With Esri’s building blocks, creating web apps is easier than you think

June 21, 2017 Carole Arseneau

My toddler son is getting to that age where toy building blocks are becoming very interesting to play with—he has mastered how to follow simple patterns and can now make sophisticated toys using his imagination. At work, I see the same thing happening as our clients increasingly use Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS to develop apps that address their business needs. Read this blog to find out how this often-overlooked capability provides an easy-to-use alternative to configurable ArcGIS Solution templates for creating apps that run anywhere, on any device, without writing a single line of code. 

Over the last few years, Esri has released many templates that provide best practices for building great apps. We know from download statistics that these templates are very popular. If you want something more specialized and believe you need web development skills or help from a tech geek to create the app you want, then read on. In five minutes, you could easily build your first app.

Did the word “Builder” in Web AppBuilder make you think you would need to have coding skills or purchase extra licenses?

Well, that’s not the case. Web AppBuilder is available to all ArcGIS Level 2 Named Users (basically anyone with a desktop license) and ArcGIS for Developer Plan Subscribers. It offers a configurable workspace where you can build the app you want using out-of-the-box tools, without writing or seeing code. Just choose the style you want and the widgets relevant to your workflow, and off you go!

Here are two examples of Canadian apps developed using Web AppBuilder:

1) New Brunswick Invasive Plant Patrol Online Mapping Tool

Eastern Charlotte Waterways needed an app to show where invasive plants are present in New Brunswick and support efforts in mitigating them. Using Web AppBuilder, they created the New Brunswick Invasive Plant Patrol (IPP) Online Mapping Tool, which offers a selection of data layers, the option to query data, and measurement tools to facilitate field work. 

The New Brunswick Invasive Plant Patrol (IPP) Online Mapping Tool uses several widgets to provide different ways for the public to interact with invasive plant data. Users can toggle data layers, view attribute tables to better understand data, change basemaps and run various types of queries to answer questions such as “Which plant species is near me?”.

2) City of Sherbrooke’s Water Utilities App

City of Sherbrooke used Web AppBuilder to create an app for employees that provides a common operating picture of the City’s water utility assets. This enables data-driven decisions about asset maintenance and replacement.

Gestion de l’état des vannes d’aqueduc, City of Sherbrooke. Using this internal app, staff can filter data to show specific information such as valves on which maintenance was performed in the last 30 days.

Contrary to popular belief, Web AppBuilder is not only available with ArcGIS Online but is also included with ArcGIS Enterprise. If you want to build apps with custom widgets and themes, consider using Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS Developer Edition. This Esri blog post explains the deployment options in more detail: Clarifying 3 questions about Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS

Now, you can even create your own web app templates to match your organization’s design or brand standards and share the templates within your organization. This allows you to create quick web apps without having to complete a full configuration within Web AppBuilder. Just plug in your data, name your app and “play”. Read more about this new feature: Use Web AppBuilder to create configurable app templates.

New releases of Web AppBuilder are introduced every three months, bringing even more widgets with each release. Some of the most recent widgets include: 3D layer support, saving query results, selective label hiding to enhance the look of the map, etc. View the full list of available widgets in this Widget Overview.

Ready to build your own app?

Did you know you can now access hundreds of Esri e-learning resources for free if you’re current on your maintenance? Here are two resources that will teach you how to start building web apps.

Web Course: Creating Web Applications Using Templates and Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS

Training Seminar: Get Started with Configurable Apps

For a complete workflow process, important tips and advanced knowledge, including a chapter on the Developer Edition, check out our one-day instructor-led online training course Creating Web Applications Using Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS. The next course date is July 19.

If you need help getting started with ArcGIS Online, sign up for the ArcGIS Online for Publisher course before diving into Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS.

For those of you who wish to customize your app, view our recent webinar Getting started with Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS Developer Edition.

Have fun building web apps! If you’ve created a public app using Web AppBuilder, feel free to share a link to it in the comment section below.  

About the Author

Carole Arseneau

Carole Arseneau is a Sales Representative at Esri Canada. She advises customers from all industries on how to use GIS technology to be more efficient in their daily workflows. Carole holds a GIS certificate from Florida State College in Jacksonville and a Bachelor degree in Kinesiology from Laval University in Québec City. Being by the water has always made her feel at home and has given her inspiration to keep a positive outlook in life.

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