From zero to hero: the journey of a timeline from text heavy to interactive - creating more inclusive websites

ALIA Library

Laurent, Nicola; Tonoli, Peter

ALIA Information Online 2017 Conference, 13-17 February 2017 Sydney: Data Information Knowledge
This conference paper discusses new methods of information dissemination to encourage engagement with content.
Abstract: In the minds of many, dense text and limited photos equals boring - yet numerous libraries and content providers use this format to present the valuable information that is burrowed away in their databases and catalogues. Innovative new methods of information dissemination are required to pique public interest, capture attention, and enticing people to engage with content. Digital humanities tools can make content go from zero to hero, just by changing the aesthetic.
The Find & Connect web resource (Commonwealth of Australia, 2011-2017) is a government-funded initiative, which provides information for individuals raised in Australian out-of-home care from the beginning of the last century. Anecdotal feedback, and formal usability testing, regarding the site suggested it relied too heavily on text to deliver the content. To alter this perception, the pre-existing plain text hyperlinked timeline was transformed into a visually engaging and interactive experience for the user - using TimelineJS software by Knight Lab (Northwestern University, 2015). The new format brings together otherwise disperse content into an easily navigable, intuitive interface.
Modifying the timeline code template to create a well-referenced robust tool, that was also visually appealing, was not always simple and required the resolution of several broader issues. A fundamental shift in the design process involved moving away from the Google Spreadsheet provided, and into JSON files. In addition, the hosting of the timeline was relocated to internal servers to remove the reliance on external providers.
Large images, limited text, and interaction are three points of variation of the newly created timeline on the Find & Connect web resource. Initial feedback suggests this timeline version vastly improves user experience. The new timeline engages the user, encourages exploration of the content on the site, and showcases certain elements of the collection reviving a story that was otherwise lost and forgotten.


Deakin, ACT: Australian Library and Information Association
University of Melbourne