Timeline.js Exercise - Retrospective

Of all the tools we used in class, this was the one I was most disappointed in because the experience of using it was far more painful than expected. I'd known about Timeline.js prior to the class since someone had sent out a link to it earlier in the semester and had thought about using it around midterms when I was still thinking about doing a Marvel themed project.

I worked with Hovsep and Gabe to build a timeline of John Boehner's resignation as Speaker of the House. I wasn't able to find the interface we were using in class that day, but I did find the spreadsheets we manipulated. The fact that I had to switch email accounts from my NYU one to my Gmail was a point of frustration - this probably had more to do with security restrictions, but it didn't make a good first use impression. As a UX designer, I expect that if I ran a usability test that the majority of people would give up using the tool at this point because the barrier to entry was high and there wasn't an obvious workaround.

Screenshot of spreadsheet

We ended up not using the interface for the most part to create the timeline; instead, we manually put entries into the timeline. Even by following this methodology the opportunity for error was high (at least, we had a lot of errors). For example, there was some confusion as to what the media field was. We were putting the sources there thinking it would pull the image from the articles, which led to errors being generated. I think that was more obvious in the interface since you had to upload a media file, but that was another pain point for our team.

There's the saying that people won't remember what you've said but they'll remember how they made you feel. Though I understand that the interface is a work in progress, it was a struggle for me to revisit this particular exercise because of the frustration I had with the tool. The current solution is not ideal - I realize I'm probably not the use case this tool is designed for, but there are many usability problems. The intent behind the interface to try and show the user a live updating version of the timeline as they enter data in is a good one, but it still has a long way to go. As for the tool actually fulfilling its purpose, which is to create an interactive timeline of data, I would much prefer to make one out of HTML/CSS myself in the future. The QGIS tool gave me similar frustrations to this one, but there's no denying its capabilities and I can't think of an easier alternative to use that would be a time-effective replacement. For this tool however, there seem to be other timeline building tools such as HSTRY and MyHistro. I needed to have a code to sign up for these, so that makes me think that there's licesnsing fees involved whereas Timeline.js is free and thus good for non-profits or organizations that have a small tech budget. But if I were to build my own timeline, I'd stick to making a one page app in HTML and CSS.

Boehner Walks the Timeline - Timeline.js Exercise

Link to spreadsheet