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I am working on the design of a page that is supposed to provide call center employees with the means to view transaction history. There are 8-9 variables in play, I have tackled this by allowing users to filter and sort transactions via drop-down list. The sort options include “most recent” transactions among other options. However, the idea of a timeline was brought up several times and I was wondering if:

  • A: Will the timeline add value to the existing filtering and sorting options?

  • B: Is the timeline simply another way of sorting transactions (with more visual emphasis)?

  • C: If (B) is correct then where should the timeline fit? Should it be a sub-functionality of sorting options, a check box that is activated when users choose to sort by “most recent”?

  • D: If (B) is not correct, should the timeline precede and override the filtering and sorting options?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

For a timeline to be more than a "sort by date" option, it needs to have another facet to it. What other useful information will displayed by the timeline other than just the order in which events happened?

For example, if I was making filterable timeline of WWII events, I could use the space between events to give an indication of how far apart they were relative to each other. From this you could perhaps look at the overall timeline filtered for troop movements and spot big events like D-Day landing.

Another example is the Facebook timeline, where events that are rated as "more important" (either by the user or some algorithm) are given more real-estate.

How to use the timeline also depends on what you want to get from it.

  • If your UI is for analysis of overall transactions, then it might be useful to have a single timeline and apply filters to it.
  • If you care more about viewing what happens to an individual client / call centre employee, then you can apply the timeline as "sub functionality" when looking at a single client / employee.
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Thanks for this; your WWII example is very relevant. I can see how this actually surfaces relevant events and historic indicators. At the moment and given the scope of this project it seems that a timeline is an overkill particularly because it lacks this additional facet. Will revive this once we edge closer to faceted search! –  Okavango Jun 17 at 18:54
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I don't think that the timeline could add any value to the functionality. In most cases it's not anything more than a visual property. However, it can increase the visibility and readability. So in my opinion (B) is more correct.

The default functionality of a timeline would be showing the "most recent" calls and it would be also the main view. I think in this case, the recency of the calls is always important, whether you are filtering them by "username" or any other criteria.

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A timeline by nature is more of a visual representation and a filtering tool rather than sorting, because it is much more difficult to manipulate the individual elements since it is probably on some type of slider or graph like control.

A: I think a timeline will add some value as a filtering option if used correctly

B: It should not be used for sorting but for filtering instead

C: You can reference the user reputation section of UX SE for an example of timeline usage

D: Depending on the context of the search result return functionality, you can use this as a pre- or post-search filtering option.

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