Tell Compelling Stories with Interactive Timelines

Interactive Timelines

By Dorothy Shamonsky


Timelines are effective visual tools to organize and represent time-based events, such as a company’s history or plan for the future. Timelines don’t have to use dates; they can just indicate sequence, such as Step 1, Step 2, etc. The defining characteristic of a timeline is that it presents a linear sequence of events.

No More Old-School Timelines

You probably remember timelines from history class. They were packed with events that you likely knew little about. They weren’t that informative because they didn’t provide details, only the context of time. To understand the significance of a bunch of unfamiliar events and how they relate to each other it’s important to understand the timing of those events — order and length — but it’s also essential to understand the details.

Traditional timelines weren’t up to the task.

Fortunately, that’s changed. Timelines have gone digital. They’re interactive. Now, you can pan back and forth across them to explore specific events that interest you. And, you can quickly dive into details — learn more about concepts and ideas presented — without losing the context of the timeline itself.

A digital timeline can present a snapshot or overview of a story, yet can be dense with information. This allows the opportunity to deep dive into sub-stories by selecting specific text or images. This interactivity — the ability to scroll, zoom in and out, and drill into more details — makes today’s timelines richer, more informative and just plain fun to use.

Interactive Storytelling Educates and Engages

Using ViewPoint’s pannable image feature it's possible to construct these types of interactive timelines, which combine still or moving images and text to create an engaging narrative. A rich storytelling tool, an interactive timeline can concurrently tell both a simple and a complex tale, depending on the interest level of the user.

Here are two ways you could use this type of interactive timeline to present details on your company’s products or services, or about the company itself.

1 Company history

You have a touchscreen kiosk in your corporate lobby. Use an interactive timeline to showcase your company’s evolution from small startup to global powerhouse. By panning across the timeline, visitors can get an overview of your company’s history. If they want to know more, they can delve into specific events by tapping on images or names that interest them.

2 Future direction

You’re giving an all-hands-on-deck presentation to fire up employees about your organization’s future direction, and re-purposing the talk on touchscreen kiosks positioned in high foot-traffic areas like the corporate cafeteria. A digital timeline lets you elegantly show where your company is heading, say by highlighting a series of planned innovations or milestones. By tapping for more details, employees can learn more about specific projects and get a feel for progress to date.

At ViewPoint, we’re always looking for interesting, new ways to use digital touch technology to enhance understanding and empower more effective communication.

Dorothy Shamonsky

ViewPoint Interactive Solutions, Director of User Experience

Dorothy Shamonsky, Ph.D. is Chief UX Strategy Officer for ICS and ViewPoint. She is focused on designing natural user interfaces to achieve simple-but-compelling user experiences for emerging technologies and the Internet of Things. She has 30+ years of experience in a broad range of user experience (UX) skills, including UX strategy, user research, interaction design, visual design, and programming. Dorothy is passionate about creating usable beauty and beautiful usability.