Tell the story behind the numbers with StoryLineJS

Northwestern University Knight Lab is a community of designers, developers, students, and educators working on experiments designed to push journalism into new spaces, probably best known for their tools for media makers. The newest beeing StoryLineJS.

For some time now, friends and fans of Knight Lab have asked us to make a tool that helps them tell stories with data. We were reluctant to make a general purpose chart builder, but as we analyzed the problem we recognized an opportunity that fit our sweet spot. A few months ago, we announced the general release of our latest tool, StorylineJS.

In many ways, StorylineJS resembles our popular tools, TimelineJS and StoryMapJS (although I promise, we didn’t just mash those names together and then look for a tool to fit!). Like those, it allows you to attach “slides” to each key point in your story, where you can explain its relevance.

Unlike TimelineJS and StoryMapJS, StorylineJS slides don’t have media. In our development process, we put a very high priority on a good mobile/small-screen experience, and in our design research, we haven’t found a solution which integrated images or other media elegantly.

This is just one way in which we’ve intentionally limited the options to keep storylines simple for authors to make and for the audience to read. We also only support single line time-series charts, and in the first release, the color is not configurable.

As always, we look to our community to let us know what works well and where things could be improved or expanded. And, of course, we’d love to see what you make! You can tweet to us, connect on Facebook, or contact us via our ZenDesk support system if you’d like to share your work, or any feedback about the tool.

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Joe Germuska

Joe Germuska is the Executive Director of the Northwestern University Knight Lab, although he prefers the title "Chief Nerd." He is also the project lead on Census Reporter, a Knight News Challenge project to make U.S. Census data easy for journalists to use. Before joining the Knight Lab, Joe was a founding member of the news applications team at the Chicago Tribune and a project board member for the PANDA project, another Knight News Challenge winner.

For fun, every Tuesday Joe gets up well before dawn to host "Conference of the Birds," an eclectic music radio program on WNUR-FM.

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