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  • Writer's pictureMark Gallant

Let your web map be the focus with ArcGIS Instant Apps

Web map showing locations from Below Deck

A variety of application templates on ArcGIS Online can be used to present content that might fall under what is now considered the story maps umbrella. Going back as early as 2011, well before the formal release of classic templates like Map Tour, Map Journal or Cascade, I remember using some of the first-generation ArcGIS Online app templates to hobble together story map-like experiences.

The old is new again

Thanks to some of the improvements that have been made to ArcGIS Instant Apps, I have new choice in my arsenal of templates that resembles those apps from the early days. ArcGIS StoryMaps are still a quality product choice when I’m looking to tell a story. However, with an increasing number of features unavailable for public ArcGIS Online accounts, coupled with the dependency on longform text and high-resolution photos, I find to be a less appealing choice when I just want to present a good-looking map with minimal amounts of surrounding content.

Over the past few years, some of the classic templates allowed me to skirt these issues by creating a single-pane Map Journal, or even using the now retired Media Map template. However, these older templates are not compatible with newer web maps composed in Map Viewer using ArcGIS API for JavaScript 4.x. So, to get the most out of my web maps in 2023, I need ArcGIS Instant Apps to step in and fill the void.

Your map is the star

ArcGIS Instant Apps focus on one thing: your map. You can take advantage of some nice surrounding features like sidebar text and a simple cover page to help give context to the map in relation to whatever the topic might be, but the web map will be where the audience directs their attention to. Custom basemaps created with the ArcGIS Vector Tile Style Editor will look sharp and clean, and any layer effects like drop shadows or blooms will help make your data pop in ways the older generation of web apps just can’t handle.

I made an ArcGIS Instant App about where different seasons of the hit television show Below Deck were filmed. I wanted my web map to look like a nautical-inspired, ocean-themed, paper map, with a simple set of points at each location showing as anchor symbols with some drop shadow effect. If a user clicks on a point, then they learn more details about that season and see a photo of the cast. By using the Sidebar template, I was able to add some simple text describing the show and a free-use cover image of a super yacht to help match the theme of my topic.

Develop a narrative

ArcGIS Instant Apps can also let you go beyond simple point-and-click, exploratory web maps. Presenting a series of features or locations as a sequence is a very popular method to use when showing GIS data on the web. Functionality that resembles the classic Map Tour template or the newer Map Tour immersive section in ArcGIS StoryMaps can also be achieved using the Exhibit template within ArcGIS Instant Apps.

I was able to present the seven different franchise relocations that have occurred in the National Hockey League (NHL) for teams that still exist today using the Exhibit template. Users have the option to click through each relocation or play all seven as an automated sequence. The detail cards allowed me to include key statistics for each team so that users can see what things were like before the relocation happened and what things are like today since the relocation happened.

Responsive and accessible design

ArcGIS Instant Apps are responsive by default and perform well on any screen size. Accessible-friendly design features also make it possible to have your app free of any errors when they are run against various accessibility evaluation tools. The design wizard features colour contrast checking in real-time that will alert you if the colours you select for your app theme meet the minimum threshold for WCAG compliance.

WAVE Evaluation Tool being used on an ArcGIS Instant App
Screenshot of the WAVE Evaluation Tool being used

While some elements still require a human eye, like if your cover page uses an image then most evaluation tools won’t be able to check the image for contrast errors in relation to text placed on top of it, having your app as accessible as it can be will allow for the greatest number of users to enjoy your app.


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