Essentials for intelligent Web Maps

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Essentials for intelligent Web Maps

If you're familiar with the basics of using and saving Web Maps, you're ready to share them and learn more about strategies and practical considerations for building not just Web Maps but also useful and intelligent Web Maps. You will save time and effort by knowing more about how ArcGIS Online manages Web Maps and the GIS web services that comprise Web Maps.

The ArcGIS Online Help is a handy reference, and throughout this page, there are references to specific subsections that you may find useful. In particular, taking a quick look at the table of contents helps to contextualize the concept being presented.

The basemaps and operational layers pattern

Most Web Maps follow a simple pattern in their construction: an operational layer, usually a map service item, is overlaid on a basemap map service. The result is the simplest kind of Web Map. A slightly more advanced but much stronger pattern is to additionally overlay text or annotation over the operational layer and basemap, making the Web Map look more like a map than a mismanaged map mashup. Some of the basemaps in ArcGIS Online, like Light Gray Canvas, automatically use this second pattern. The ArcGIS Online Help has all the details on how to choose basemaps, including using your own basemap.

It is important that your Web Map be legible and attractive (or at least not distracting). If labels (text) on the map cannot be read because data or other text overlaps, then your map is harder to use and doesn't look as good as it probably could.

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Bringing your maps to life with Pop-ups

Clicking on and interacting with a compelling Web Map is interesting, even enjoyable. People expect something to happen and have learned to click on maps with expectations of finding useful information. In a Web Map you can meet this expectation by enabling and configuring a Pop-up for the operational layer.

Pop-ups can do a range of useful tasks in a Web Map, including showing images, graphs, and reports. This content can link to other websites or be driven by GIS data. The ArcGIS Online Help contains useful ideas and steps for configuring the properties of Pop-ups. Many map service items in ArcGIS Online already have Pop-ups configured and you can also learn from those by examining their properties. Here are some examples of such map services and Web Maps:

Consider delivering your Web Map by using an HTML Template

When you share a Web Map from the ArcGIS Online map application, you get the "Make a Web Application" option. Clicking this option gives you a choice to browse a collection of pre-defined HTML templates (provided at ArcGIS Online) with which to view your map. This option is a great way to simplify the experience of using your Web Map. The ArcGIS Online Help has instructions for how to create applications with Web Maps.

With this option, you can save the ready-to-use application to your content in ArcGIS Online and edit its properties further; then all you need to do is promote your Web Map application by sharing its URL via e-mail or social media.

Here are some examples:

Considerations for sharing your Web Maps

Once you've made and saved a Web Map, you'll have the opportunity to share that Web Map. Will you? The ArcGIS Online Help contains useful guidance for what you should share.

How will others find your Web Map? Any Web Map that is shared with the public can be found in ArcGIS Online by using search terms that include a word in your map's title or tags. Tags offer one way you can enhance others' ability to find your map. Start by thinking about how you would search for your map.

Whether or not you shared your map, once it's saved, you can edit its properties. The title, summary, description, tags, and terms of use should be filled out completely. The title should be simple-include the topic and, if relevant, the time frame or who the map is for.

Esri's suggestion is to treat your Web Map's description page like a home page rather than a metadata page. Home pages are inviting and draw people in, while metadata pages are sterile and require work that may not be enjoyable. How do you want people to see your Web Map's description when they find your map? Consider these two examples:

The ArcGIS Online Help contains additional guidance for sharing content.