About authoring web maps

An ArcGIS web map is a basemap and a related set of layers that users can interact with to perform a meaningful task. These maps are available to a wide audience and include multiscale basemaps, operational layers targeted to a specific audience, and information pop-up windows that let users drill into specific features they are interested in. They also support visualization, editing, analysis, and time. They are the basis of web mapping applications and can be viewed on a wide variety of clients including mobile devices, desktop applications, and web browsers.

How do you author web maps?

Web maps can be authored in three basic steps: choose an area, decide what to show, then save and share your work. You can start from a new map or work with an existing one. When you open an existing map, you can change the extent, locate places, view a legend, see information about features, and more. With either approach, you can select a basemap from the basemap gallery, add data layers, configure pop-up windows, include bookmarks to specific places, include a description of the map, then save it as your own item and share it with others through links or by embedding it in a website or application. To create compelling web maps, consider the tips below.

Create usable, consumable, and actionable maps

Great maps help you bring geographic information to life on the web. With ArcGIS, you have access to authoritative, timely, and critical content that's been enabled for the web. As a map author, your role is basically to open up access to this information and present it in a way that is usable, consumable, and actionable, whether it is being viewed through a browser, mobile device, or desktop application.

Use meaningful basemaps and layers

Maps should do something meaningful, such as tell a story, present an idea, or showcase a situation. To do this, you should include basemaps and layers that have great cartography, work at multiple scales, draw quickly, contain informative and accurate information, target a specific audience, and have visible legends if the symbology is not intuitive.

You might also want to consider including specialized layers for time, imagery, and feature editing. In addition, it may help your audience understand your map if you add some features that are not part of an existing layer. For example, you might want to add in some photos and captions within a recent fire perimeter. You can add features by adding a map notes layer or importing features from a file.

Reveal important information

Often, the best way to provide detailed information is to reveal it as users interact with the map, for example, by showing pop-up windows and legends when users request them. Because layers can contain a large amount of feature data, you should be thoughtful about which attributes to show in pop-up windows and how you want that information to appear. You don't want to overwhelm your audience with data that is irrelevant or unnecessary; instead, aim to show just the information that matters for the particular map and consider including formatted text, images, charts, and so on, in your pop-up windows. You might also consider adding editable features so your audience can add, remove, and add features and related information.

Provide informative item details

Aim to be clear and specific in describing your map. Spend some time coming up with an informative title, summary, description, and tags so others understand what your map shows. Finally, be sure to respond to any comments somebody adds to your map item details page. You might even proactively add comments to promote a specific feature of your map; for example, you could encourage users to check out a new aerial image you've just added.

Share with everybody

Web maps can be accessed through web browsers, mobile devices, and desktop clients, making them a powerful tool for sharing with a wide audience. To reach the largest number of people, be sure to share your map with everybody and verify that all your layers are accessible to everybody who might want to view your map.


Your organization may restrict members from sharing items outside the organization. If this is the case, users and publishers won't see options to share content or groups with everybody (public). Administrators, however, can choose to share any item in the organization publicly.