Expert review: Story Maps

What can you do with this tool? What kinds of stories is it good for?

This is a web-based tool perfect for making interactive maps, with narrative elements. Using various different applications, Story Maps directs users to their preferred type of map (Sequential place-based, A curated list of points of interest, one map, a series of maps, or a custom design) and then has detailed instructions from there.

It is interactive, has lots of things to click on, and keeps the viewers attention.

EX: Where Did Your Thanksgiving Dinner Come From? 

How do you get started using it? Link to tutorials or help docs or resources that are useful for learning this tool.

Luckily, the story maps has a very detailed tutorial on how to use the maps/which options is best. The process of creating one of these maps is very involved (you have to important your data from various different places and it can be time-consuming). This YouTube video (though long, and not so compelling) is very helpful. It showed me how to organize my data in a cohesive spreadsheet, that would include coordinates, links to photos, and other information. There are many different elements to creating a story map, so it is important to stay organized.

How easy or hard is it? What skills do you need to become proficient in it?

I found this tool difficult. In order to make one of the nicer maps, you have to create the background map on a different app, called ArcGIS online. The website does a great job of directing users to the right links and information, but overall it took me a long time to actually get a handle on it. Using the ArcGIS software wasn’t too difficult, it reminded me of CartoDB, but once you had to bring that graphic into the story map I got confused.

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To use this, you should have a strong understanding of excel, and a good hosting platform for your photos/videos before you get started. With organization, I think this tool could be useful. But it would take a while to compile a story here.

Would you recommend this to a friend?

I would recommend this to someone who had time to dedicate to it. If you were meticulous and organized about your data, and pictures and planned it out before opening this tool, I think it would be much easier to use. You would definitely have to do research before diving in.

Will you consider using it for your final data story?

I would consider it. I’m not sure if it would work, when I was playing around with it the data set I’m using (graffiti in Boston) the points got very crowded on the map and it was difficult to read. If I could figure out how to fix this, I may use it.

Positives: Very visually appealing, easy website to use, can incorporate many different kinds of media, can important data sets

Negatives: Time-consuming, challenging

About Jacqueline 11 Articles
Jackie is a senior journalism major at Emerson College.

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