Which AGO applications allow users to turn layers on and off?

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01-05-2016 05:35 PM
BethSample
New Contributor III

Hello all,

I have been wondering if anyone has done a little research on which ArcGIS Online Web Applications have the ability for users to turn different map layers on and off? I've noticed some applications allow it while others do not. Any comments on your own experience would be appreciated!

Beth Sample

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OwenGeo
Esri Notable Contributor

Hi Beth,

I can address your question as it applies to Story Maps and also take this opportunity to explain a little bit about our team's design philosophy. Hopefully others will also chime in with their experiences using other configurable apps.

There are configurable apps with nice, simple experiences for exploring data (Finder), or analyzing data in a specific way (Elevation Profile), or getting a standard report on a layer (Summary Viewer). There are also generic apps (Basic Viewer, Map Tools, Web AppBuilder) that are widget-based and let you add pieces of standard GIS functionality like search, layer toggling, etc.

Just like all app development teams at Esri, the Story Maps team strives to design our web apps to have very simple user experiences. Our team focuses on storytelling, so the list of features that are -- and are not -- included in each storytelling app is based on the answer to the question: does this tool/button/feature help the author tell a story or the reader understand a story?

In many cases, tools that are familiar to GIS professionals -- the tools that professionals use to create maps and explore and analyze geographic data -- are not always necessary or helpful to general audiences in a storytelling app.

The best stories are usually ones where the author determines the maps (combinations of layers) that are most important and creates and includes those specific maps in the story. By doing this the author helps the audience focus their mental energy on the story rather than which button or checkbox to click next.

That being said, one of the great things about Story Maps (and web mapping apps in general) is that they contain live, dynamic maps, so our storytelling apps let authors to present different map views at particular points in the story. This enables interactive storytelling techniques like automatically showing a different combination of layers when the reader gets to a new section of the story or navigating to a specific area of the map when they click a location name in the story narrative. So layer toggling and other ways of changing what's shown on the map are possible in many of the storytelling apps, but they don't appear in the form of a traditional table of contents or layer visibility widget. The storytelling apps help authors create specific experiences for their audience that are activated in the context of their stories.

Here's a summary of how layer toggling behavior is or isn't implemented in our most popular Storytelling apps. For help choosing the right storytelling app for your story you can use our Create Story Wizard, which you can learn more about here.

  • Story Map Basic -- No layer toggling. Basic is a simple app meant to show a single map with a small amount of explanatory text, so there are no tools other than map navigation and pop-ups.
  • Story Map Tour - A Map Tour contains one very simple map with a single point layer of tour locations and a basemap for context. There's no layer toggling in a Map Tour. The story is about the locations in the photos and their relative location to each other. Map Tour also doesn't need a legend, since all the points are a single color, nor does it need a scale bar since it's usually not important to be able to measure distances, so these standard GIS widgets aren't included to keep the user interface simple.
  • Story Map Shortlist - Shortlist has several tabs that represent themes or categories of places. Navigating to a different tab toggles to a different layer of points of interest. Shortlist is similar to Map Tour so has a similarly sparse set of map features.
  • Story Map Swipe/Spyglass - The Swipe/Spyglass app itself is a sort of layer toggle. Its enables the audience to either wipe away (swipe) or peer through (spyglass) one map (set of layers) to compare it to another. A Swipe app can be embedded in other storytelling apps like Map Series or Map Journal to create a story section that provides the audience with an interactive comparison.
  • Story Map Series - Map Series allows the author to present and describe different maps in each entry. When adding a map to a section of a Map Series story the author can set the map configuration; this includes 1) which layers are visible as well as 2) the area shown by the map and 3) if there is a feature pop-up visible. The tabs in a Map Series can easily show a one map with different sets of layers toggled on or off as needed to tell the story.
  • Story Map Journal - As with Map Series, Map Journal lets the author configure the view for each map when it's added to a section of the story, so layers can be toggled between sections. Map Journal also supports main stage actions, which let the author create hyperlinks in the context of the story narrative that change the appearance of the map (such as toggling layers). Main stage actions can also change what is shown in the main stage (from a map to an video, image to a website, map to a different map, etc.). You can learn how to use main stage actions in this blog post. If you are ok working with HTML code here's a blog on how to create buttons for your main stage action links.

I hope that wasn't too soapboxy, but that it gives you and others some insight into how we view the role of storytelling apps in the Web GIS landscape. If there are features that you are looking for in particular apps, please post your ideas to the ArcGIS Ideas site; we do look there after every software release to see what people are asking for. Despite what I wrote above, just because a feature isn't currently in an app doesn't necessarily mean we are philosophically opposed to considering it! 😉

We want the storytelling apps to be useful and meet your needs, so please let us know how we can improve them.

Owen Evans

Story Maps Product Engineer

Owen Evans
Lead Product Engineer | StoryMaps

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2 Replies
OwenGeo
Esri Notable Contributor

Hi Beth,

I can address your question as it applies to Story Maps and also take this opportunity to explain a little bit about our team's design philosophy. Hopefully others will also chime in with their experiences using other configurable apps.

There are configurable apps with nice, simple experiences for exploring data (Finder), or analyzing data in a specific way (Elevation Profile), or getting a standard report on a layer (Summary Viewer). There are also generic apps (Basic Viewer, Map Tools, Web AppBuilder) that are widget-based and let you add pieces of standard GIS functionality like search, layer toggling, etc.

Just like all app development teams at Esri, the Story Maps team strives to design our web apps to have very simple user experiences. Our team focuses on storytelling, so the list of features that are -- and are not -- included in each storytelling app is based on the answer to the question: does this tool/button/feature help the author tell a story or the reader understand a story?

In many cases, tools that are familiar to GIS professionals -- the tools that professionals use to create maps and explore and analyze geographic data -- are not always necessary or helpful to general audiences in a storytelling app.

The best stories are usually ones where the author determines the maps (combinations of layers) that are most important and creates and includes those specific maps in the story. By doing this the author helps the audience focus their mental energy on the story rather than which button or checkbox to click next.

That being said, one of the great things about Story Maps (and web mapping apps in general) is that they contain live, dynamic maps, so our storytelling apps let authors to present different map views at particular points in the story. This enables interactive storytelling techniques like automatically showing a different combination of layers when the reader gets to a new section of the story or navigating to a specific area of the map when they click a location name in the story narrative. So layer toggling and other ways of changing what's shown on the map are possible in many of the storytelling apps, but they don't appear in the form of a traditional table of contents or layer visibility widget. The storytelling apps help authors create specific experiences for their audience that are activated in the context of their stories.

Here's a summary of how layer toggling behavior is or isn't implemented in our most popular Storytelling apps. For help choosing the right storytelling app for your story you can use our Create Story Wizard, which you can learn more about here.

  • Story Map Basic -- No layer toggling. Basic is a simple app meant to show a single map with a small amount of explanatory text, so there are no tools other than map navigation and pop-ups.
  • Story Map Tour - A Map Tour contains one very simple map with a single point layer of tour locations and a basemap for context. There's no layer toggling in a Map Tour. The story is about the locations in the photos and their relative location to each other. Map Tour also doesn't need a legend, since all the points are a single color, nor does it need a scale bar since it's usually not important to be able to measure distances, so these standard GIS widgets aren't included to keep the user interface simple.
  • Story Map Shortlist - Shortlist has several tabs that represent themes or categories of places. Navigating to a different tab toggles to a different layer of points of interest. Shortlist is similar to Map Tour so has a similarly sparse set of map features.
  • Story Map Swipe/Spyglass - The Swipe/Spyglass app itself is a sort of layer toggle. Its enables the audience to either wipe away (swipe) or peer through (spyglass) one map (set of layers) to compare it to another. A Swipe app can be embedded in other storytelling apps like Map Series or Map Journal to create a story section that provides the audience with an interactive comparison.
  • Story Map Series - Map Series allows the author to present and describe different maps in each entry. When adding a map to a section of a Map Series story the author can set the map configuration; this includes 1) which layers are visible as well as 2) the area shown by the map and 3) if there is a feature pop-up visible. The tabs in a Map Series can easily show a one map with different sets of layers toggled on or off as needed to tell the story.
  • Story Map Journal - As with Map Series, Map Journal lets the author configure the view for each map when it's added to a section of the story, so layers can be toggled between sections. Map Journal also supports main stage actions, which let the author create hyperlinks in the context of the story narrative that change the appearance of the map (such as toggling layers). Main stage actions can also change what is shown in the main stage (from a map to an video, image to a website, map to a different map, etc.). You can learn how to use main stage actions in this blog post. If you are ok working with HTML code here's a blog on how to create buttons for your main stage action links.

I hope that wasn't too soapboxy, but that it gives you and others some insight into how we view the role of storytelling apps in the Web GIS landscape. If there are features that you are looking for in particular apps, please post your ideas to the ArcGIS Ideas site; we do look there after every software release to see what people are asking for. Despite what I wrote above, just because a feature isn't currently in an app doesn't necessarily mean we are philosophically opposed to considering it! 😉

We want the storytelling apps to be useful and meet your needs, so please let us know how we can improve them.

Owen Evans

Story Maps Product Engineer

Owen Evans
Lead Product Engineer | StoryMaps
BethSample
New Contributor III

Owen,

Thanks very much for your reply! This is very helpful and I appreciate you taking the time.

Have a good one!

Beth