Story Maps for Switzerland
What Story Maps are and why simplicity matters I have already explained in my previous blogpost „Storytelling with maps „. Now it’s about designing good Story Maps with the Esri framework and data provided by the Swiss Geoportal geo.admin.ch. My Story Map „Bat watching in Zurich“, the main example used in this blogpost, has been chosen as a runner up in the Esri storytelling with Maps contest 2014.
Connect with the Swiss audience
Esri publish their Story Map basemaps in the (Pseudo) WGS84 projection and the style of the maps is very different from what the Swiss population is used to seeing when they look at a map. Especially in the area of planning, people in Switzerland are used being presented with plans based on the acclaimed maps from Swisstopo, in the Swiss projection system. Thus, when for example a rebuilding proposal or an infrastructure project is presented to them using the ArcGIS Online basemaps (or Google’s, by the way), it might be harder for them to connect with the topic at hand. Certainly, despite their abundance Esri (and Google) basemaps fail to convey the same sense of authoritative (official) mapping by e.g. a federal department or office.
Planning area in ArcGIS Online:
And with an official Swisstopo map as a backdrop:
As part of their base data and API strategy, the geoadmin portal offers Swisstopo maps as a WMTS services you can use in your Story Map described here. However, since the process is not very intuitive, I’ll explain it how to use them with the ArcGIS Online map editor:
Once you’ve placed your data on the map in the ArcGIS Online Editor according to the standard Story Map production workflow, Esri cannot reproject it with a proper transformation anymore, so you need to make sure that your basemap is in the Swiss projection system (CH 1903 LV03, EPSG:21781, also known as Swissgrid) before you add data to it. Very recently, Esri has licensed the WMTS services of geoadmin, which means that from now on you can add the geoadmin WMTS services straight forward to the ArcGIS Online map editor:
- Define a new basemap by clicking on “Add Layer from Web”
- Define the Url https://wmts.geo.admin.ch and make sure that you are using the https url, otherwise the map imagery might be hidden (dependent on your browser and if you are logged in or not)
- Choose your layer: Karte SW (black and white basemap), Karte farbig (coloured basemap) and SWISSIMAGE (satellite imagery) are the obvious options, but there is other useful stuff, like SwissALTI3D Reliefschattierung and Karte swissTLM which I quite like. The layers are documented here.
- Tick the checkbox “Use as basemap” so the Swiss projection system will be used, and click on “Add Layer”
Now you have a map with the Swiss projection system, and can start creating features on top of a Swiss basemap with the standard map editor workflow.
Design Simple Swiss maps
Esri’s statement about Story Maps is, that basemaps should provide context, and not be a competition, what I completely agree with. Satellite imagery looks great, I can spend hours looking at it, but for your Story Map the details lure the users away from your content. ArcGIS Online is providing a very nice background map “Light Gray Canvas”, a simple gray backdrop which can be used nicely for promoting your information and make your content more important. With the geoadmin WMTS you can get into a similar direction. I quite like to use the black and white background map, and put the layers with the information on top, which I find useful for the topic I want to communicate. The geoadmin WMTS provides layers like water or forest as separate layers, so just add them to the map with a transparency. geoadmin WMTS “Karte farbig” providing a coloured map created by Swisstopo:
And now – less distracting – geoadmin WMTS “Karte SW” from Swisstopo with forests (“REN Wald”) and waterways/lakes (“REN Fliessgewässer/Seen”) – the habitat of bats – as half transparent layers on top:
The Story Map showing bats recorded in Zurich – the background map – as only in black and white – is not distracting the user, and the heatmap with the bat records is displayed very clearly on top:
The geoadmin WMTS and WMS Services offer quite a good choice of layers you can use as a backdrop to your data, just have a look.
If you have got any further questions about using geoadmin data with the Esri ArcGIS Online and Esri Story Maps, please do not hesitate to contact me. I am happy to help, and am as well curious about your ideas how to design Story Maps.