ArcGIS StoryMaps

What's new in ArcGIS StoryMaps (September 2020)


ArcGIS StoryMaps helps you tell remarkable stories with custom maps that inform and inspire. A story can effect change, influence opinion, and create awareness—and maps are an integral part of storytelling. ArcGIS StoryMaps can give your narrative a stronger sense of place, illustrate spatial relationships, and add visual appeal and credibility to your ideas.

ArcGIS StoryMaps is updated regularly, and this month we’re announcing two big new features, explorer tours and theme builder, as well as several other helpful enhancements.


Explorer map tour (beta)

Long live Shortlist!

There’s a new immersive block in town: it’s a type of map tour called an explorer tour that is designed to help you present larger sets of places for your readers to, well, explore…any way they choose. The grid layout of the new explorer tour was inspired by the classic Story Map Shortlist template, and there’s also a list layout.

Building an explorer tour is similar to building a guided tour—just add a photo, title, and description for each place. Geotagged photos will be automatically placed on the map.



Stay tuned for future updates, because we’re working on more ways for you to create tours even faster.

For more examples and tips on how to use explorer tours in your stories, see Expand your storytelling horizons with explorer tour and our explorer tutorial.


Theme builder (beta)

Create your own theme

We know many of you in the storytelling community have been looking forward to having more flexibility to change the appearance of your stories. Now, in addition to the themes and other options available in the design panel, you can use theme builder to create your own themes.

A theme defines things like the colors, fonts, and block styles used in your story. All aspects of a theme are configured in the theme builder. After you create a theme, you publish it so it can be used in a story.



To apply a published theme to a story go to the story builder, open the design panel, and click Browse themes. You’ll see your published themes and can click one to select it.



If you want to browse all the themes you’ve created, you can get to the Themes page from your profile menu (shown below) or by clicking Manage in the Themes section of the design panel in the story builder.


ArcGIS StoryMaps profile menu


Want to learn more about working with themes? Check out these additional resources:

Theme enhancements

Theme builder was released at the beginning of September, but we’ve already rolled out some big updates.

Note that “Pro” fonts include additional characters for expanded language support, but are otherwise the same as their non-pro versions.

What’s coming for themes?

We’re excited to make theme builder available, but keep in mind it’s still new and in beta. We know you’ll want more, and we’ve got a lot more planned!

Something to be aware of is themes are currently only available to their creators. That means you can (for now) only use themes you’ve created. But don’t worry, we know a big advantage of themes is sharing them, and we’re working on providing the ability to use themes created by others in the near future.

Some other things we’re looking at for the future include:

Please let us know what you think of theme builder so far and what you’d like to see by dropping us a note on GeoNet.


Playback options for videos

We’ve heard from members of the storytelling community who’ve asked for more control over how uploaded videos behave in stories. Now you can choose from several options for how uploaded videos behave and what controls are shown.


Video playback options


For linked videos, you can still use URL parameters supported by the video hosting platform (e.g, YouTube, Vimeo, etc.) to tailor the experience. These parameters must be specified using iframe code. See the Link vs. iframe code section of this blog for more details.


Additional basemap flexibility for express maps

Back in June, a gallery of beautiful, useful vector basemaps was added for use with express maps and guided tours. Then in July, we added the ability for you to pick a web map to use as the basemap for a guided tour.

Now, you can also pick a web map to define the basemap for an express map. You can pick from your own maps, your favorite maps, maps from colleagues in your organization, and also maps in the Living Atlas.



Usability improvements

Esri conducted more than a dozen usability studies as part of the recent virtual Esri User Conference. A goal of these studies is to improve your experience of using ArcGIS products.

The study focusing on ArcGIS StoryMaps identified several quick usability wins we could implement and uncovered two potential design issues for us to keep an eye on. We also confirmed that authors appreciate consistent patterns within ArcGIS StoryMaps and when those patterns are consistent with other ArcGIS products.

This month, we’re rolling out several of the quick wins identified in our study and we hope they make a positive impact for first-time authors and experienced storytellers. For example, all new stories now use the minimal cover style to make it easier to see how to continue building a story. Also, the slides panel is initially expanded after adding an immersive block, like a sidecar or guided tour, so it’s more apparent that you’re building a set of slides in these blocks. These and other small changes should make it easier for authors to discover and use the available builder tools.

Our team has more studies planned for the future, and we’ll continue to work to improve the usability of building and reading stories.


And more…

Other enhancements added this month include:


Banner photo by Robert Katzki on Unsplash

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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