ArcGIS StoryMaps Frequently Asked Questions

What is ArcGIS StoryMaps? How is it different from Esri Story Maps?

Currently, in its beta state, the new ArcGIS StoryMaps is Esri’s next-generation storytelling tool. This product is more than just a new story map template or a fresh coat of paint; we're using everything we’ve learned over the past seven years to re-imagine, redesign, and rebuild our platform from the ground up.

One of the most notable differences between ArcGIS StoryMaps and the classic Esri Story Maps is the building experience. To date, you’ve had to start making a story map with a fateful decision about which template (Story Map Tour, Story Map Series, etc.) you’d use. If you changed your mind, you’d have to start all over. ArcGIS StoryMaps aims to put those days behind you with a new, unified builder.

Once it’s fully developed, the new builder will let you mix and match different types of content blocks however you see fit. Blocks will range from common media types like pull quotes and video embeds, to the more sophisticated immersive experiences you’re used to from classic Story Maps (think Map Tour, Swipe, Shortlist, and more). 

Other exciting features in ArcGIS StoryMaps include:

  • The ability to make a simple map directly in the builder using basic drawing and annotation tools,

  • Predesigned, one-click themes that help you find the right look and feel for your story while harmonizing the visual language of all its content,

  • A mobile-first approach to design and performance that ensures your story looks and works great no matter how your readers consume it, and

  • Enhanced collaboration and publishing options that let you share an unpublished draft with others outside your ArcGIS organization, or make unpublished changes to a published story and have those revisions go live whenever you're ready.

You can learn more about our vision for all of the enhancements that are coming in ArcGIS StoryMaps here.

Why are there now two story map products? How do I know which one is right for me?

Watching a vibrant, diverse community of mapmakers and storytellers embrace story maps has been an incredible experience. Collectively, you all have created thousands of amazing pieces with the classic story map templates, often making more than 1,500 new stories in a single day!

But we know there’s more we can do to help you take your stories to new heights, which is why we’ve started building Esri’s new and improved storytelling platform: ArcGIS StoryMaps.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, though, and neither will this new product—especially if we want to get it right. So, until we’re confident this new tool meets and exceeds everything you came to love about the classic Esri Story Maps, the two products will exist side by side.

ArcGIS StoryMaps is currently released in its beta phase, which represents a fraction of the full functionality we’re envisioning for the final product. We want to give you the ability to take it for a spin early on and let us know if you think we’re headed in the right direction, or if there are some places where we need to head back to the drawing board.

During beta, you should consider the new builder as a laboratory where you try new things and tell us what does (or doesn’t) meet your needs. You should not rely on it to create published content that you want to share with a broader audience. Keep relying on classic templates like you normally would to meet this need.

After the general release, you’re welcome to start creating shareable content with ArcGIS StoryMaps. In fact, we encourage you to do so! But you’ll probably notice some features only exist in the classic templates. Give us time, and we’ll get those capabilities in the new product.

In the interim, you should feel free to use the classic templates as much as you need. They’ll be around for years to come, and we’ll communicate early and often when the time to sunset them draws near. 

You can learn more about our vision for ArcGIS StoryMaps here.

How will I transition from the classic Esri Story Maps to the new ArcGIS StoryMaps?

Rest assured, the stories you’ve made with classic Story Maps templates will continue to be available in the foreseeable future. Any existing stories will still be accessible to the audiences with which you've already shared them.

For now, there is no change in how you access your classic stories or the classic builders. You still use the classic builders to create new stories or make changes to existing ones.

The only difference is that you now have the option to test the new ArcGIS StoryMaps builder and provide feedback about your experience. We’d be incredibly grateful if you did.

Please remember that stories you create using the beta builder may not be available after the testing period ends. The beta release is intended as a preview so we can collect feedback and improve the product for its first release; it is not intended for building stories that you or your organization share as official publications.

We will share more information about when and how we plan to retire the classic Esri Story Maps as we get closer to completing the ArcGIS StoryMaps platform. In the meantime, just know that it’s not going away any time soon. It will be a few years before you even need to consider life without it, and by that time you’ll be so in love with the new StoryMaps that you’ll hardly bat an eye. (That’s our goal, anyway.)

Join the discussion! Log in to the GeoNet community here.

Why don't I see familiar story choices like Story Map Cascade, Series, or Journal?

One of the biggest differences between the new ArcGIS StoryMaps and the classic Esri Story Maps is the authoring experience. Rather than forcing you to choose a template at the outset, ArcGIS StoryMaps uses a single builder that will eventually let you mix and match various elements from the classic templates to your heart’s content.

We want you to be able to craft an experience that’s perfectly suited to your content, and think a unified, block-based builder is the way to make that happen.

Content blocks will take a variety of different forms, ranging from the more traditional options (images, pull quotes, buttons, etc.) to the unique immersive experiences you’re accustomed to with the classic Story Maps (web maps, Map Journal, Map Series, etc.).

It’s going to take us a little while to build out all these different blocks, especially the more complex ones that mimic classic template experiences. During the beta phase, you’ll notice that the block palette is rather limited. If that bugs you, just know it bugs us too.

That being said, we could use your help determining which new blocks to prioritize. What ones do you want most? Whether they’re simple blocks like Instagram embeds or audio, or full template-style blocks like Map Tour or Swipe, please let us know.

Join the discussion! Log in to the GeoNet community here.

I see ArcGIS StoryMaps lets me create express maps—how are these different from the web maps I’m used to? Can I still use web maps and scenes in the new StoryMaps builder?

With ArcGIS StoryMaps, you can of course still bring web maps and scenes from the Living Atlas and your organization into your story, just like you’re used to with the classic Esri Story Maps. In addition, we’re excited to debut a new type of media: express maps.

Found only in the new builder, express maps let you convey basic information with just a few clicks and keystrokes. Simple drawing tools help you outline important areas, showcase points of interest, depict movement with arrows, provide additional information through annotations, and more. With express maps, you can add essential geographic context to your narrative in as little as 60 seconds.

Express maps are fully integrated with the new builder’s one-click themes, so everything from the basemap, to symbology, to chroming will automatically match the look and feel of the rest of your story. If you switch to a different theme, all the express maps in your story will automatically update to match the new style.

Right away, you'll probably notice a few key differences between authoring express maps and web maps. That's because they're designed for different purposes. Express maps are intended to speed up your workflow when your story needs basic geographic information. They are meant to fulfill basic drawing needs; you cannot import spatial data into them or add layers from ArcGIS, and express maps do not have thematic layers.

If you need to communicate more complex information in your map—using spatial analyses or thematic cartography—this is when the web maps you know and love come into play.

One last point to note is that express maps will only live inside the story in which they were created—you won't find them as a separate item in My Stories or your ArcGIS content. You therefore cannot edit or open an express map in the Map Viewer or any other Esri app. If that's a real issue for you please let us know, but our hunch is that, since they can be made so quickly, it won't be a huge problem.

Log in to the GeoNet community to provide your feedback about express maps.

Can developers customize ArcGIS StoryMaps?

We want to ensure that ArcGIS StoryMaps is a friendly platform for building customized solutions. We’ll have more information about how developers can work with StoryMaps as we get closer to the first general-availability release, so in the meantime please sit tight!

What is the point of this beta test?

ArcGIS StoryMaps is still in its infancy, and this pre-release beta build doesn’t represent a finished product. You’ll likely encounter bugs and other issues as you create and view new stories. (Please report any issues you encounter here.)

Why show you an un-finished product? Well, our chief mission is to build a storytelling platform that fulfills all your needs, and we can’t achieve that without getting your feedback early and often. We don’t want to just build something for you, we want to build it with you.

We know there is plenty of work still to be done with the beta product. We want there to be a variety of immersive blocks, more themes to choose from, and more. 

But we also want to check some of the core assumptions we’ve made in these early stages. That’s why we’re opening this up to you now, so you can tell us if we’re on the right track, or where we might have missed the mark. So please, be as honest and upfront as you can in your feedback, just keep in mind that this only scratches the surface of everything we want to accomplish. 

Join the discussion! Log in to the GeoNet community and leave your feedback here.

What is planned for future releases?

We have a lot of ideas for new features and enhancements to ArcGIS StoryMaps, but it’s not all about what we want. Ultimately, it’s about what you, our storytelling community, want and need to delight, inform, and inspire your audiences. That means you’re the ones driving the decision-making here.

Based on your feedback, we’ll be able to prioritize which new blocks to build, how to take themes to the next level, the ways we can refine express maps, and more. If you have ideas, suggestions, concerns, comments, or just want to say hi, reach out to us through GeoNet. The more you share, the better equipped we are to tailor our design and development plans to your needs. Thank you for taking the time to do this, it makes a big difference.

Do you have any tips for making an engaging story?

Glad you asked, we certainly do! These nine steps should get you started.