BC tip: Yara - Impressive timeline

A history timeline has a strong narrative style and makes effective use of archive material.

The Feature

‘The History of Yara’, a feature on the Norwegian fertiliser’s corporate website, has a concise overview and 14 sections, which include ‘Our History at a glance’ and summaries of different eras, eg 1900-1905, 1920-1939.

The sections are laid out so visitors can browse for an overview, or read more deeply as required. For example, ‘1900-1905’ has a paragraph introduction, then summary boxes with links to six longer articles, with more detail on the era. The summary boxes and stories are illustrated with archive images.

The Takeaway

The feature stands out for its narrative style, which tells the story almost like a novel. For example, the article, ‘A little bit of Norway – and more’, starts with: ‘The country was hungry not only for renewal and impulses, but also for symbols of new and better times ahead.’

Interesting details and techniques also bring the company’s history to life. For example, the fact that Nitrogen fertilizer is ‘Norgessalpeter’ in Norwegian. Or the use of dialogue in ‘Our History at a glance’: ‘In the course of the dinner [between the company founders] Eyde said: “What I want is the most powerful electrical discharge on earth…” to which Birkeland replied: “This I can get for you!”

Later articles have links to other material on the website, such as the new CEO’s biography. It is a rich resource, telling Yara’s story with literary panache; and is effective without using elaborate technology.


BC tip: Johnson & Johnson - Too simple timelines

Using interactive timelines on employee profiles is an interesting idea, but badly executed.

J-J timeline.png

The Site

Employee profiles on Johnson & Johnson’s careers microsite have interactive timelines displaying career histories at the US pharmaceutical and consumer goods giant.

For example, the timeline for ‘Eddie’, who is director of university relations, has three clickable red blocks, each representing a different job at the company from 2005 to 2013. The blocks are colour-coded according to department – consumer, pharmaceuticals, ‘cross-segment businesses’, etc. Clicking on the blocks reveals basic information about the job – year, job title, department, company and location.

The Takeaway

The timelines have a lot of weaknesses. Usability is confusing – visitors are instructed to ‘Click over the timeline to reveal career milestones’ – but it is unclear at first where exactly to click to reveal a new milestone. The ‘milestones’ themselves are uninspiring, just a list of basic facts. The colour-coding key to different business segments seems odd when the employee has only worked in one department.

On the plus side, the company is trying to demonstrate the opportunities for career progression, and that does come through in some of the profiles. For example ‘Jeanne’, talent acquisition vice president, has been at the company since 1978 in a variety of roles.

The timelines are more a missed opportunity than a flawed concept. A better, modern design, with multi-media elements and more interesting editorial (descriptions of achievements, why they went to a different role, the challenges they faced, etc), in a timeline format, could engage potential jobseekers rather that leave them wanting more.