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I'm making a company history page for 2005 to today.

Each year has a paragraph about what happened that year.

I'm conflicted as to whether I should show 2005 first (and let the user scroll down to 2013) or reversed, where I show 2013 first (scrolling down to 2005).

My thinking for both is:

  • 2005 - 2013: The history is like a story, so it should start at the beginning

  • 2013 - 2005: The latest information should be up the top. So it should start at the latest.

This page will probably be updated once or twice a year. At the moment there is a bit of scrolling.

Are there any studies or thoughts?

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4 Answers 4

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As an HR professional, reverse chronological is ALWAYS the preferred order when looking for information. I don't need (or want) irrelevant information.

I think you should determine how you want the information to be interpreted. Is it a story? From day 1. Is it a company update? Latest, first. You may need to evaluate who your audience is, as well.

The alternative is to frame the updates with an introduction. Something like "In 2005, we started with 2 people and a dream. Today, we're working on ..." or "Last year, we were able to ..." and continue with reverse chronological.

Usability (form) can and should follow purpose (or function). Determine your purpose, and your best option will come from that.

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Now that I think about it it, it's more of a story of how we evolved over the years as opposed to snapshots in time or company updates. e.g. 2007 refers to 2006. It also will not be updated often. So maybe chronological oder is best for that? –  Lango May 7 '13 at 4:03
    
That sounds like a good conclusion for your purposes. It's all about what you're trying to accomplish - as you said, you're looking for a story, and that's a fairly straightforward way of doing it. –  David Clarke May 7 '13 at 4:11
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I don't see how it is "ALWAYS" the preferred order. There are many situations where it is the opposite. –  JohnGB May 7 '13 at 7:48
    
I don't see why always is incorrect for a specific application, in a specific function. I may not have been adequately clear - when performing my job function, reverse chronological is best. It's not the best for the purposes outlined in this question, or in every situation, everywhere. That's why I've explained my comment in the second line of my response. –  David Clarke May 7 '13 at 10:31
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37signals has a great example of how you can make this interesting for the user and help them understand your story.

No offense to the HR professional who commented (though, it wouldn't be the first time I've offended HR), a history page that starts with the present is probably too much about what you want to say. Your current achievements are, hopefully, what brought the user there. Now they're looking for how it all started. Opening with a press release style barrage of news and and self-congratulation is going to drive one number up: bounce rate.

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Finish reading my comment, and you'll see where I talk about designing for your audience. When reviewing resumes, you want reverse chronological, because your audience (HR) is looking for relevant information. When presenting a history, you start at the beginning, not the end, because it's a narrative, not an information gathering exercise, and your audience wants a story. In other news: You probably offend more than just HR by jumping to conclusions based on incomplete information. –  David Clarke May 7 '13 at 5:37
    
Thanks for the tip, David: Premature conclusions = Offensive ;) You're right, there is a place for reverse chron. I think beginning to what's next is the way to go for a corporate history. –  plainclothes May 7 '13 at 5:44
    
I tried to edit that out, but I waited too long :) I didn't mean to come across that snarky. Apologies en masse. –  David Clarke May 7 '13 at 5:49
    
No problem. My little jab at the HR crowd set the snarky bar nice and high for you ;) We can have a little fun on SE! –  plainclothes May 7 '13 at 5:52
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As a user, I agree with this. It's your company's history page, start with the.. well, history. I'd be really annoyed if I go to a company's history page and I start reading "In 2013 we opened our 14th branch" I'd immediately think "What the hell has just happened here?!" –  Adnan May 7 '13 at 10:50
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The information should be given in the order of importance. The vast majority of the time this will be reverse chronological, as more recent events are usually more important.

However if older events are more important (for example if the page is stressing a rich history), then you should sort it chronologically.

Here is an example from Royal Delft that correctly uses chronological ordering:

enter image description here

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Information should be given based on intention, not importance. I suppose it's all in the wording - what is important to present is based on your audience, intention .. etc, etc. –  David Clarke May 7 '13 at 4:25
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What do the people visiting the company history page want to read? What information is the company trying to communicate to those people?

(Is a company history page even needed?)

The answers to those questions is going to guide you to the best implementation for this particular page.

I've had some clients where:

  • The company history has been prose telling the story in chronological order (because they were trying to put across reliability and continuity to their customers, and the customers wanted to be reassured on those points)

  • The company history is split into two separate chunks - a "modern" era that comes first, and an "older" era that comes second - because the company changed direction substantially and their current business model and history needs to be described first. Each chunk is presented in chronological order though.

  • No company history page at all - since the customers had no interest or need in one.

  • A company history in reverse chronological order, since they wanted to push their recent VC investments as social proof to other possible investments.

All of those were the "right" solution. It depend on your client. It depends on your customers.

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