ArcGIS StoryMaps

What’s new in ArcGIS StoryMaps (August 2019)

ArcGIS StoryMaps was officially launched just last month, but we’ve already released an update with tons of exciting new features to enhance your experience when telling stories with maps. Here’s a rundown of what’s been added this time around:

Drag ‘n’ drop

You can now drag and drop media to re-order content within sections of your story. Move images, videos, maps, embeds, and cards by dragging the handle that appears when hovering over them.


A media block being dragged to a new location in a story
It's easy to drag media blocks to a new location in the story


New themes

Story themes package cohesive sets of colors, fonts, and express map basemaps so you can quickly change the mood or tone of your story with a single click. We’ve added two new themes in this update: Mesa and Ridgeline.

With a subtle green background and outdoorsy feel, Ridgeline is great for telling stories about nature or the environment. It uses saturated accent colors, clean sans serif fonts, and the Topographic basemap for highlighting natural features. If you’re “hungry” for more, here’s a story that uses the Ridgeline theme.


A story using the new Ridgeline theme
A story using the new Ridgeline theme


Mesa is inspired by print maps in historic literature. It evokes an antique mood with serif heading and body fonts, muted color tones, and the striking Modern Antique basemap. If you’re in the mood for some reminiscing, check out this story that uses the Mesa theme.


A story using the new Mesa theme
A story using the new Mesa theme


Additionally, the fonts used in these two new themes are available in the design panel’s font pairings menu. The standard fonts for the currently selected theme are indicated with an icon, but you can mix-and-match fonts with different themes to customize the look of your story. Once you select a different font pair, that selection will persist if you change themes.


New font options in the Design panel settings
New fonts are available in the Design panel


Sidecar enhancements

The sidecar immersive block has been enhanced significantly in this release.

You can now duplicate sidecar slides, which makes it easier to reuse an image, video, or map across multiple slides.

Most importantly, this means when a web map (or scene) is used in the media panel of two or more consecutive slides, you can configure a different appearance for the map in each slide. As readers scroll between slides the map will smoothly transition from one state to the other, fading layers on or off, and panning or zooming as needed. This allows you to choreograph different map views with your narrative, making sidecars a powerful storytelling tool.


Duplicating a sidecar slide
Duplicate sidecar slides to reuse maps, videos, or other media across several slides


Note: Express maps cannot be duplicated at this time, so sidecar slides with express maps can’t be, either.

Another sidecar enhancement: You can now choose whether an image fills or fits in the sidecar medial panel.


Image properties showing the "fill" option
Fill the sidecar media panel with a striking photograph



Image properties showing the "fit" option
The "fit" option is best for images with text or other important information that should not be cropped out of the frame


Lastly, the sidecar slide panel is now collapsed when you add a new sidecar, minimizing visual distractions from the builder and letting you focus on the look of your content. You can still duplicate or delete the current slide while the panel is collapsed. Expand the panel to get a preview of each slide’s media, to drag slides into a different order, or to delete the entire sidecar.


Collapsed and expanded views of the sidecar slides panel
Collapsed and expanded views of the sidecar slides panel


More control when embedding web content

Your readers can now interact more smoothly with web content you embed in a story. A clear, prominent message appears when the mouse is moved over the embed, directing the reader to click anywhere to activate interaction. Even if an embed extends off the top of the screen, the interaction controls will always be available for readers.


Readers' interaction experience with web embeds
Readers' interaction experience with web embeds is simpler and more clear


When you add web content to a story as an embed, the story builder scans that content and makes some decisions on how it should be displayed to look its best. Authors who want a little more control, however, now have that control (so long as you’re comfortable with HTML code). Instead of a link, add your content as an iframe and it will automatically be added as an inline embed (rather than a card). The size of an embed can be specified using height and/or width attributes in the iframe code, and the embed will also honor any URL parameters in the source link.


Adding iframe code for an embed
Using iframe code lets you use URL parameters with your embedded content links


Note: Embeds always appear as cards on smaller screens to provide the best experience for readers.

There have also been some specific improvements and optimizations for how Survey123 for ArcGIS forms look when embedded in a story making crowdsourced mapping and information collection even easier. Looking for tips on using surveys in stories? Then read this article and, if you’re an educator, this one.

ArcGIS mapping

If you need to edit an ArcGIS web map or scene while building a story, you can easily open it in ArcGIS Map or Scene Viewer by clicking Edit map in ArcGIS in the map designer. Now, when you return to the map designer after saving edits to your map, it will automatically refresh to show those changes. This will let you immediately work with new layers, map bookmarks, or scene slides, and will reflect other changes such as updates to layer styles and pop-ups.


The map designer showing the 'Edit map in ArcGIS' button
The map designer knows if you've just edited a map and will reload it so you're working with the latest version


Remember: The visibility and legend name of layers can easily be configured right in the story builder without editing the map or scene directly.

We’ve also addressed technical limitations that sometimes prevented maps from loading in stories containing many maps. In general, you should also see maps and other media in the story loading faster or even being fully loaded as they scroll onto the screen.

Express mapping

As many have requested, you can set different colors for each layer of drawn features (points, lines, areas) in express maps. Available layer colors come from your current theme, including any custom accent color you may have set in the design panel.


Changing colors of express map features
Adjusting the color of express map features


Track your stories using Google Analytics (beta)

You can now specify a Google Analytics tracking ID to gain insight into your story’s performance. This allows you to view usage of your published StoryMaps alongside other web pages your organization uses to engage with the public. You can find this in the builder header menu (…) under Story settings.

Collections (beta)

Collections are a new way to group, share, or present a set of stories. Some typical uses for a collection might be to:

Get started by logging into the new ArcGIS StoryMaps, clicking your profile picture in the header, and selecting My Collections (beta).

We’ve got a lot more planned for collections, so stay tuned for updates. If you’re testing this beta feature, please share your feedback with us on this GeoNet thread.


Viewing and presenting a story collection
Viewing and presenting a story collection


Note: There is a known display issue when viewing a collection on an iOS 12 device. This issue will be addressed by Apple in the upcoming iOS 13 release.

Lots more improvements…

Ready to take these new enhancements for a spin? Jump into the builder and see what you think. Or, visit our website to learn more about ArcGIS StoryMaps, see great stories from our community of authors, and find helpful resources for getting started.

About the author

Owen is the lead product engineer for ArcGIS StoryMaps and has been with Esri since 2004. Before joining the StoryMaps team, he spent 11 years as a solution engineer on Esri's National Government team helping people understand the value and utility of geospatial thinking.


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