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We discussed in a recent blog post our work with Trout Unlimited developing an ArcGIS story map using the Cascade template. This is one of the most recent releases from Esri, and one we really like. Unlike many of the other templates, cascade provides a more story-like framework. It avoids information overload, and provides a sequential almost ‘page-like turning’ experience. But the template is one thing, we will discuss here how we worked with the Cascade story map to tell a compelling story.

How to create a compelling Cascade ArcGIS story map
Before you read the rest of this article, take a look at Southeast Alaska Rivers at Risk story map. We take a very systematic approach to any and all client ArcGIS projects. This one was no exception:

Plan, prepare, develop, refine, repeat.
1. ArcGIS Story Map Planning
First, what is the story you wish to tell, and what is the target audience?

In the case of Trout Unlimited:

We need to raise awareness among the general public in a compelling way of the impact mining in British Columbia might have on downstream Alaskan communities.

Next, how do we want to tell this story?.

This is like planning out a movie: all key personnel need to sit together and brainstorm. The goal is to develop a storyboard. This will guide the evolution of the (film) story map. We believe this is the most critical phase in the creation of any story map.

2. ArcGIS Story Map Preparation
Given your guiding storyboard, what assets do you need to pull together to tell the story? As you will have seen in the Southeast Alaska Rivers at Risk story map a story map is a multimedia experience combining text, diagrams, images, videos, and maps/GIS. Pulling together the story map assets can be time consuming. Careful thought need to go into the maps. These provide important context for the story. What data need be published to provide that context?

3. ArcGIS Story Map Development
Great, things are moving along nicely. We have developed our storyboard, gathered/generated our assets and published web maps to help provide story context. Next its time to pull everything together. Easy. Just a second, story telling is as much an art as a science. Good story tellers are hard to find. Not everybody can tell a story. The technical part of pulling the Cascade story map is one thing, but who is the ‘film director’? I hear you saying “don’t be daft!” But truly, your goal is to keep the attention of your audience and impart information/educate. That’s a big ask in today’s world.

ArcGIS story map development is about weaving the story elements together in a compelling, easily understood way

Avoiding information overload, ensuring a logical sequence, images/video/maps which complement the text; these are all key elements to telling the story. As you build out the story map, get regular feedback from internal/external users. Ask “Does this section/chapter make sense?”

4. ArcGIS Story Map Refine
You’ve completed the story map, let’s call it a beta release. Now share the story map with a small group of actual users. Provide a mechanism for them to give feedback. Refine the story map. Often we are so keen to release what we have built, we forget this last critical phase. The success of all your hard work will hinge on this feedback and refining phase.

5. ArcGIS Story Map Repeat
Congratulations, your story map is complete. If you have followed the steps we outline here, you will have built a wonderfully compelling multimedia, map-driven story. So what other stories can you now tell?

When done right, story maps are an amazing new way to tell your stories. With the Cascade story map being, in our humble opinion, the stand out framework for your story.

Want to get keep track of new developments in the world of maps and GIS?  Subscribe to our bi-monthly newsletter, and get a free copy of our white paper ‘From Where to There’, which provides a road map for solving problems with intelligent maps and GIS.

matt_sheehanAuthor: Matt Sheehan

Matt Sheehan is a Principal at WebMapSolutions. Matt evangelizes GIS and intelligent maps around the world through keynotes, articles, tweets and his books. Follow him on Twitter:

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