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:

  1. Define a new basemap by clicking on “Add Layer from Web”
  2. 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)
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

 

Geschichten erzählen mit Karten

Vor einigen Wochen hat ein Team von Ernst Basler + Partner am Schweizer GeoSummit in Bern teilgenommen. Unter anderem haben wir dabei zusammen mit David Oesch von der Swisstopo einen Vortrag über sogenannte Story Maps gehalten.

Was sind diese Story Maps?

Story Maps sind einfachste Webapps, welche intelligente Webkarten mit Text, Fotos und anderen Multimedia-Inhalten kombinieren um eine Geschichte zu erzählen bzw. Inhalte zu vermitteln (Definition von Lindemann). Verglichen mit klassischen Kartenportalen im Internet sind Story Maps viel einfacher sowie intuitiv und ohne Vorwissen über Karten oder gar GIS zu nutzen. Mit den Story Map-Vorlagen von Esri ist denn auch die Erstellung solcher Karten nicht sonderlich schwierig.

„Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication“

Ob dieser Satz nun von William Gaddis, Steve Jobs oder Leonardo da Vinci stammt: er stimmt auf jeden Fall für Story Maps. Generell machen gemäss Lindemann folgende Kriterien eine gute Story Map aus:

  • Einfachheit
  • direkte Ansprache des Publikums
  • wirkt anziehend auf die Nutzerin, den Nutzer
  • die User-Experience unterstütz die vermittelte Geschichte
  • gute Kartographie und gutes Webdesign

Anders herum gedacht können Sie sich auch die sehr interessante und unterhaltsame Serie Why Map Portals Don’t Work von Brian Timoney anschauen: quasi eine Definition von Story Maps ex negativo.

Story Maps für die öffentliche Kommunikation

Über die letzten Jahre haben sich verschiedene Anbieter von Story Map-Technologie und -Vorlagen etabliert. Zwei davon, nämlich das Schweizerische Bundesgeodatenportal und Esri haben wir in unserem Vortrag vertieft behandelt. Als Ingenieur- und Beratungsfirma waren wir in unserem Beispiel sehr daran interessiert, wie Story Maps eingesetzt werden können, um die Öffentlichkeit über zum Beispiel ein grosses Infrastrukturvorhaben zu informieren und so die politische Partizipation zu unterstützen.

Sie können sich unsere Vortragsfolien auf Slideshare anschauen oder herunterladen oder sich diese gleich hier zu Gemüte führen:

Bei Fragen zu Story Maps können Sie uns gerne kontaktieren: Nicole Sulzberger oder Ralph Straumann.


Jeremiah Lindemann: StoryMaps — Using ArcGIS as a Communications Medium. Esri User Conference 2013, Technical Session

Storytelling with maps

A few weeks ago a team of Ernst Basler + Partners have attended the Swiss GeoSummit. Among others we have given a presentation on Story Maps in collaboration with Swisstopo’s (the Swiss national mapping agency) David Oesch.

What are Story Maps?

Story Maps are simple web apps that combine intelligent web maps with text, photos, and other multimedia content in order to tell location-based stories (definition by Lindemann). Compared to map portals, Story Maps are simpler, straightforward to understand and can be used without any prior technical knowledge about maps and – god forbid – GIS. And using Story Map templates from Esri they are actually not that complicated to build either.

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication

Whether you attribute above adage to William Gaddis, Steve Jobs or Leonardo da Vinci: it’s certainly true for Story Maps. Overall, the following criteria make for a good Story Map according to Lindemann:

  • simplicity
  • connects with its audience
  • draws users in
  • the user experience supports the story
  • good cartographic and web design

Alternatively, you can read the very insightful and entertaining Why Map Portals Don’t Work series by Brian Timoney to get a Story Maps definition ex negativo.

Story Maps for public communication

Over the recent years, various providers of Story Map technology and templates have sprung up. Two of which, namely Swisstopo and Esri, are highlighted in our talk. As an engineering and consulting company, in our example we were especially interested how Story Maps can be used to foster information of the public and political participation in the planning or proposal stages of e.g. infrastructure projects.

You can view and download our presentation slides (unfortunately in German) from SlideShare, or just check them out here below:

Please contact me or my colleague Ralph Straumann with any enquiries regarding your potential Story Map project.


Jeremiah Lindemann: StoryMaps — Using ArcGIS as a Communications Medium. Esri User Conference 2013, Technical Session