StoryMaps: A Brief Tutorial

In a previous post, I explained how to build a simple map from scratch with ArcGIS Online. This tutorial introduces another powerful and easy-to-use application by ESRI, the company behind ArcGIS Online, known as StoryMaps.

StoryMaps is a web-based application allowing users to combine maps with dynamic texts, images, and multimedia content. You can share and publish these stories within your organization or to the general public. Similar to ArcGIS Online, you need an ESRI online account to access this software. You can create a free trial ESRI ArcGIS account by clicking this link, which will give you full access for 21 days. Plus, if you are a student or a scholar affiliated with a higher education institution, you can consult with the data services department at your institution, which may have an arrangement with ESRI.

For the sake of clarity, it is important to note that there is an older version of StoryMaps by ESRI and another similar, though less sophisticated, application called StoryMap by Northwestern University Knight Lab. This tutorial exclusively deals with the newer version of StoryMaps by ESRI. (For an explanation of the difference between the newer and classical versions of ESRI StoryMaps, please refer to ESRI’s website).

This tutorial will build a story map based on the map about the historical public fountains in the Uskudar district of Istanbul that we made in my previous post about the historical public fountains in the Uskudar district of Istanbul, the Ottoman capital. (Please download the neccessary files for this excercise here beforehand).

The first thing we have to do is make our map in ArcGIS Online ready for use in StoryMaps. First, we must add the shapefile (where the map content is stored) to our interactive map in ArcGIS Online. After logging in to ArcGIS Online, click the Map button on the top menu and click the add button. Here select “Add Layer from File.”

At the next window, select choose file and locate “” which can be found in the downloaded folder (see link above) and press open, then click the import layer button.

In the next window, change the “choose an attribute to show” to BuildingNames and then press Done. You can also change the basemap for better visualization. I picked Light Gray Canvas; you can play with other options until you find something you like. The next step is creating labels for the map layer. Click the “···” button on the left screen and select create labels. Change the text to BuildingName and click Done. You can also edit the font and style here.

Before moving onto the next step, do not forget to save your map and give a title to this map project.

Our map is ready to be used in a story map. Open a new tab in your browser and go to StoryMaps website and sign in. Here you can click New Story on the upper right or Start a story on the bottom.

The next screen is the main page, where we add all the content and build our story map. You can start by giving the story map a title. You can also play with its design or add a cover image/video.

Now, we can begin adding some content. Click the green + button and select Map. You will see the map project we just created at the beginning of the tutorial. Select that and click Place map on the next screen.

We can continue by adding other types of content such as embedded links, images, or any other type of online content. For instance, we could add this Wikipedia entry about the Sultan III. Ahmed Meydan Fountain; or we could add this newspaper article on Istanbul’s 100 Fountains built by Female Benefactors. The last example can be used to add text and an image specifically about one of the historical fountains: the Emetullah Valide Sultan Fountain. As you can see in the image below, you can position the fountain’s image on the left while attaching its description on the right.

Feel free to play with this feature and try to add some content for other fountains.

Another powerful feature is the map tour. Click the green + button again and select Map tour, which is located at the bottom. On the next screen, click “Yes, upload photos” and upload the three photos provided in the downloaded folder. Then, click the Create tour button and select Guided for the Change layout.

Click the Add location button and enter the coordinate for this fountain (Emin Ahmed Agha Fountain) in the search section, press enter, and click Add to map, then Add location. As you can see, a location is assigned for this image. You can give it a title and follow the same steps for the other two fountains.

Finally, our story map is ready to publish and share. You can click the publish button on the upper menu to publish your story map online.

Here is my story map. You can share yours on Twitter, Facebook, a blog or any other social media platform.

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