One commonly-used feature when creating content on the World Wide Web is the ability to create links to certain points within a given web page. This capability is sometimes referred to as deep linking or anchor linking, but whatever you call it, it’s now available in ArcGIS StoryMaps: All heading and subheading text in a story automatically generates a link that points directly to that section of the story.
To get that link, simply hover over any heading or subheading in a published story and you’ll see a chain-link icon appear to its left. Clicking that icon automatically copies the direct link to that heading to your clipboard. The video below briefly demonstrates how to obtain heading links. (Note that heading or subheading text contained in the narrative panel of sidecar slides does qualify for this functionality; however, the titles of slideshow slides and map tour stops do not currently count as headings.)
This feature has many uses. One is just as an external point of reference: For instance, you could share a certain section of a story with a colleague or friend for feedback. Or, you could give a shout out on social media to part of a story that you particularly enjoyed. However, there are also a number of ways heading links can be used to enhance a story’s experience from the reader’s perspective.
One immediately apparent use for heading links as a storytelling tool is to provide a table of contents within that story which organizes all of the components of the story before your readers dive in. While enabling the story navigation bar serves a similar purpose, it doesn’t give readers any context for the various story headings it connects to.
Heading links can be especially useful in stories that are essentially acting as reference materials and may contain a lot of information that readers are not necessarily intended to consume all of. Our weekly tips blog post is an example of the type of resource that benefits from deep linking; readers can peruse the contents for the specific feature they want to learn about and jump immediately to it. Academic papers presented using StoryMaps are another use case that can benefit from this treatment.
You can also get creative in how you present a table of contents. For instance, you could use a slideshow that scrolls through the sections of the story with a representative image and the link to the relevant section in each respective slide’s narrative panel. Or, for stories that take place across a number of locations, you could create an express map with numbered pins and place the heading links in the pop-up for each point.
While the above animation is a more whimsical example, such use of heading links could also be used to great effect in more serious endeavors, such as emergency response and management. A similar map could be used to break down, say, evacuation zones or routes, with potentially affected readers able to simply take a glance at the map and instantly jump to the information that is pertinent to them.
When I was a kid, I loved going to the planetarium at the science center in my hometown. One of my favorite aspects of those shows was when the audience was given the opportunity to decide which astral object to learn about next by voting with a little rudimentary set of buttons located on your armrest.
Heading links make that kind of nonlinear storytelling easily achievable with StoryMaps, allowing for an innovative, interactive, “choose-your-own-adventure” type of experience. Multiple buttons at the end of a section can lead elsewhere in the story, either backwards or forwards. This approach could be especially fun for content that’s geared towards a K-8 educational audience.
We’re sure you have all sorts of ideas of your own about how to most effectively use heading links in StoryMaps. Please never hesitate to show off these ideas in action or let us know what other enhancements would make your storytelling experience even better! Visit the Esri Community StoryMaps page or Tweet us @ArcGISStoryMaps with your creations and feedback.
Chain link photo credit: JJ Ying, via Unsplash.