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Build your very own app templates with ArcGIS Experience Builder

ArcGIS Experience Builder is Esri’s latest app builder. It provides the flexibility to transform your data into personalized web apps without having to write a single line of code. You can create your own app templates that fit your needs, share them with members of your organization and reuse them by easily connecting to new data. Here are 10 features that make it possible for anyone to build both map-centric or non-map-centric app templates.

Few things are one-size-fits-all and with ArcGIS Experience Builder you can now create apps that are tightly customized to what you want to get out of your spatial data. The builder provides tools to build an app from scratch, so you’re no longer confined to specific building patterns. You can create what you need, share the app you created as an item within your organization, allow members to duplicate the item and connect to new data. There you go – new app, custom template because one design doesn’t fit all.

Not an app developer? The UI/UX has you covered. A rookie app designer that requires a little bit more structure and guidance to building an application can lean on some of the available templates. The novice app designer who has a little bit more experience and vision for a custom application can enhance an existing template to suit their needs. Finally, the experienced app builder has the flexibility to create an app entirely from scratch. This building workflow is integrated into the ArcGIS platform, the beta is currently available in ArcGIS Online and Developer Edition but you can expect to see it as part of ArcGIS Enterprise further down the road.

Following the release of beta 2 this past November, I built an experience to showcase the beautiful sights of Western Newfoundland where the GIS Geek himself, Chris North, went on vacation. You may have been one of the lucky ones to see the finished experience at some of the Fall User Conferences. To create the multi-page experience, I used a mixture of map-centric and scrolling templates, connected to both 2D and 3D maps and customized existing templates by adding new widgets and changing the themes. I had a feeling I might want to create a similar experience to showcase other sights. To achieve this, I duplicated the original experience and stripped it of its content to create a reusable template. A few weeks later I decided to create an experience to share what goes on during Winterlude in Ottawa. With the template ready, I was able to quickly duplicate it and connect to new data. New app, custom template!

To get you started, here are 10 features to consider while building your app template with ArcGIS Experience Builder.

1. Connect to Multiple Data Sources

There’s a high likelihood your experience will be data-driven. To facilitate this, the Experience Builder allows you to connect to a variety of data sources within the same experience allowing you to keep multiple maps and scenes in mind during the building experience. From the Data tab, you can connect to web maps, web scenes, feature layers or ArcGIS Enterprise services to populate widgets. Once connected, the Data tab is the best spot to keep track of how the layers and maps are being used.

Add different data sources.

Connect to multiple data sources from the Data tab.

2. Keep Track of your Data and Maps

As the Experience grows to include multiple sources the Data tab is where you can go to check on what they’re up to. You can quickly find out how many widgets are dependent on a specific map or layer. This is handy when you’re thinking of removing a source because you’ll get notified with a list of all the dependent widgets.

Find out how your data sources are being used within the app.

3. Create as Many Pages as you Want

One feature that really sets Experience Builder apart is the ability to create a multi-page application. The final product may resemble a website made up of multiple scrolling pages. From within the builder, you can add new pages or duplicate existing ones to maintain style consistency. 

Build out your application to include multiple pages.

4. Mobile First Designs

As the “App Template Builder” in residence, you have complete control over how the app will display on a variety of screen sizes. The same experience can be tailored to fit different screens. This video (it features the UI/UX of beta 1 but it’s still very relevant) outlines the features to consider while building for mobile devices in mind.

5. Drag and Drop User Experience

Experience Builder is extensible in the way that it can cater to both the rookie and experienced app developers. The building experience is simplified with drag and drop capability. The Experience Builder team has provided a list of the widgets made available in the latest beta release.

Adding new widgets is as easy as dragging and dropping.

6. Themes

Themes are a fun way to quickly change the entire look and feel of your Experience. You can create your own default to suit your organizational needs. That way you can apply your favourite colour palette with the touch of a button.

Changing the overall theme of your app can be done with a quick click. Change color, font and, font size.

7. Work with Available Templates

If you’re feeling adventurous, try building an app from scratch (the video features the UI/UX of beta 1 but it’s still very relevant). If you’d like to familiarize yourself with the building workflow, a great place to start is with the templates created by the Experience Builder team. They come in a few different styles – full-screen apps or scrolling pages.

8. Share Web Experience Items

A new item has been introduced called Web Experience. When a new Experience is created this is the new item that will appear within ArcGIS Online. Like all other items, these can easily be shared with members of your organization and with groups.

Work with Web Experience items within ArcGIS Online.

9. Lock Your Layout

The Lock layout feature allows you to expose different configurations within the Style menu of the builder. If ‘Lock layout’ is turned on the styling options for a widget are limited to backgrounds and borders. Once ‘Lock layout’ is unlocked more options are made available including size, width, and positioning. The role of the ‘Lock layout’ feature is to streamline the editing experience when all those styling options may be a little overwhelming.  When it comes to the templates you build, you can lock the template to allow users to do their job quickly and if they do need to change anything, they can unlock the layout.

Streamline editing by locking the layout of your app template.

10. Duplicate the Experience

Duplicating an Experience is easily done from the Experience Builder landing page once your template is completed. All that’s left to do is opening the copy and connecting to new data.

Reuse app templates by duplicating the Web Experience item.

The golden question remains - what are you trying to do? If you have some interest in creating your very own app template that can be reused and repurposed for different projects, consider using ArcGIS Experience Builder. Try out the beta, take it for a test run. When you do, don’t forget to share your feedback via the Esri Early Adopter Community. The beta version is for prototyping so it’s best practice to hold off on creating apps for production until the full release in 2020. Here are some handy instructions on how to access online apps created with beta 1 that may no longer work.

For a little inspiration, check out how the City of Zürich is using Experience Builder to embed their ArcGIS Urban content; how the City of Lincoln Lancaster County is sharing 2020 Census information or discover Washington DC.

Be a part of the conversation and join the GeoNet community to see what people think. I’m curious to hear what you think, comment below with how Experience Builder may prove helpful within your organization.

About the Author

Emilie Rabeau is a Technical Solutions Specialist at Esri Canada. She has a bachelor’s degree in human geography from Queen’s University and a Graduate Certificate in GIS from Algonquin College. As part of Esri Canada's Industry Solutions team, Emilie provides technical expertise to support the implementation of Esri software and solutions through the development and delivery of demonstration and presentation resources.

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