ArcGIS StoryMaps

Expand your storytelling horizons with explorer tour

ArcGIS Storymaps has just released a new immersive experience called explorer map tour. If you’ve ever made a classic story using the Shortlist template, you’re already familiar with this new feature. But explorer tour goes far beyond its predecessor and adds new layouts and navigation options.

Explorer tour showcases stops in two possible gallery layouts—either gridded, or as a compact list—for up to 100 locations on a map. That’s more than triple the number of locations that you could highlight in a map tour before! (This expansion applies to our old friend guided tour, too.) When readers click the gallery thumbnails or a point on the map, the map pans and zooms in as necessary to that location and shows the content you’ve added for it. That can entail photos, videos, text, and links.

Have a look at our story of Palm Springs as a grid layout, a list layout, or a media focused layout. Same content, 3 different presentations.



Why we love it

Explorer tour is great if you want to feature a lot of locations on a map, especially when their sequencing isn’t important. Why? In a linear layout, readers must scroll through all of the locations, one after another, which can lead to scroll fatigue. With a lot of tour stops, it can be cumbersome, especially if you’re only interested in a few locations out of many. Instead, when readers can quickly skim a tight gallery or list, they can jump to exactly what they’re looking for in any order they want, without all the scrolling. Lastly, imposing an order on your tour stops might not make sense if they have no inherent sequence, in which case explorer tour works better.


The Explorer map tour works like an interactive table of contents for your map and helps communicate what the map contains at a glance.

Authors can switch between any of these four great layouts now


Best feature: You can always change your mind

Because explorer tour comes under the umbrella of the overall map tour immersive block, as an author you can always change your mind and switch to guided map tour without losing any content. Nor will you have to do any extra re-formatting; they’re truly interchangeable. This means after you’ve assembled all of your tour stops on the map, you can test drive the two types and their corresponding layouts to see which one works best. It’s nice to keep your options open as your story grows.

Does this mean the older guided map tour should be retired? Not at all. It is still a favorite around here and works well to deliberately walk readers through the map since (1) they don’t need to navigate—we know some folks just don’t click and would rather scroll—and (2) authors get to decide what the best sequence of stops will be for the tour. Sometimes good storytelling requires a little structure, which guided tour provides. Both layouts have their respective roles to play, it just depends on how free-form the storyteller wants the reader’s navigation through the tour to be.



What’s next

Have a look at my colleague Cooper’s in-depth tutorial on how to build an explorer map tour. And be sure to log-in to ArcGIS StoryMaps and test the new tour type for yourself. Happy mapping!

About the author

Map nerd. Passionate about great design, teaching, and doing cool things with data.

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