From GIS to Intelligent Web Maps

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Documentation and other resources for this ArcGIS capability can be accessed from http://desktop.arcgis.com, a new site focused on ArcGIS for Desktop users. In about three weeks we will begin redirecting to that page. Documentation for 10.2 and earlier releases will continue to be accessible.

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From GIS to Intelligent Web Maps

Professionals in many fields use geographic information system (GIS)technology to create the data that Web Maps and other information products translate into useful information. Just drawing that data on a map isn't enough. To make intelligent Web Maps, GIS data needs to be published as web services in some specific ways:

  • Basemaps are the canvas on which you paint your data- the foundation that helps you create a map quickly and easily. But unlike the blank canvas an artist might use, ArcGIS Online basemaps also provide context and information that brings your data to life. Examples of basemaps include topographic maps, street maps, relief maps, and many others.

  • Operational layers are the most important content in a Web Map. Operational layers are usually focused map or image services that include access to additional information through a Pop-up. A Pop-up is what you get when clicking on the map, and it tells you what you need to know about that feature or location on the map. Examples of operational layers are analytical results, reports for areas or sites, routes, field observations, and many more.

  • Foundational Layers are Web Map services that complement or specifically contextualize operational layers relative to the basemap. Within a related collection of Web Maps , foundational layers will be reused frequently , and those wanting to add their own Web Map to the collection will also want to use the same foundational layers. Foundational layers are typically specialized boundaries like surveys, hydrologic units, or jurisdictions . Thereare commonalities among these purposes for which GIS content is published to contribute to intelligent Web Maps: Multiscale: Look at the basemap for the ArcGIS.com map application - as you zoom in or out, the amount and types of content on the map vary, yet the transitions from scale to scale are smooth. This is all by design,and creating basemaps is challenging work that only a few organizations undertake, mainly to benefit their customers.

  • Data behind the map: In GIS, this data is commonly called layers, which are usually a single theme of information that can be displayed for a given geographic area. GIS layers can contain names, types of features, summarized data, reports, status, citations, observed data values, and so forth. Web Maps allow people to see that data where it matters most to them.

  • Labels: Perhaps the most obvious difference between merely drawing GIS data and drawing a map is that most maps contain labels. Labels allow people who are less familiar with the location or topic to get oriented, learn, and participate. Maps with labels are usually more intelligent and more useful than maps without labels.

  • Complete and quality checked: Not all GIS data is ready to use in Web Maps. Just like traditional maps, Web Maps work best when there are no errors in the data. Common errors include missing values, misspelled names or words, or features in the wrong location.

When it comes to making your own Web Maps, there is a lot of content available at ArcGIS Online, and for making intelligent Web Maps, there are two kinds of content you will want to focus on:

  • Web Maps: The oldest and best trick in the mapmaker's book is to start with somebody else's map. Make a few changes and save it as your own.
  • Map services, which are the building blocks of Web Maps: Map services are the basemaps and operational or foundational layers that, when combined, result in Web Maps. Map services can contain predefined Pop-up and are described with the essentials to understand the information they contain. That leaves you to combine them and describe the result.

This map is interactive, you can pan or zoom by dragging a rectangle with your mouse while pressing the Shift-key or Shift- and Ctrl-keys.