Posted on: April 28, 2018 at 3:20 PM    

Blog written by Nick Dragunow, Graduate Consultant at Interpret Geospatial Solutions

If GIS has taught the wider tech industry anything, it’s that data is only as valuable as the format in which it is presented. The most insightful outputs mean nothing to the public if they’re locked within a 20-page spreadsheet. Media groups and technical sites vie endlessly for market share, and they’re turning towards data visualisation to make their voices heard with interactive maps, graphs, and videos becoming commonplace across the web. Increasingly, organisations are crafting fully immersive experiences for their users, with stunning, design-first websites built around each of their most interesting tales.

Story Maps are Esri’s answer to this shifting media landscape. Free to ArcGIS Online subscribers, Story Maps provide a simple online platform for producing bespoke storytelling experiences. Fully integrated with the ArcGIS ecosystem and hosted on Esri’s cloud servers, they come in a range of customisable formats, each suited to a specific role. The ‘Journal’ pairs slides of media-rich narrative with interactive maps, videos, and 3D scenes, the ‘Tour’ takes its audience through a series of photos mapped to their locations; and the ‘Crowdsource’ allows users to upload georeferenced images and captions to a publicly visible map.

Interpret routinely produce Story Maps for clients, one of our most recent examples being the Ports of Auckland (POAL). With a port at the heart of Auckland city and freight hubs scattered across the North Island, POAL are a major link in the nation’s logistical chain. Population growth and a fixed land footprint mean that demand for shipping will soon outstrip supply.  This has prompted the recent development of a set of projects aimed at increasing capacity, without the expansion of the port’s waterside holdings.

As part of a wider media campaign publicising POAL's '30 Year Master Plan’, they needed a website that was mobile-friendly, map-integrated, easy-to-update, and visually stunning. Interpret took content produced by the client and three consultancies and integrated it into a ‘Cascade’ microsite – fully-owned and editable by Ports of Auckland.  Visit the website at

POAL set of three images cropped

On release day, TV, radio, and online news traffic was directed to the website. There was never a question of failure, since Esri dynamically scales the hardware running their websites as user demand increases. Training sessions will allow POAL to update the site as projects reach completion, ensuring that it remains a valuable tool in their public outreach arsenal. 

If you are interested in Story Maps, have a look at the pages and links to examples below, or email me: The first example (Lights On Lights Out) contains a some stunning example of interactive maps and sliders, while the second (Expedition Palau) integrates text and full-screen imagery flawlessly.