One of the problems with using Neatline to tell stories is that it is often more complex than it needs to be. Luckily, the Knight Lab at Northwestern has created StorymapJS to make that process easier. In just a couple of hours you can put together a map that looks professional and is portable to any webpage.

Below you will see a map I made using StorymapJS to show off some of the great coffee options that Durham has to offer. It was really easy. You log into the site with a Google account (the data is stored in your drive) and it introduces you to an interface for making your map. If you have your own map, and the file size is big enough, you can use their Gigapixel option (they have a great example tracking character movement in the HBO Game of Thrones series). You can explore the map sequentially or click items on the map to skip around.

The interface for creating storymaps is found on the StorymapJS website. The entire process is carried out in your browser. After deciding on a title and other initial options, you are brought to map screen, with slides to left, description and media boxes below, and publication options up top. It is a fairly intuitive interface that doesn’t take too long to explore and master.

The basic unit of a Storymap is a slide. You start out with an introductory slide and then add more for each location. You can search for a location or place a pin yourself, which is handy if you are dealing with places that may no longer exist. For each slide, you give a title and description, and can add media such as a picture or Youtube video easily to go along with it. When you are done, it spits out two links, one for a full screen view and another for embedding in HTML (using an iframe element).

I really liked how easy it was to use. There aren’t a whole lot of customizable options, but I do like the selection of map tiles they include. Some people might balk at the fact you need to add a Google Drive folder for it to work, but this is probably not a concern for most users. I would like some more customization, but right out of the box it seems to work great. So check out my Durham Coffee Tour below (fullscreen link) and try creating your own map!