How To Make A Timeline On Computer – A timeline infographic is one of the best ways to make complex information more interesting, digestible and accessible.
Tired of sinking hours into expensive online design tools to create a timeline that should take minutes with a timeline template? Don’t have the budget to hire a designer to make it for you?
How To Make A Timeline On Computer
Before developing any new timeline infographics, I like to start with a simple outline to help guide me through the process. This step is important because the design of the timeline will greatly depend on the amount of content you want to include. If you don’t know how much content to fit into the timeline, you can choose the wrong layout design and end up with extra work.
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The idea behind timelines is that you want to provide a bit of information about key events in time, so each event should have, at a minimum, a specific date and a brief description.
Since a timeline should be a visual summary of a series of events, try to keep the description very brief. I generally like to stick to less than 30 words per description, then try to flesh it out with visuals like icons or illustrations to make it visually interesting.
Also remember that having the same amount of text for each event will make it easier to create an attractive design that isn’t asymmetrical.
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So let’s say for your next visual project, you create a timeline infographic that charts the history of popular social media platforms. I’ll start by adding an outline of three of these four basic elements: dates, titles, and short descriptions.
Then I would find a simple visual like an icon to accompany each point. This visual is what sets a timeline infographic apart from a plain old timeline. They draw the reader’s eye, add visual interest, and make it easy to scan the graphic without too much thought.
If you don’t have your own visuals ready to go, you can find something right in the editor. Just go to the left panel and use icon search or photo search to find some fun visuals to match your text:
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This quick outline should be completed in the first step so you can make smart design choices below.
With the outline created, it’s time to choose a layout! This is where you can begin to make critical design choices based on your outline.
Some layout designs are better for longer text, while others are optimized for multiple time points with less text. Let’s review the strengths and weaknesses of each type of timeline layout.
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Vertical layout is the most popular layout for timeline infographics. It comes in two alignments: center and left aligned.
The centered vertical timeline is my personal favorite. In this layout, timelines run straight down the page, with branches coming from alternate sides of the timeline:
Its symmetry and simplicity make it a pleasure to look at and follow. Most people will automatically recognize it as a timeline without studying it for more than a second.
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It is also quite flexible; There is plenty of room for a longer description, and you can simply increase the page length to add more points. Plus, it’s easy to add visuals to this type of layout.
For example, this product roadmap timeline is a great example of a layout that has all the major milestones mapped vertically, from concept to completion. Perfect for organizing your team and visualizing your product roadmap along the way:
Next, we have the other most popular timeline infographic layout: the left-aligned timeline. Instead of branching off both sides of the timeline, the timeline is automatically aligned to the left of the page and all content is placed to the right of the timeline.
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They are ideal for those who want to present complex information sequentially or as a series of steps. For example, if you’re a consultant who outlines product release timelines for your clients, this timeline infographic would be a great way to do it:
A left-aligned vertical layout is perfect for text-heavy timelines with multiple visuals and multiple sections. You can learn how to create timelines like the example above by following the steps in this guide.
I recommend a vertical layout, either centered or left aligned, for most timeline infographics because it’s very flexible. The easiest way to create, edit and manage all types of content.
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You’ve learned how to create a timeline in a vertical format. You may also recognize the horizontal timeline layout from every presentation you’ve seen in the last decade. They seem to be a staple of presentation slide decks everywhere (as below):
While they work well for presentation slides, they aren’t ideal for most infographics. They can only handle 6 or 7 points at a time (on a letter-sized page) before they become too narrow to read. If you have less than 7 points and your description is too short, you can use horizontal layout.
For example, if you’re trying to raise funds for your new business idea, the timeline slide deck above is a great addition to your football deck to showcase your company’s milestones and impress potential investors.
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The final timeline layout you’ll want to use is the snake layout. Simply put, the snake layout moves sideways and looks like a snake. The snake layout is best used for timelines that have many dots and very small text, such as:
The snake layout is the most effective in space, which is useful if you have 10 or more points. The best way to create timelines using a snake layout is to remember one rule: include as little text as possible. Use this format when you want to focus on visuals:
In short, here’s everything you need to know to choose the best layout for your timeline infographic:
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After you’ve decided on a layout, it’s finally time to answer, “How do we create a timeline?” We’ll walk you through the process of creating a template from scratch using our online timeline builder.
This is a very general focused vertical timeline infographic template, so the steps I’ll cover here should apply to most infographic timelines.
Each timeline should be built around the same basic structure: a single line with regularly spaced branches or nodes. It seems obvious, but it’s absolutely important.
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First, start by selecting a vertical line from the Lines and Borders category of the icon library in the left toolbar. Center it and adjust it to run the length of the page, leaving room at the top for the header. This will become the backbone of your timeline.
Then, change the style of this line via the toolbar at the top. Use the Line Width dropdown to set the main line width to at least 2 pixels. For this line we used a width of 4px.
Next, use the “Line Ending 1” and “Line Ending 2” dropdown buttons to add decorations to each end of the line. We chose circles, but vertical lines and arrows will also work most of the time.
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Then, make sure to lock the timeline using the “Lock” button in the top toolbar. This simple step prevents you from accidentally moving the line as you add additional elements.
Finally, go back to the “Lines and Borders” icon library and add a horizontal line for each point in your outline. Use the grid to place them regularly on alternating sides of the main timeline.
Oh, and here’s an extra tip to make the timeline creation process easier: Enable “Grid” in the top toolbar. This is useful when you need to align many objects on a page.
Now that you have the bare bones of your timeline, you can fill in the details. It’s time to add the ingredients.
Start with images, as they should be the focal point of the infographic. Drag icons or photos from our built-in libraries and align each image to its appropriate branch in the timeline.
Next, add text from your outline. Select the Header, Subheader, and Body text boxes from the left toolbar menu and place them on the page next to each branch. Fill the title text box with dates, add your title text to the sub-header text boxes, and add your description to the main text box.
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All the essential elements are now in place, so you can focus on the more visually interesting design of the timeline.
Start by choosing a color scheme to liven things up a bit. Use the background color picker in the left toolbar to change the background color and the color picker in the top toolbar to change the colors of other elements.
Notice how we used the same color for the same elements throughout the timeline? By following a simple three-color scheme for this timeline, we can create a smooth,
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