Word clouds

Create word clouds from text verbatims


Updated at February 21st, 2020

Let's say your study asked respondents to provide text answers to an open ended question:

The answers are too long to read in one line, and there are too many to show in one bar chart. Word clouds can be a simple and whimsical way to quickly convey the gist of the answers.

Create a word cloud

To turn responses in an element into a word cloud press the circle edit icon to bring up the context menu. Select "More properties...," then under "Chart type" select "Word cloud". This will create a simple cloud showing all verbatim answers:

By default, it represents the frequency of each answer with font size equal to the percentage frequency. Here, the fonts are small because each answer is unique and represents a tiny percentage of the sample.

When displayed this way, the visual data is not interesting because each independent response is unique. 

Split phrases into words

Word clouds are more effective when the visual design clearly represents prevalence of key words. To exhibit the frequencies of individual words, rather than complete responses, select "Edit properties..." again and under "Split" type either:

  • " " (i.e., just a space, without the quotes) or
  • "word" (i.e., just the word 'word' without the quotes)

The first will split the sentences at each space. The second will be a little smarter and split at certain punctuation as well.

This will now split strings at each space into shorter strings, and thus show frequencies of each word:

Customize the chart

You can customize many aspects of the chart including the maximum and minimum font sizes, cloud shape, and colors.  

Currently, these features are editable within the JSON specification for the element.  Select "Edit JSON..." from the context menu.  The relevant parameters are pre-populated under chartOptions:

Available options

Word clouds are powered by the engine by Timothy Chien. The chartOptions block is passed straight to the rendering engine, allowing you to set these options:

  • minFontSize: 5 minimum font size (pixels) 

  • maxFontSize: 60 maximum font size (pixels)

  • scaleToMaxFontSize: true|false whether to scale

  • limit : 60 maximum number of values to draw

  • fontFamily: font to use

  • fontWeight: font weight to use, e.g. "bold" or 600

  • color: color of the text, can be any CSS color

  • weightFactor: number to multiply size of each word

  • backgroundColor: color of the background

  • drawOutOfBound: true allows words bigger than the size of the canvas to extend outside the box

  • shape: "ellipse" The shape of the "cloud" to draw,

    • "circle" (default),
    • "cardioid",
    • "diamond",
    • "square",
    • "triangle",and
    • "star".
  • ellipticity: degree of "flatness" of the word cloud.

  • shuffle: true (default) randomizes points

  • rotateRatio: Probability for word to rotate (1=always, 0=never)

Word clouds for other variables

Many distributions, not just text, can be drawn as word clouds. Values appears as words, and the font size is proportional to its frequency.   For instance, the respondent state could be drawn as a word cloud:

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