What Can Esri ArcGIS Online (AGOL) Do For You?

esri webscene arcgis online

Last Updated: Jan 22, 2017

Esri’s Cloud-Based Mapping Platform AGOL

Have you ever wanted to create interactive maps for your organization? Or maybe you wanted to share a web map with the whole world.

With little effort, you can build them using Esri’s cloud-based platform ArcGIS Online.

It delivers a powerful interface with ready-to-use base maps and data layers created by the global community.

This in itself sends a powerful message with location in mind. But what else can you do?

Let’s take a deep-dive into ‘what’ Esri ArcGIS Online, followed by the ‘how to’.

A Complete Arsenal of Geographic Data in the Cloud

“Complete arsenal of geographic data” is an understatement.

No one has really measured the sheer size of Esri’s ArcGIS Online GIS data repository, but confidently it’s the largest that exists today. All things considered, there is a tremendous amount of content for you and your organization as part of Esri ArcGIS Online.

A small search for the environment brings you 6315 data layers.

arcgis online data

This is some pretty powerful stuff as the cloud-based warehouse continues to expand. Save your favorite data sets because it’s about search and discovery.

Esri has become the ultimate collector of GIS data, in a good way. It never hurts the end-user to have updated data from reliable sources.

…not to mention, the basemaps are simply beautiful. They’ve come a long way:

arcgis online basemaps

Now, what can you do with all this data?

Sculpt Interactive Web Maps & Apps For Any Device

Ok, you won’t be able to build an app for your grandma’s 1990s flip phone.




But you can build some pretty neat smart phone and web applications for your target audience. And you don’t need to be a cartographer or a programmer to create one, even though these skills very useful.

Beautiful, realistic 3D scenes in your web viewer are now a reality such as this GPS map displaying a cyclists speed and heart rate. When going uphill, the cyclists speed tails off in purple and heart rate shoots up like a rocket in turquoise.

heart rate 3D map

There’s nothing better than telling your own personalized journal in a story map. Like a novel you can’t put down, story maps sets the tone with location bookmarks as if you’re going through a story book page-by-page.

For example, the University of Minnesota addresses the issue of global food production in this brilliant Feed the World story map.

feeding the world story map

For any time aware data, the time slider app can filter out data for specific time periods. It can show how earthquakes in an area has increased over time or how land cover has changed.

Like a time capsule, the spyglass and swipe tools are built-in templates that let you time-travel in history. With the New York Spyglass web map, you can spy on the New York City of 1836 and today.

new york history map

Whether you want to explore your data with elevation profiles, viewsheds or route directions, Esri ArcGIS Online has an app for you. For those in need of statistics in specific areas, the dashboard Summary Viewer solution template is your solution.

Next Level Web App Customizing

In ArcGIS Online, you can create apps by using a template or using the Web AppBuilder.

But just what is WebApp Builder?

If you want to customize your web maps, the WebApp builder is a drag-and-drop type of interface to customize your web apps without code. It’s you who decides which widgets will be in your application like this EPA web app has its widgets on the left and top-right.

epa web app builder

You can usually recognize one when you see one because if its similar widget menus. But as the web app builder continues to evolve you can begin publishing geoprocessing widgets to automate monotonous tasks like clipping. Imagine that!

Sounds tough? Don’t worry because it isn’t.




Lastly, if you have field crews that collect/edit data, ArcGIS Online provides an entry ‘geoform’ on top of Esri Collector. If you want to test out this field app, download it for free at the Android Play Store or Apple App Store.

If you need to crowdsource or create a poll to get feedback, Esri ArcGIS Online has a ready-to-use app for that. Again, this requires no programming and just some initial configuration with the crowdsource reporter app.

esri crowdsource app

Now what if you want to customize everything in a webpage of your very own?

You can take things a step further with ArcGIS API for JavaScript 3 and 4. Using a bit of JavaScript, you can leverage data stored in your ArcGIS Online portal or ArcGIS Server. ArcGIS JavaScript API 4 lets you build full-featured 3D web scenes and tons more to build a great user experience. But in this case, programming skills are required.

This windmill WebGL web map is just the tip of the iceberg. In a true 3D environment, this wind farm web scene shows all the moving parts of a windmill with orientation and blade rotation speed. It’s from a live service but how cool is that?

esri webgl renderer

Quick Step-by-Step

It’s time to sculpt a map of your own. ArcGIS Online is so easy, that we recommend for you to just give it a go. But if you’re the type that likes to read instruction manuals when you by a product, this should do just fine.

First, you’ll have to log into your ArcGIS Online.

arcgis online sign in

If you want to make a web app, you should start with a template.

create new web app

For example, the spyglass template gives step-by-step instructions.

spyglass web app steps

Upload your own data from your computer. Alternatively, you can select a web services or data from ArcGIS Online.

add data

Select your base maps, change symbols, customize pop-ups and share. As you can see, ArcGIS Online requires zero programming skills because there are templates available for you to get started right away.

It’s really as simple as that.

Because Secure Data is Important

When you’ve hoarded your own collection of ArcGIS Online data (or your own private data), you can share with only your organization or publish it for the world to see.

If you are your organization’s administrator, you can assign control for people and content.

Store your public or private data to your favorites… With its secure sharing and collaboration tools, you can share your own data for your organization or the entire world.

Your organization can create and join groups with control access to items shared publicly or within groups.

This is all exciting stuff.

The capabilities in ArcGIS Online almost appear limitless as new developments like Esri Insights are emerging regularly.

Just Touching the Surface with ArcGIS Online

The power of GIS is now online with ArcGIS Online for users with all skill levels.

Esri gives a generous 60 days to try for free with 2GB of storage. It does a limitation on the number of features you can upload.

Overall, Esri has invested a lot of time and effort in making this something for any end-user to pick up and run with.

It’s time to give credit where credit is due, and this is a big winner in our books.

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