“Timeline” means different things to different people; it depends on where you are in your life. Did your history book come to mind? Or maybe your company’s latest presentation? By adding the benefits of technology to the old-school timeline, we get the interactive timeline, a much more engaging and effective communication tool.
In this post we’ll look at how to create a free interactive timeline that is easy to share and where you can include as much information as you want, whether for use in class, or in your presentations, projects, and business proposals.
What is a timeline?
A timeline is a resource that is used to visually display a series of events in chronological order over a given period of time, or to display the steps or stages that make up a process in sequential order.
The timeline is a communication tool used in educational content, in the business world, and in many other varied contexts. It can be used to represent historical facts, milestones in a person’s life, processes, inventions, or anything that happens over time, even to plan your vacation!
Timelines are very powerful in helping to understand a sequence of events. By offering the information visually, it is remembered much better. It’s also a super flexible format:
- It can span any period of time, from a few minutes to several centuries.
- You can show both past and future events.
- It can be of a given duration (one month, one century) or start and end at any time to show the period that interests us.
- Milestones can be marked in any unit of time: Years, months, weeks, hours…
- It can be made in both vertical and horizontal format.
Timelines have traditionally been used on paper. Since the dawn of the internet, online timelines can take on another dimension that makes them a much more powerful and fun communication tool. This extra dimension or layer of information is achieved through interactivity.
The different types of timelines
Depending on what you want to depict, you can choose one type of timeline or another. They can also be classified according to different criteria.
Horizontal and vertical timelines
The most obvious difference is between vertical timelines and horizontal timelines. How do you know which one suits your purpose? The answer is related to the information you want to present and also to how you are going to distribute it.
For example, if it’s an online timeline and your audience will view it on their phones, a vertical format may be more convenient.
The vertical format is also suitable for showing the passage of time or increasing numbers, for example, the profit growth of a business. And if your timeline has many phases, you can display it on different pages, as in this example of a vertical timeline.
Horizontal timelines are the most commonly used. They usually show the progress from left to right, i.e., if for example it’s a timeline that shows a process, the first step would be on the left and the last step on the right.
Other types of timeline
- Historical timelines: These show events in the order in which they happened in time. They are very useful for teaching and learning history, since the information is shown in a visual way, making it much easier to understand and assimilate.
- Biographical timelines: These are used to portray the most relevant events in the life of a person, usually a historical or famous character.
- Process timelines: These are used to show the steps of a process in sequential order.
- Event timelines: These are a very effective tool in the organization of an event, since they allow you to share the agenda in a simple and visual way.
Special dates calendar
The benefits of creating an interactive timeline
An interactive timeline includes items or buttons that you can interact with. People can get additional information by clicking on these interactive elements or by hovering their mouse over them.
In an interactive timeline you can find information in many formats: Text, images, links, maps, audios…
This allows for much richer content. When you create your timeline online, you can expand on the information as much as you like, and the people who visit it can view the content at their own pace, receiving the information only when they want to consume it.
What’s more, interactive content engages: people feel motivated when they can participate and the experience becomes much more meaningful.
Timeline examples: Here’s how to use them
This is its most widespread use, especially when teaching history. It is very useful for teaching the main milestones or historical events of a given era in a visual way. But it can be used in any subject in which you need to describe a process, a biography, or a series of events.
In the corporate world
Timelines have many applications in the business world too, where they have become very popular. For example, in the pitch you create to present your business, one of the slides you simply can’t leave out is the timeline. In this slide, the idea is to show the current situation of the business and its future projection.
The slide you see below is taken from a Genially pitch template.
They can also be used in storytelling to create the story of your company or show its evolution in a much more visual way.
In a business proposal, a timeline will help you convey information about the phases that make up your service or the deadlines that may need to be set.
In Genially, you’ll find plenty of templates for creating super attractive business proposals, and all of them include a creative timeline template where you can include your information.
All company departments and activities need to define processes and deadlines from time to time, but this need crops up more frequently in project management and marketing. Timelines allow tasks and stages to be scheduled, and interactivity makes it possible to display information in layers, making it as visual as possible.
How to make a free interactive timeline
Making an interactive timeline is easy.
In broad terms, creating an interactive timeline is as simple as marking the beginning and an end of something, and sorting important concepts in chronological or sequential order in the middle.
One good practice is to start by organizing your information: define how many points your timeline will have and what you want to highlight in each one of them. Once you have this in mind, creating your online timeline will be a breeze.
Pro tip: to convey information effectively on a visual level, the separation between the markers that point to each milestone must be proportional to the time between them. This makes the process easier to understand at first glance. This may be the only formal specification, because the digital timeline is one of the most flexible formats available (and also one of the most popular in Genially).
A step by step tutorial
Genially, the best tool for creating an interactive timeline for free
To make an interactive timeline, you need a tool that lets you add interactivity to the items you want to add additional information to.
There are many tools for creating timelines. If you use Genially, you can complete your creation with the free version of the tool. Genially also provides the following benefits:
- It’s very easy to use: You can add interactivity and animations in just a few clicks, without having to know how to code.
- It lives in the cloud: When you make changes to your timeline, the information is automatically updated.
- You can choose a custom size for your creation.
- You can add as much information as you like, in any format: text, audio, video, maps… even insert posts on social media.
- You can share it with a link, or you can also embed your timeline on any website or share it on platforms like Canvas, Google Classroom, or MS Teams. You can also present it even offline: if downloaded in HTML format, the interactivity and animation effects will still work.
- You can make the elements of your digital timeline draggable, and thus create super motivating training content. Try dragging the milestones in this historical timeline to place them in chronological order.
- And finally, you don’t have to start from scratch: There are tons of templates! Using a template allows you to create much more quickly. They’re completely customizable, with professional designs, and super engaging and effective; they’ll help you structure information. At the end of this post you will find a handy selection, and you’ll find many more if you search ‘timeline’ in your Genially Panel.
To be more efficient when creating your virtual timeline, it’s a good idea to gather all the information you want to communicate before you start looking at templates. Make sure to add different content formats to make your timeline more dynamic and entertaining. The more creative and surprising your online timeline is, the better.
Once you have your content ready to go, choose a template and click on ‘Use this template’ to go to the Editor. You can start by editing the first layer of information: the milestone markers and the text. It’s also a good idea to add a background image related to your theme. You can even put in a map if it provides useful information.
Most templates already include interactivity and animations, which are designed to make your timeline attract attention. Simply edit them to include the content you want to display. Before you realize it, you’ll have awesome content to share with the world.
If you want other people to be able to see your online timeline and other creations, activate your social profile. All your best geniallys on one page!
Interactive timeline templates
Timeline Data Vis
Timeline Squares Diagram
Timeline: The Digestive System
Stages of Human Evolution