Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Interactive Timeline

A few days ago, while researching for platform development project about the Elizabethan times, I found the web site of the upcoming movie “Elizabeth – the golden age”. Exploring its content I came up to a very interesting interactive element of the web site – an interactive time line for the Elizabethan era.

“Narrative serves to inform, educate, and entertain. It provides meaning, background and incites interest in what’s next” (Meadows)

Meadows theory can clearly describe that web application. A well designed interactive piece for web use, placed as an extra feature, serves at the same time an informative, an educational and an entertaining role at the same time. Using narrative structures and animation techniques, this interactive section of the web site, provides the user with all the era background information and incites the interest in what’s next – the movie.

In this application the content of narrative has been organized based in time creating a map for the user to navigate. The interactive asset of it gives the user the opportunity to explore the time line not linear as we would think for time based structure. I would say that the narrative is a nodal plot structure example. The user also has the choice to be informed about different parts of the era like the arts, Queen Elizabeth’s life, foreign affaires, and exploration. In that manner the narrative structure is also based in categories.

Meadows, also mentions that interactivity is, like plot, based on fascination and captivation. And in that way this piece is designed. The flash-back technique, taken from video examples, is used in the animation when the time line is introduced to the user. That sets instantly the mood to the user. By viewing it one makes a journey back in time. In the same way also works the horizontal scroll and the quick movement from place to place when choosing a different age from the time line.

The user familiar with the time structure knows from the very start how to navigate and get the information. The feed back is quick helping the interaction to be useful to the user and well comprehend. The imagery and the typography, which are clear and appropriate for the application, result a successful and impressive design.

The only negative asset, that I would like to point out, is that after navigating in the time line referring to Queen Elizabeth’s life, which offered in depth information for its part of it, I noticed that for the other categories there is no further information apart from the ones set on the time line. I understood that there was an intention to concentrate more to the queen’s life as it is the movie’s theme and give the rest as further information but used from the navigation in the first part I was looking for in depth choices in the rest of them too.

To sum up by using interactivity and the elements of narrative the designing team of this web site made an excellent choice with this extra feature giving the user the opportunity to live an entertaining, informative and educational experience.

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