back and forth on what should we really design for tags.

Intro to Tags and Interactions

Tags intro hidden complexities

Intro to the hidden complexities of “simple” UI elements like tags

Just a brief introduction about tags. Bootstrap, like many other open source UI libraries, offers tags. At face value, you see that someone can create a tag, and they can add it to something. If you’ve used tags before, which I think we all have, you can group things that are similar.

How Tags can get complex… fast

Tag creation and complexity

Ease of creating tags for a lot of users can add up at a system level

When we started digging into the complexity of user-generated tags, designers often pushed back by saying that we were overthinking it. When we dug into it a little bit more, the initial interactions are pretty simple. If you’re going to make a tag, you can click on the “Add Button”. You can name your tag and then you could customize your tags.

I do that a lot in Evernote. Big Evernote user and fan, if you will.

Questions we had to uncover more hidden complexities

Hidden complexity with tags

An example of how the creating tags can quickly add to complexity around organization

I’m one person who is able to have access to creating tags from my Evernote. And if you have more than one person on the same system with the same ability, this sort of problem can multiply. What can happen if you have multiple people creating this same thing?

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Matt Eng

Matt Eng

DesignOps Manager. Based in Austin,TX. Worked with clients such as Alcatel-Lucent, Ogilvy, RBC, Deloitte, Whirlpool, Polycom, Symantec, and Pebble. Matt teaches, mentors, and speaks about design, creativity, and fostering stronger connections within teams.