Constituent Engagement

Tips for creating a great Cascade story map

Note: This blog covers the classic Esri Story Maps. Story authors are encouraged to use the new ArcGIS StoryMaps to create stories; however, Esri will continue to maintain the classic templates for your use. For more information, see the Product road map.

This story was originally published in July 2016 and was updated with new information in July 2017.

We’ve seen Story Map Cascade used to create some great stories about the world’s oceans, scientist Alexander von Humboldttourist destinations in Columbia, traveling through Central Asia, and even what’s new in smart mapping. Check out the gallery to see more interesting examples and get inspired, and read on for lots of tips on how to create a great Cascade story of your own.

Getting Started

If you’re not familiar with the Cascade app yet, read the blog series on using the Story Map Cascade builder (start from the bottom and work you way up the list), and check out these fun, instructional How-To Cascade stories to learn more.

Once you know how to use the builder and have your story idea, start by thinking about your story’s structure and narrative flow before you begin to assemble it, and keep these general tips in mind as you build your first Cascade story:

Narrative sections

Narrative sections are the best way to feature descriptive, long-form text.


Immersive sections

An immersive section is a series of full-page media views that lock into place, with narrative panels that float over the media. They can be powerful, but don’t overuse them. They are a great way to lead readers through a map or sequence of maps and themes.



The credits section is where you can point your readers to more information and include citations to your sources.

Improve your story for readers on mobile devices

It’s important to make sure your story works well for readers who open it on their phone or tablet, so be sure to test your story on these devices. Since mobile devices are resource constrained and have smaller screens, some media may not work well (or at all) for mobile readers. You will see a warning when building your story when you add media types that are not supported or very likely to provide a bad experience for readers on mobile devices.

Cascade builder provides you with the ability to specify alternate images that will appear in place of more complex media elements when your story is read on a mobile device. See this blog post for more information.

Other tips

If your narrative is relatively long, it’s best to organize it into chapters. You can insert Title Sections in your story to break it up and set these (or any other section in your story) as a Bookmark in the Settings > Bookmarks panel. Bookmarks will appear in the header to help readers navigate your story.

If you’ve linked to photos via a URL and they are slow to load they are probably too large. Try uploading them to ArcGIS using the blue box in the media picker. This will optimize the the photos and make them load faster (just make sure you have permission to use the photos if they are someone else’s).

Make lots of adjustments as you go and don’t stay married to your initial concept if you feel pulled in another direction. Also be sure to run your draft story by people who haven’t seen it: fresh viewpoints are invaluable for finding mistakes and gaps in your thinking.

Embedding story maps within story maps is a practice that can work well with other story map apps, but it doesn’t work so well in Cascade. If you are thinking about using other stories or apps in your story map, consider inserting a screenshot and link to the live app so interested readers can discover more outside the context of your story.

Finally, don’t forget to give some attention to your story’s item page on ArcGIS Online; add a good thumbnail, summary, and description to improve how your story looks when shared on social media and to help lure the ArcGIS community to your story.

OK, go build one already!!

One of the pleasures of producing our storytelling apps is seeing how you and other Story Map authors come up with new and unexpected uses of them that we could never have anticipated. We hope you have fun with Story Map Cascade, and we look forward to being pleasantly surprised by your creativity!

This post was co-authored by Allen Carroll and Owen Evans from Esri’s Story Maps Team.

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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