How to: Create an Interactive Timeline

Timelines are such a mainstream part of our media consumption that I do not think that anyone has completely avoided them. Especially in education, timelines are used often to create a linear organization of large blocks of time. If text was used to illustrate the happenings of these time periods, it would be overwhelming and hard to process. Timelines are a compromise between words and images – they incorporate the two into a visually spacious style that makes information more digestible.

Interactive timelines as a genre were born in the Internet-age. Putting timelines on the internet gave timeline designers the opportunity to add many modal forms to create a more comprehensive experience. Often, these timelines link to relevant websites. Some have funny or informative gifs, or play music. Ultimately, whether investigating events on a historical continuum or studying the evolution of a social and/or cultural phenomenon, interactive timelines are an excellent visual for helping students recognize the cause and effect relationships between events.

Image result for infographic

  1. Create an outline for your timeline infographic

Creating an outline is arguably the most important step in designing a timeline. This step is crucial because the design of a timeline is dependent on the type and amount of content you want to include. Without knowing how much content you have to fit in the timeline, you might choose the wrong layout, and you’ll end up doing a ton of extra work.

always sunny conspiracy GIF

When designing an outline, there are four major aspects of a timeline to keep in mind: dates, descriptions, headers, and images.

Try to keep the descriptions pretty brief. I usually like to aim for less than 30 words per description, then try to spice it up with some visuals like icons or illustrations to make it visually exciting.

  1. Pick a layout for your timeline infographic

To choose the best layout for your infographic, you’ll want to consider the number of points in your outline and the amount of text associated with each point. Depending on the length of each of your descriptions, as well as the overall amount of content you’ve outlined, some layouts will be better at relaying information than others.

  1. Add dates, text, and images to your timeline infographic

Now it is time to fill in your infographic! You’ve chosen a skeleton for your timeline, and now it time to fill in the details. I recommend starting with images, since they tend to be the focal point of the infographic. Next, add the text from your outline.

happy kermit the frog GIF

You’ve done it! You’ve created an infographic. Depending on your subject material, you can now share it on whatever medium it was made for. Yay!


2 thoughts to “How to: Create an Interactive Timeline”

  1. Bhavya,
    I love how you decided to create a timeline for your experiment. I think many times timelines can be overlooked because they appear very academic, when in reality they are a great multimodal tool. In your blog post I think that you chose great points to include to help people create a timeline. Making an outline is key because a timeline is just like a story. There is a beginning, middle, and end, so it is important to know what you want to include before starting.

  2. Great post! All of your instructions are very helpful and concise. One question I had while reading was this: when choosing the layout of one’s timeline, what are the options? Does it refer to simply vertical/horizontal timeline orientation, or are there other layouts to choose from? Which layouts are better for which type of information? Overall, I learned a lot here and feel ready to make my own timeline!

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