Choosing which Story Mapping Platform to Use

Telling a story through an interactive map is a unique way to present textual and visual information. There are multiple different programs that can be used so it is important to know which one fits best with the objectives of your presentation.

Odyssey JS: Odyssey JS takes some experimenting before users are able to dive in and get started. The editing format of this interactive map site might be challenging to begin with. However, in the Odyssey Sandbox (where the editing takes place), the instructions are very helpful when read carefully. Changing the title and author on a slide is simple but when trying to change the coordinates being viewed on the map, or adding links, preciseness is key. Users must be sure that every letter and symbol is correct. This would be difficult to do without already knowing the exact format or without an example to copy. Fortunately, the Sandbox provides examples that can be viewed and copied. This makes adding links, pictures, and changing coordinates easier to manage. Another nice thing about Odyssey JS is that users do not need an account to create a presentation. Overall, Odyssey JS looks overwhelming, but with some experimentation and some practice, it can be used to create awesome visual displays.

(I would not recommend this program if you are looking for a simple mapping program or if you do not have a lot of time.)

Image of a layout option.
Image of a layout option.

Story Map JS: Story Map JS is a mapping platform that has a more basic visual aspect. It is also the easiest to use out of the four options listed. Users must create an account before they can get started. Then they can create different slides that are presented over a map that contains their pinpointed locations. These slides can contain pictures, videos, links, text and be whatever color the user chooses. The presentations are simple to click through and move smoothly through the locations on the map.

(If you are looking to create a colorful, basic map presentation, then this is the program for you.)

An example of a layout.

Story Map ArcGIS: Story Maps is an online mapping software that offers users multiple different applications to create a story. Although Story Maps is based around maps, these stories can be told with just visuals and text, and no maps at all. Users can also combine their maps, pictures, videos, websites, and text into one story. This program is great if a map is not the central part of your story because it highlights other media just as much as it highlights maps. That being said, the map editing section of this program offers a wide range of options for the map layout and color. Each application within this program has a different specialty and each one can help tell your story in a unique way. Users are required to create an account to use this program.

(If you are looking to combine images, videos, links, and maps into a visually pleasing presentation then I would recommend Story Maps ArcGIS. I would also recommend this program if you have the time and are interested in learning what the different applications can do for you and your presentation.)

This is an example of Map Journal, one of the eight applications offered by Story Maps ArcGIS

MapStory: MapStory is a great website to use to create a map presentation accompanied with a timeline. The basics are easy to understand and it is an easy tool to get started with. One of the best parts of this tool, especially for group projects, is that it is collaborative. Not only can users collaborate with those they are working with, but also all with users who use the site. Because it is collaborative, users are required to create an account to use this program. What makes this program unique is that it is also a timeline tool. Every location on the map must be accompanied by a time and date on the timeline. These points can also have images, videos, and links.

(If you are creating a presentation in which time and dates are as important as location, then this is the program for you.)

Image of the MapStory interface.

If you are still unsure about which mapping platform would work best with your story, come by the Digital Scholarship Lab and we can help you out!