A Story Map: Visual Storytelling

Visual storytelling is an effective medium to communicate your unique “story” and connect with your targeted audience. Visuals can explain your research, issue, or cause and capture an audience’s attention without being inundated with text. Examples of visual storytelling include photojournalism, infographics and story maps.

Esri Story Maps allow you to combine text, multimedia and images to create a customizable, interactive map. This platform encourages you to avoid heavy jargon, and instead use accessible language, providing clarity and simplicity. The Esri Story Map application provides a variety templates and tutorials to tell your story. From the Story Map Journals to a Story Map Series, each unique program allows you to create a page that is appropriate for your user experience.

For our assignment, we chose to use the Story Map Shortlist version to tell our Fox Finders in Baton Rouge project. Fox Finders of Baton Rouge is a community social media project where a Louisiana State University (LSU) research team, consisting of Dr. Linda Hooper Bui and Ashennur Soyal, is investigating urban fox populations in Baton Rouge. To illustrate the data they have collected on social media, we developed an online, interactive story map to highlight the foxes located in the Baton Rouge community. Using the Esri Shortlist Story Map template, we designed a unique story map to include pictures, locations and eyewitness accounts of foxes located in the Baton Rouge area. Our Shortlist Story Map successfully promoted citizen science by easily connecting residents to science occurring in their environment and efficiently mapping many foxes in Baton Rouge. Check it out here.

The Shortlist Map is one of the most customizable forms of the story map templates, but it is also one of the more challenging maps to bring to fruition. The Shortlist lets you organize your points of interest into tabs and allows the user to navigate and click on various places in the map. Compared to the other Story Map templates, you must assemble the places you want in your map as point layers. Each point layer will be entered as a separate tab in your template where you can include information such as name, location, geographical coordinates, pictures, etc. To get your map up and running, you install the template onto another web server or publicly accessible website and configure the template to point to the website. Below I summarized the basic steps to create a shortlist story map (see infographic) and for an additional detailed tutorial, see our power point presentation.

How To Create A Story Map

From my Story Map experience, I found the Esri Story Map platform very user-friendly. However, the Shortlist template is a much more challenging and rigorous story map to create without any prior Story Map experience. Despite the online step list and tutorial packet, we researched for additional online tutorials to help us create our map. And even called the Esri Story Map helpline before we could get our final map up and running.

My largest Story Map takeaway message is that it is crucial to make sure your maps are clear, simple and user-friendly. Eliminate unnecessary detail and jargon, and instead focus on what is necessary to disseminate your map’s message. The more nonessential elements you remove, the more likely you are able to communicate an effective story and capture your audience’s attention. Overall, the Esri Story Map Program, specifically the Shortlist template, is an efficient, user-friendly way to present data in an interactive format.

By Kristin Foss

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