How to do the Tiki-Toki
Plug-and-play digital timeline development
Timelines are particularly helpful in digital humanities projects for temporal organization and visualization of data and content. For example, situating data on a timeline creates context by locating each entry within a larger visual narrative. But timelines can be fiddly to create and even trickier to make graphically appealing. While there are a number of tools available to help you create digital timelines (Neatline.org, among them), Tiki-Toki appears to be the front-runner in terms of aesthetics and customization, but also in the ability to embed various kinds of media with plug-and-play ease. As such, Tiki-Toki bills itself as a tool for creating “beautiful, interactive timelines” with ease. Here, we’ll find out just how easy it really is.
First off, you’ll need an account. To get started, head over to the Tiki-Toki homepage. For the purposes of this tutorial, we’ll be working with the web app. (There is a desktop version of this software available; however, beyond the demo version, you must purchase it.) For the web app, there are a few account options to choose from, including a basic, free account that allows you to create a single, shareable, interactive timeline. That’ll do for the purposes of this tutorial, but if you want to, say, embed your timeline on your own website (as opposed to viewing it via a unique URL), you’ll need one of the premium accounts. The premium options also allow you to create multiple timelines (the free option allows only one), collaborate on timeline design with other users, and avoid advertisements. The “Teacher” education account may be of particular interest to instructors as it has the option of creating up to 50 accounts for students to generate individual, sharable timelines (though, based on a handful of second-hand reports, this iteration of the system is perhaps a bit clumsy and lacks a bit of necessary control over the pupil’s accounts). These upgrades range in price from $7.50 per month to $25 per month depending on the kind of account you choose. Take your pick, do your thing, and set up the account of your choosing. I’ll wait here.
Got it? Good. We’re on our way.
Once you’re signed up, you can go to your account’s page to start creating your first timeline. It’ll look something like this:
Once you’ve entered all of your basic information, create your timeline by pressing the “Create new timeleine” button at the bottom of the form:
Now, you have a blank timeline. Congratulations. Let’s create your first entry on your timeline, or as Tiki-Toki labels it, a “story.” After creating your new timeline, you should have a screen that looks something like this:
Go ahead and press the “Create New Story” button in the admin panel by opening the tab titled “Admin” in the top right hand corner of the screen (as long as you are logged in, this is always available here). Note that this admin panel is where you will make any changes to your timeline — anything from adding a new story to adjusting the appearance of the whole timeline to finding the code to embed your timeline on your website. In the boxes, enter the necessary information for your story. Choose a title (1), the beginning and ending date for the story (2), a brief description (3), and, if you so desire, a link to an outside source (5). You also have the option to categorize your stories (4), which I’ll detail in a moment.
Once you save (6) your story (which you must do each time you create a new story), it should appear on your timeline as shown below:
If you press the “More” button in the story’s tab, it opens the story in a larger window so the user can view the entire description. If you included a link to an outside source, the “Find out more” button allows your user to follow the link. This isn’t immediately apparent, so I’ve alluded to it in my description to help guide the reader (while this is a little clumsy to do for each story, it does give the opportunity to allude to where it is the link will take the user).
Congratulations, you’ve created a basic timeline. Repeat the previous steps to enter more stories (up to 500 per timeline) and you’re well on your way.
But wait! There’s more.
I briefly mentioned the option for associating your story with a category. Categories allow you to color code and organize your stories. For example, I am categorizing my stories, which are articles dealing with Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman, by designating each as “press,” a “feature,” or a “review,” based on the article’s content. As indicated by the white arrow below, the category will appear as a color coded tab on the top left corner of each story box. To set your categories, select the admin panel, choose the “Categories” tab, and enter your title (1), choose the color you want to identify with that category (2), select the layout (3), and save your selections (4). Each category you create will appear in the categories section of the admin tab (5) where you can edit or delete them as necessary.
However, you have options with regards to how you display your stories. See below, for example, how each category is represented in strata and the stories that belong to that category appear within its respective color band. For particularly crowded timelines, this arrangement can help reduce clutter and emphasize categorical groupings you designate.
To change the arrangement of your timeline, choose the settings tab in the admin panel. Here, you can adjust the overall settings for your timeline, including start and end dates, default spacing, and, as we are discussing, the mode of viewing. Select the view type menu and you’ll see four options. To create categorized strata, choose “category bands.” Simple enough, no? In this same tab, you can also set a default zoom and choose the date on which your timeline will begin by default.
Another viewing option includes a 3d zoom that has a distinctly Star Wars-esque, “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away” feel to it. The parameters for this option can be set by choosing the 3d settings tab within the admin panel and then activated by selecting the small circle in the bottom left of the screen (this is also how you revert back to the 2d view from the 3d view). In 3d, the timeline will look something like this:
That pretty much covers the basic basics, but there are numerous additional functions for embedding additional material such as RSS feeds that create each post as a new story on your timeline, as well as options for incorporating images and YouTube videos into your timeline. In these instances, the Timeline Admin Guide that we hid away earlier in the tutorial is quite helpful.
But once you’ve created such a lovely, media-rich timeline, what to do with it? How do you share it with the world? Tiki-Toki offers a few options for sharing your timeline. Though, if you are using the free account, the only way to share your timeline is with its unique URL in the browser’s address bar. You can copy and paste this link into whatever media suits your project.
Below is the timeline chronicled throughout this tutorial as viewed from the user’s perspective via the unique URL. The user can manipulate their view of the timeline by selecting the settings menu (1) in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen. And the 3d function (2) mentioned previously, is available in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen.
With a premium account, however, you also have the ability to embed your timeline on a personal website. In doing so, you can choose the dimensions, set the default viewing mode, and fix the parameters by which your users may adjust their viewing experience. Should you care to, you can view the timeline chronicled here embedded in its parent project webpage. (Be warned: it and the whole site are currently under construction!)
Whether using a unique URL or the option to embed, be sure that you set your timeline to “Public” viewing mode. Otherwise, your users won’t be able to view your product. To set your timeline to “Public,” enter the admin panel (1) and choose “Advanced Settings” at the top of the “Settings” tab (2). Within the Timeline Advanced Settings window, scroll (3) until you see the drop-down menu for Privacy settings (4). Be sure this is set to “Public” if you want your to be timeline sharable. If you want your timeline to be visible only to those logged in to their Tiki-Toki accounts, choose the “Private” option in the drop-down menu. You also have the ability to password protect your timeline by selecting that option in this menu.
You can now share your aesthetically pleasing, media-enhanced timeline with the world. And that’s what it’s all about.