Educate and entertain your audience with story maps

January 20, 2020 Gordon Plunkett

Story maps are easy to make, simple to access and are very effective at providing multimedia location-based information about a topic, issue, event or place. Story maps can communicate important information over the web in several different interactive mediums. Story map technology is continuing to improve so it’s important to be aware of the latest uses and technology for story maps to make sure that your medium conveys your message. Read this blog post to learn how to make story maps focused, entertaining, and informative so users stay on point with your message.  

The storytelling tools in ArcGIS have been available for several years now and its capabilities are continually being improved. But what has been a pleasant surprise of late are the number and kinds of applications that have been developed for conveying information via story maps. For readers who are not familiar with story maps, they are web presentations that illustrate interesting and informative stories through the combination of interactive maps, descriptive text and multimedia content. Users can easily create, publish and share their story and description with interested parties around the world.

Mark Gallant from Esri Canada recently published the blog post “Finding a story map topic that inspires you”.  Mark provides some tips and tricks as well as some things to consider when developing a story map. Also,  this Esri blog post has great story map examples from 2019 as picked by Esri’s StoryMaps Team.

This story map outlines the tour wins of famed Canadian golfer Brooke Henderson using text, photographs, videos and an interactive imagery basemap of the golf courses.  

Esri Canada recently created and published a story map that is, in my opinion, a great way to showcase the sights, history, geography and culture of a city. Moose on the Loose was created as the result of a bet between two Esri Canada offices – Ottawa and Halifax – on which office would win our pumpkin-carving contest in support of United Way. Unfortunately, our Ottawa office lost the bet, but fortunately an excellent story map was published featuring one of our colleagues wearing a Halifax Mooseheads hockey jersey at various tourist attractions and significant locations in the City of Ottawa.

Moose on the Loose is a fun story map showing many noteworthy sites in Ottawa.

While the Mooseheads story map was developed to be fun and entertaining, it demonstrates that a story map can easily be created that shows the character and sites within a city.  Similar story maps could certainly be used for attracting tourists and business to a city but could also be used for creating interesting walking tours of a city or location. Video and audio clips can also be added, so that users can hear stories about the sights that they encounter as they walk or drive around with their mobile phone and story map.

Esri’s Bern Szukalski published the blog post “Things you didn't know you could do with Story Maps” about the many potential uses of story maps. He gives examples such as annual reports, company information, resumes, marketing events, project portfolios, education, real estate, online guides, politics, online engagement, online atlases, catalogues, briefings, newsletters, web pages, news and tutorials. The list of potential applications of story maps appears to be limited only by your imagination.

Esri Canada maintains a resource hub that is regularly updated with the latest maps, apps and ideas from thought leaders. Check out the Esri Canada App Hub for some of the best and innovative Canadian story maps. Exemplary story maps on this site include federal elections, environmental action, opioid addiction, photographs from space, parks to visit, drought information, food, water and people, urban expansion, ocean mapping and many more.

So, is it time for you, your organization or your city to start making story maps showcasing important locations and topics? It’s important and very useful to make informative story maps, but story maps that go to the next level equally inform, entertain and help the story map user remain focused on the message. Happy story mapping in 2020!

About the Author

Gordon Plunkett

Gordon Plunkett is the Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) Director at Esri Canada. He has more than 30 years of experience in GIS and Remote Sensing in both the public and private sectors. He currently sits as a member of the Community Map of Canada Steering Committee, GeoAlliance Canada Interim Board of Directors, the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) Technical Committee, the Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) Committee on Geomatics, the University of Laval Convergence Network Advisory Committee and the Advisory Board to the Carleton University Geomatics and Cartographic Research Centre. During his career, Gordon has worked on projects in more than 20 countries and has contributed to numerous scientific conferences and publications. At Esri Canada, he is responsible for developing and supporting the company’s SDI vision, initiatives and outreach, including producing content for the SDI blog.

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