ArcWatch: GIS News, Views, and Insights

December 2012

Showcase Your Places of Interest

New Template Makes It Simple to Create a Web Mapping Application That Features Noteworthy Locations

By Carla Wheeler
Esri Writer

Web maps can be wonderful storytelling vehicles.

So if there are places of interest you want to present in an attractive online map—restaurants, attractions in a city, buildings of note, or project locations—the new Esri Storytelling Shortlist template and mapmaking capabilities in ArcGIS Online may be just what you need.

This template provides a ready-made design for creating web mapping applications such as the Tour of the Ruins of Carthage, which lets people explore sites in the ancient Phoenician port city in Tunisia that the Romans destroyed and then rebuilt.

"It's my opinion that organizing information spatially provides all sorts of insights," said Allen Carroll, Esri program manager for ArcGIS Online content and the template's graphic designer.

The San Diego Shortlist shows you where to catch the ferry to Coronado Island and much more.
The San Diego Shortlist shows you where to catch the ferry to Coronado Island and much more.

The Storytelling Shortlist web mapping application was the brainchild of Rupert Essinger, a longtime ArcGIS product engineer for Esri who lives in San Diego, California. He came up with the concept for the application and designed its user interface, which he wanted to be visually pleasing and easy to use.

He first created the San Diego Shortlist, which premiered in July 2012 to coincide with the start of the Esri International User Conference (Esri UC) in San Diego, California. The application features photographs, descriptions, and mapped locations for a selection of well-known and not so well-known attractions, restaurants, and interesting architecture in the city.

The San Diego Shortlist was a hit with Esri UC attendees, who consulted the map to find places to eat and sights to see.

Essinger said he selected San Diego for his first shortlist because of his fondness for and familiarity with the city. He included the popular Gaslamp Quarter, restaurants such as The Neighborhood (with its own speakeasy), and examples of interesting design such as the Coming Together sculpture that uses ceramic and mirrored tiles.

"I am lucky enough to live in San Diego. I love the city, and I like sharing information about some of the places to go," said Essinger. He points out that the Shortlist template was designed to be curated so as to not offer an overwhelming number of choices to the people who view the web map.

"We wanted to focus on the cool stuff," he said. "You can choose what you are interested in and browse through the list. It is meant to be the places that get people started exploring on their own. This gives people a flavor of the city."

The Palm Springs Shortlist showcases some fine examples of mid-century modern architecture in the desert community.
The Palm Springs Shortlist showcases some fine examples of mid-century modern architecture in the desert community.

He recently followed up with the Palm Springs Shortlist, which features attractions, restaurants, hotels, and examples of midcentury modern architecture and design in the popular desert destination. "These maps are called 'curated maps' because the places have been carefully selected to try and represent some of the best of what each city has to offer," Essinger said.

Essinger; Carroll; and Esri application developer Lee Bock, who did the programming for the project, teamed up to create the template for other people to use to create their own storytelling shortlists. There's no programming required, though the template can be customized if you wish. This template is one of many available to download for free in the Esri Story Maps template gallery. "It lets you create an engaging map application that enables people to browse and discover a set of places that you want to showcase," Essinger said. "The places are listed with their images as an attractive set of tiles organized into tabs next to the map. As users navigate around the map, the tabs automatically update to show them places in the current map extent."

Essinger designed the application's user interface to be visually appealing, with images of the points of interest on the left of the page, a corresponding map on the right, and tabs at the top. If you select a tab such as Food, for example, featured restaurants and their photos appear and a map displays their locations.

"You can click or tap any place you are interested in to see where it is on the map and to find out more about it," Essinger said. "As you navigate around the map and zoom in and out, the tabs automatically update to show the places in the current map extent."

On a standard web map, you have to click on the map to see the images such as the ones in pop-up windows," Essinger said. "We thought, why not put the photographs right up front? It turns the map inside out a bit."

People can explore any points of interest virtually using the application. "We hope it is a similar experience to traveling around a city and discovering new and unexpected things," Essinger said.

Individuals and organizations can use the template to present any set of places to the public or colleagues within an organization. Essinger cites an environmental agency as an example of an organization that could document in photographs and on a map the sites of pollution cleanup efforts, with one tab that shows success stories and another that shows status updates about areas where problems remain.

Here are some other potential uses:

Graphtech, Esri's distributor in Tunisia, downloaded the template and quickly produced the web application of the Carthage ruins outside Tunis. The web map includes 24 photographs of sites such as Basilica Majorum and the Roman villas.

Esri Nederland B.V. used the Storytelling Shortlist template to develop this web map of amusement and theme parks, zoos, and public swimming pools in the Netherlands.
Esri Nederland B.V. used the Storytelling Shortlist template to develop this web map of amusement and theme parks, zoos, and public swimming pools in the Netherlands.

Esri Nederland B.V., Esri's distributor in the Netherlands, used the template to create this web map of attractions such as theme and amusement parks, zoos, and public swimming pools. "I really like the simplicity of the story maps," said Joris Bak, a product consultant for Esri Nederland. "This sample is something we use to help our customers see how to create maps that have more impact and show best practices that combine great web maps plus great basemaps plus great applications."

"Using the template saves you from having to do application development so you can focus instead on assembling the list of places you want to feature, getting the photos, and writing the text," Essinger said. "The hard part is assembling the list of places you want to feature and obtaining the permission to use photos and doing the writing." Creating and deploying the map is simple using ArcGIS Online. "This kind of map is easy to make," he said. "It is simply a small set of shapefiles or text files uploaded into a web map. That map is presented using the Shortlist template."

Here are the four basic steps to follow to create your shortlist application:

  1. Log in to ArcGIS Online using an ArcGIS Online for Organizations subscription or your free personal account.
  2. Create a web map with ArcGIS Online and upload the places you want to appear in your shortlist into the map. You can upload your places as either shapefiles or text files such as CSV files exported from a spreadsheet. The README file that comes with the Shortlist template gives you all the details and the schema to use for your places.
  3. Download the Shortlist template and put it on your web server. If you work for a city, for example, the web server that hosts your city's website might be the appropriate server to use.
  4. Edit the configuration file in the template to tell it which ArcGIS Online web map to use.

"We're really excited to see how people and organizations put the Shortlist template to use," Essinger said. "There are great and interesting places pretty much everywhere, and we hope these Shortlist-based applications make them easier for everyone to find!"

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