Interactive Timeline Brings a Non-Profit’s History to Life

Lori Halley 16 September 2010 3 comments

theatre-timeline Traditionally, non-profit websites have included a list of highlights or significant dates in the organization’s history. And that’s a great idea. Showcasing your non-profit’s past helps to establish its stability, to build trust, and to communicate the general development of the organization and its mission.

But let’s face it, those “Our History” pages can be deadly dull!

What if your website visitors could explore your non-profit’s past by clicking around a colorful timeline, instead?  Just imagine creating an interactive infographic that lets viewers quickly get an overview of your organization’s achievements, then choose for themselves where to delve deeper for more detail...

Inspired by 7 Eye-popping Interactive Timelines (and 3 ways to create one) at 10000Words.net, the Columbia Children's Theatre in South Carolina did just that.

Have a peek at their Production History timeline. It’s still very much a work-in-progress right now, we’re told, but I think this should give you some great ideas for how you might use an interactive timeline to jazz up your own non-profit’s history page:

theatre timeline view 1

As website visitors move their mouse cursor across the page, little “speech bubbles” appear for each black dot on the timeline – each one with a date, a photograph, and the title of the show that opened on that date.

Click on any of those bubbles for a larger photograph (look, a pirate!) and more details about the event. Using this timeline will be very intuitive for most, but for your less savvy website visitors there’s a plus sign (+) in the upper right of each bubble to give the hint that there’s more to be seen.

theatre timeline view 2

But that's not all.

theatre timeline view 3

See the sliders at the very bottom of the timeline? Dragging those with the mouse lets the viewer zoom in on a specific period of time. That means you can enter a great many events or other dates of note into a short timeframe and it will still all be readily accessible – not a big mishmash of overlapping items.

Another feature to note is the lighter blue bars just above the sates. Rather than attaching a note to a specific date, this lets you add information that applies to a larger span of time, as the Columbia Children’s Theatre has done here:

theatre timeline view 4

Could Your Non-Profit Use an Interactive Timeline?
Make Your Own, Free!

A free online tool called TimeToast was used to create the Columbia Children’s Theatre timeline, which was then embedded in a page on the organization’s website. So far, TimeToast is the best-looking and most user-friendly tool I’ve come across – but it is certainly not the only choice you’ve got.

Another timeline-making tool, a bit more sophisticated, but also with a bit of a corresponding learning curve for non-techies, is SIMILE Widgets Timeline. It’s open-source software spawned by a project at MIT and now maintained by volunteer developers of the open source community. (For a cut-and-paste service based on the SIMILE, check out My Timelines.)

Here are a few more options for creating your non-profit’s timeline:

What else should be on this list? If you’ve discovered a cool tool to create an interactive timeline, please tell us about it in the comments!

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Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Thursday, 16 September 2010 at 9:52 AM

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Comments

  • Nate Knatterud-Hubinger said:

    Thursday, 16 September 2010 at 9:33 AM

    I tried out Timetoast to make a history of my org - Mano a Mano, and was impressed. Very easy to use, and free!

  • ephraim said:

    Thursday, 16 September 2010 at 9:39 AM

    Rebecca-

    thank you! thank you! thank you!

    we are right now revamping our entire site and I was looking for a tool which could tell our story thru a timeline. extremely timely & informative! now I just have to choose the best program for our needs...

  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Thursday, 16 September 2010 at 10:35 AM

    For another TimeToast example to look at, here's Nate's timeline http://manoamano.org/articles/2010/09/16/mano-a-mano-timeline (or http://www.timetoast.com/timelines/73292) of Mano a Mano's work with impoverished communities in Bolivia.

    Ephraim, I'll look forward to seeing what you come up with for a timeline for Machshava Tova!

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