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Create a Story Map Tour

One of the most popular Story Maps apps is the Story Map Tour, which you'll use in this lesson. To make a Story Map Tour, you first need to assemble and organize the media (photos or videos) you want to use.

For photos, you can use images of any size and shape, but we recommend landscape orientation (i.e., images that are wider than they are tall). Map Tours generally look best if all the images have the same size and aspect ratio, so your users don't get distracted by differently shaped images as they go through your tour. The recommended image aspect ratio is 4:3.

You have several choices for image storage. You can use images stored in Flickr or Google+. Map Tour takes advantages of optimizations in how these services store your photos, so you can upload an image of any size and it will load quickly in your story. Map Tour also automatically reads in geotag information from the images to locate them on your map, and uses any title and caption text stored with the images. If your images don't have location information the Map Tour Builder will let you specify their map location interactively.

Geotagged photos can be used to quickly assemble a Story Map Tour like this one in ArcGIS Online.

In this lesson, you'll combine images and geographic information to create a map tour of your experiences. The following steps detail how to use geotag images to tell a story using the features available on ArcGIS Online. The lesson example uses a series of photographs taken along The Strand, a 3-mile strip of beach in Los Angeles County renowned for its culture and beauty. However, don't be afraid to create your own map tour on any subject you find interesting.

You're encouraged to use your own photos, but if you don't have access to geotagged images, you can use this image collection on Flickr to reproduce the steps. If you're not using your own photos, skip to Build your tour.

Upload your images

It is very easy to uploaded a selection of photos to Flickr or other online hosting environments, and then begin to assemble them into a story. If your photos weren't geotagged, you can use street addresses to locate sites, and make manual adjustments by moving icons around on the map. Building the story is relatively fast and easy: however, the time-consuming part involves researching the locations and writing the text.

  1. Sign in to your Flickr account.

    If you don't have a Flickr account or your own geotagged photos, you can use a photo set provided by the esrilearn account on Flickr.

  2. If you're using your own Flickr account, upload the photos to your photostream, and create a new album.

    The first photo in the album is called IntroImage. This image has been designated as the image that will appear when the application is first opened.

Build your tour

  1. Go to the Esri Story Maps website.
  2. At the top of the page, click Apps.
  3. Under A Sequence of Place-enabled Photos or Videos, Story Map Tour heading, click Build.

    Build a map tour

  4. If prompted, sign in to your ArcGIS account and click Continue to Map Tour Builder.

    If you don't have an ArcGIS account, you can sign up for a free public account.

    The welcome window asks you to select a source for your images (or videos). Map Tour can use videos instead of images, as well as both images and videos. The Builder can access videos stored in a YouTube account directly, or you can specify URLs to individual videos in YouTube, Vimeo, and so on.

  5. Click the Flickr button (or the YouTube button, depending on where you stored your media).

    Welcome to the Map Tour Builder

  6. If you're following the Flickr example, in the user name box, type the user name LearnArcGIS, and click the Look Up button.

    If you are using an ArcGIS subscription account with Publisher privileges, you have the additional option of uploading your image files from your computer directly into the Map Tour Builder, where they will be stored in the cloud with your map. This is a convenient option if your images aren't already online, or if you are creating a Map Tour that will be shared only inside your organization using images that you don't want to be accessible publicly.

  7. After the account is located, choose the album A Winter Day on The Strand (37) and click Import.

    Select a Photo Set

    If your pictures have a valid geolocation (like the above-referenced Strand photos), they will be automatically located on the map and listed on the second tab.

    Select and locate images


    By default, Flickr does not store the geolocation (part of the EXIF metadata) when you upload photos. You can allow this in your account privacy settings. If you imported photos previously without making this setting change, you'll have to delete and re-upload your photos.

    If you had photos that weren't located, you have the option to use the interactive tool to geolocate any unlocated images on the interactive map interface.

  8. Click the Import button to finish.

    You are presented with an interactive user interface, which you'll use to fill in the text, set extent and zoom levels, and ultimately share your tour with a public audience.

    First look after images load

  9. On the left panel, click Settings.
  10. In the Settings panel, Layout tab, ensure Side Panel is the selected as the layout type for your story map.

    Select side panel layout


    The Layout tab lets you choose which layout you'd like to use for your tour. If you choose the Three Panel or Integrated layout, your Map Tour has an optional subtitle, which you can edit in the header in the Builder. Unlike the Side Panel layout, those two layouts don't have a cover page, but you have the option, in the Organize dialog, to specify that the first point in your Map Tour will be an introduction that is not shown as a geographic point on the map. This option is a good way to provide your readers with additional descriptive text about your Tour before they start moving through it.

  11. If necessary, click Apply

Write the text

Now it's time to write titles and captions for the main application and each photo. In real life, this is the most time-consuming part of the job. It's also the most important part, because this is your story. Take your time, write concisely, and find an editor to proofread your work. Remember, you're publishing! If you're following the Strand example, you can take a shortcut and copy and paste the necessary text from this text file.

  1. If necessary, click the pencil icon next to the main title and type A Winter Day on The Strand (or whatever you'd like to call yours).

    Edit title and description

  2. For the Intro image, update the title to Intro Image.
  3. For the image description, copy and paste the following text:

    In the Los Angeles County seaside communities of Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach, they call it, simply, The Strand. It's a 3-mile-long walking and biking trail that bisects some of the most beautiful beaches and expensive real estate on the West Coast. In the summer, it's everything you would expect, but in the wintertime, it's actually a place of quiet Zen.

  4. Change the basemap to Streets.

    Change Basemap menu

    Streets is an effective choice for urban areas due to its rich detail at close-up scales. Experiment and choose another if it better suits your personal aesthetic.

  5. Use the + tool to zoom the map into the beach cities until the extent of your locations fills the map.

    Zoomed to beach cities


    You can click the Organize button on the left side of the Builder to manage your points. It also gives you the option to specify that the first point in your Map Tour will define a cover page for your tour. If you use that option, the cover page image is not shown as a geographic point on the map. Your cover page is not shown in the Map Tour Builder, but you can preview what it will look like in your tour by pressing the View Story button, which becomes enabled after you have saved your tour. Pressing that button will open your tour in a new browser tab so you can see what it will look like to your readers.

  6. On the left panel, click Organize tour points and add a cover page.
  7. Check the box, Use the first point as a cover page.

    Exclude from carousel

  8. Click Reset order and hidden points and Apply.
  9. On the left panel, click Save.

    The Tour saved message appears and provides a link to My Stories where you can edit your stories and check them for errors. (You can also get to My Stories from the Story Maps page.)

    Tour saved

    You can also retrieve the web application from your content in ArcGIS Online.

    Application appears on the My Content tab

  10. From the My Content tab of the content page, click the web mapping application A Winter Day on The Strand.
  11. Click the thumbnail image or click View Application to open the application.

    View application

    You can see a few issues here. Slide titles are showing raw image names, and some captions are nonexistent. Let's work on these and a few other changes.

  12. Click the Edit button.

    Builder mode button

  13. On the left panel, click the Settings button.
  14. Click the Extent tab.

    Here you can set the initial extent of the map when the application is first loaded.

  15. Confirm that the initial extent of the map includes all your tour points. If necessary, click Draw a new extent and draw a box centered over Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach.

    Draw Beach Cities extent

  16. Click Apply.
  17. Click the Settings button to open the Settings dialog box again.
  18. Click the Data tab to update photo names and captions from image metadata. For Name, choose Name, for Caption, choose Description.

    Select photo name and caption

    The text you use for captions for your Map Tour's points can contain HTML tags if you want to specify additional text formatting and hyperlinks. For example, you might want each caption to include a photo credit in italics.

    You can include the names and captions for your photos and videos in your Map Tour directly in the Builder. Alternatively, if you want to prepare everything ahead of time, you can make a spreadsheet containing the names, captions, locations, and media URLs that define your Map Tour, and import that spreadsheet into the Map Tour Builder as a CSV file. The Builder lets you download a template you can use to create this spreadsheet.

  19. Click the Zoom Level tab, change Scale/level to 1:5K (level 17).

    S et zoom level

  20. Click Apply.
  21. Save the changes and test your extent and zoom levels.

    Sometimes you have to experiment with different extents and zoom levels to find the combination that suits your data and your story. The next step is to clean up the titles and write captions for each photo. As mentioned previously, this is a painstaking but crucial part of the job. Refer to this text file if you're following the Strand example and want to copy and paste the text as a shortcut.


    Some images have suitable names and captions, but many require updating, spend a little time making required updates as needed.

    The finished story map

  22. When you've completed the text editing, save your changes.
  23. As a final step, don't forget to share you story map.

That's it. Hopefully you've been successful re-creating this Story Map Tour, or even better, creating one of your own. For inspiration, look at some of the examples in the Story Map Tour Gallery. The gallery contains examples that showcase how you can use the Story Map Tour app and illustrates effective design patterns and best practices. You can filter the gallery by subject or industry, or you can search by keyword. See if you can find some examples that match your interests or subject area. Get a feel for how information is conveyed in a Map Tour, and what approaches work best with this app for effective storytelling.

In the next lesson, you'll build a Story Map Cascade to welcome your audience to a different Southern California city: San Diego.