Esri Story Maps and Apps, an Introduction

Marketers connect with their audience by telling stories, and geographers use maps that are worth a thousand words. Storytelling with maps combines fiction and facts in a compelling narrative, and is gaining ground as a powerful marketing tool. This article gets you started with an introduction to Esri Story Maps and Apps.

Esri Story Maps

Story maps allow you to combine maps with text, images, and multimedia content. They can fit right into your content marketing strategy by leveraging the power of maps and geography in storytelling.

To learn more about Esri Story Maps, visit On the webpage that opens you will find the story map of the month and 12 featured story maps that will inspire and captivate you.

Some story maps are impressive pieces of investigative journalism like “Embattled Borderlands”, which discusses the potential impact of the border wall between the USA and Mexico. Others like “2017 World Happiness Report” present geographic facts and findings in a telling and engaging way.

Below the featured story maps is a link to the gallery with an immense collection of story maps from all over the world on almost any imaginable topic. Simply begin to browse, search by story map app, subject, industry, format and author, or apply multiple filters to find a story map of your interest.

Story Map App

Esri has developed several story map apps as templates and you might wonder which one is right for your story. Here are 3 key points that you need to consider first:

  1. Purpose – Consider your goals and objectives first. Are you seeking to inform, report, engage, entertain, interact, promote, persuade, teach or instruct? Also, what’s the expected shelf life of your story map and how often will it be updated?
  2. Audience – Try to picture your targeted audience(s), since this will inform the language that you will use, the content of your story map and how it will be presented (e.g. visual vs. textual).
  3. Content – Have a look at the visual content that’s available. Are you publishing photos or videos and can these be linked to a location on the map? Are you publishing raster or vector data and points, lines or polygons? What’s the accuracy and resolution of your data and will you publish content for different periods in time?

To help you find the right story map app, I have categorized them into entry, intermediate and advanced level. These categories refer to the geospatial skills required to make a compelling story map. It doesn’t imply that the use of an advanced app, results in a better story map.

  1. Entry level – All these apps link a collection of photos and/or videos to a point location on a map. The Story Map Tour app allows one to link multimedia and location for certain events (e.g. terrorist attacks). The Story Map Shortlist app is similar, but can be used to imply a ranking (e.g. top 10 hotels in Mombasa). The public can contribute their own content to the story when you use the Story Map Crowdsource app. Use this app when you are running a wildlife photo contest or want to map all the potholes in Nairobi!
  1. Intermediate level – These apps are categorized as intermediate, because you require some cartographic skills to effectively use them. Story Map Basis app is a no frills template, which features the map as the center piece of your story. Think of it as an alternative way of publishing an interactive web map. The Story Map Swipe and Story Map Spyglass apps are used to compare to sets of maps or images and ideal for showing land use changes over a period of time or analyzing the impact of a natural disaster.
  1. Advanced level – The Story Map Journal, Story Map Cascade and Story Map Series apps are the templates that are used for in-depth narratives. The main difference consists in the order (e.g. sequential vs. random) and method (e.g. side bar, top bar, scroll) of navigation, but the Story Map Cascade app is flexible and quite popular. The Story Map Series app is available in 3 layouts: Bulleted, Side Accordion and Tabbed.  The Side Accordion layout is well suited for demonstrating step by step workflows.


Content marketers and geographers alike can embrace storytelling with maps to enhance the effectiveness of their communication. They can easily find relevant examples for their industry by browsing the growing collection of Esri Story Maps. The Esri Story Map apps provide easy to use templates that allow anyone to publish a compelling story map with limited effort.

What do you think about Esri Story Maps and storytelling with maps? Let us know by leaving a comment.

About Author:

Willy Simons came to Kenya from The Netherlands in 1994. He is a serial entrepreneur and co-founder of Oakar Services, Esri Eastern Africa and Spatiality. He blogs about business, geospatial technology and cloud computing.