A timeline can be effectively used to visualize a list of events in chronological order. It can also facilitate the visualization of the duration between events as well as their overlaps if any. A very commonly known example of a timeline is that of Facebook when in the year 2011, the classic profile was revamped into a timeline so as to give a holistic view about the person’s life instead of only showing the recent posts.
For this lab report, we made use of TimelineJS, an opensource tool that allows users to build interactive timelines by means of a Google Spreadsheet. In order to get hands-on experience using the tool, I decided to create a timeline to cover the inspiring journey of the tech giant, Amazon.
The largest internet company by revenue and one of the world’s most valuable companies, Amazon is an American multinational company focussing on e-commerce, cloud computing, digital streaming, and artificial intelligence.
In order to get started with building the timeline, I looked up the sample timelines listed on the website. The timeline that especially caught my attention was that based on Revolutionary User Interfaces. As a budding User Experience designer, the idea of a human-computer interface has always been of great interest to me.
The timeline, Revolutionary User Interfaces, in its introduction discussed the ubiquity of computers and how these have contributed to evolving the interfaces to be more intimate. While I expected to learn about the graphical user interface, what I did not expect was a few interesting examples that were also covered. One such example was that of Pascal’s calculator, whose little wheels, as mentioned could have probably been an inspiration for the iPod click wheel.
Though the timeline was extremely informative, and captured the essence of a user interface from an extremely early phase, the same could have been made more engaging by making it more story-like to improve its narrative.
Choosing a topic
With more than 197 million customers across the globe each month visiting its website, Amazon has now become a household name for e-commerce. In addition to this, Amazon’s cloud computing infrastructure has been proliferating and is silently becoming a core part of the internet, so much so that in an analysis conducted by DeepField Networks in 2012 revealed that 1 percent of all Internet traffic in North America traveled in and out of Amazon.com data centers.
Considering the above-mentioned reasons, I thought that it would be interesting to unravel the journey that the company has carved to become the largest internet company in the world by revenue.
In order to make the timeline, I made use of TimelineJS, an opensource tool allowing users to create visually rich timelines. The software is extremely easy to use with the illustrated steps listed on the homepage of the website. TimelineJS provides a link to a Google Spreadsheet with predefined columns that can be filled with data based on the topic of your choice and the same can be rendered into a timeline by simply saving the sheet and pasting the concerning link in the input box provided for the same.
In addition to the TimelineJS tool, I made use of multiple sources from the internet in order to gather information about the milestones and remarkable events occurring in Amazon’s 26-year-old journey. Sources used to gather information include Wikipedia, Business Insider, Mashable, and CNN to name a few.
1994-1998 – Amazon launches itself as an online bookstore, to tackle the bookstore market which was then ruled by Barnes and Noble.
1998-2005– Amazon expands its catalogue to include not just books but also CDs, DVDs, clothing, toys etc.
2006-2010 – Amazon moves into cloud-computing with Amazon Web Services. In addition to this, Kindle was also introduced in this phase.
2011-Present – Amazon continued to launch new products and cross the market caps of both $100 billion and $1 trillion, becoming the most valuable internet company.
The tool, TimelineJS is extremely easy to use, irrespective of your level of expertise. It helps you transform a spreadsheet into a visually rich, interactive timeline. What I noticed was that presenting information in the form of a timeline makes it much easier to consume, by arranging the events in chronological order, thus giving it a narrative perspective.
Coming from a background of computer science, moving forward I would like to explore the possible customization that can be applied to the timelines, to create an even more engaging experience.