Creating a story map requires strikingly different thought processes than many of the traditional tasks of GIS. A map that tells a story for a general audience, for instance, will likely look different from a map that shows the results of a spatial analysis.
Before assembling a story, GIS users should ask some basic questions:
What is the story? What am I trying to communicate? A good first step is to summarize the story concept in a sentence or two. A second step might be to sketch out a storyboard that diagrams the basic elements of the story and the means by which users will access it.
Who is the audience? What background or contextual information does my audience need to understand the story I'm telling?
What things do I need to tell my story? Can I tell my story with a single map? Do I need two or more maps? How will I set the stage for my story with text? What sorts of additional content—graphs, charts, photos, video—will I need to tell the story?
Does my map do its job? An effective GIS map usually isn't the same as an effective story map. Colors, symbols, and categories should be clear and simple.
What don't I need to tell my story? The key to an effective story (and an effective map) often lies in what is omitted. Simpler is usually better.
What parts of my story can be told visually? Introduce the story and interpret the maps using as few words as possible. Maps are powerful purveyors of information; they should do most of the talking.
How will users navigate my story? Traditionally, stories are linear narratives. More often than not, story maps are not linear. Effective story maps usually introduce a topic within a user experience that requires little or no explanation and then enables users to explore and discover on their own.