Story maps are all the rage right now. They are lightweight web apps that combine web maps created using ArcGIS Online (AGOL) and your own multimedia content including photos, videos, weblinks, and more.
I recently built my first Story Map using one of the templates readily available at AGOL. I designed a virtual tour of some of Sedona's well known landmarks using the "map tour" template which is hosted at AGOL, so I don't ever have to touch a server to share this map across the web.
One of the main attractions of using Story Map apps is the ability to customize your own multi-media presentations. These are interactive maps that can contain photos, slideshows, videos, or text. For the Sedona Story Map, I added my own photos to give the viewer a glimpse of the surroundings at each location on the map (when I had them), or I created links to publicly accessible photos from the Creative Commons at Flickr when I didn't have my own (thanks to all the photographers there for allowing your work to be shared). I also included a video to give the viewer a first-hand experience walking up Cathedral Rock Trail to a local celebration known as the Full Moon Drum Circle.
I enjoyed learning to design a Story Map, and I can see a lot of potential applications for this app. Story Maps could be used to create compelling maps depicting anything from tourist attractions to natural resources to.....well, anything, really.
To begin the map tour, scroll down to the bottom of the window below and press 'Start.' You should be able to access the map, photos, and other information about each point using one of 3 separate menus listed at the top of the window. Even better- for a larger and much more user-friendly version of the map that depicts all of those things on one screen, click here.
I don't love the way the map appears and behaves when embedded in my blog. The user has the option to navigate back and forth between the map, the media, and a list of the points using 3 menus at the top. Options are not always a good thing. The downside is that having unclear options or having to constantly be switching back and forth could quickly lose an inexperienced or impatient user.
Sharing the story map was not super straight forward. There are several different Story Map templates, some of which are able to be hosted on AGOL, while others cannot. Instead they can be downloaded, configured and served out, a distinction which can be confusing to newbies. In short, if you don't want to serve the map out yourself, design one using the app that can be hosted on ArcGIS online. Additionally, I think the functionality to embed the map in a website should be as easier to find. Preferably it should be one click away but as it is, I had to seek out an iframe code, copy that, and paste it into this post to display the map below. Otherwise the experience of designing and sharing the Story Map went pretty smoothly and I look forward to using the app again.