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App of the Month: Make Tracks

Summer is just around the corner, which means many of us are headed outdoors to run, walk or roll in the sunshine. June’s App of the Month, Make Tracks, is the centrepiece of an eight-week, 75-km challenge encouraging residents of the City of Kitchener to get outside for some fun and exercise. Let’s get moving!

The mobile-friendly app provides 15 self-guided 5-km routes with fun facts and points of interest along the way.  Each route has been carefully designed to ensure they are walkable and free of any obstructions. There’s bound to be a community centre nearby, and if residents aren’t sure they can find the nearest one before venturing outside for that much-needed stretch.

The Idea

In a year like no other, the City of Kitchener set out to create an initiative that would encourage residents to get outside while staying safe. The idea, hatched by the City’s Economic Development team, took the form of self-guided tours, which would allow residents to discover their city and challenge family and friends to do the same. Self-guided tours are a popular approach to discovering new places at your own pace. What sets a great self-guided tour apart from the rest is usually a good map, and the City’s Geospatial Data Analytics team stepped in to help with that.

Logo for Make Tracks Kitchener

The city of Kitchener Make Tracks 5km Challenge encourages residents to walk, run or roll their way through 15 different self-guided tours.

The Requirements

The app that accompanies residents on their self-guided tours would need to check a few boxes to enhance the walking experience. First, the app would need to be easy to navigate and user-friendly. Second, and perhaps most importantly, the app would need to display seamlessly on a mobile device. Finally, the Make Tracks challenge offers 15 different options of walking routes, which means this app would include 15 different maps.

The Solution

The choice to use tools in ArcGIS Online to create the Make Tracks app was an easy one to make for Leslie McMahon, the GIS technician who built the app. She mentioned she loves many of the functionalities offered by ArcGIS Online and eventually settled on ArcGIS Experience Builder to build the Make Tracks app. She wanted the app to perform nicely on mobile devices and Experience Builder is the best option to customize an app’s layout for a variety of screen sizes.  

A view of the app on a mobile device, like an iPhone.

A view of the app on a mobile device. The Make Tracks app was created using ArcGIS Experience Builder given the highly customizable options for mobile layouts. 

Another perk of using Experience Builder is the ability to create a multi-page application. The Make Tracks experience is made up of 17 different pages, including a landing page, a dedicated page for each walking route and a Community Centre Locator to help users find the closest walking route. The Nearby configurable app template was the best solution to allow users to identify community centres closest to a searched location.

The Community Center Locator app which allows users to search their address and find community centers within a radius.

The Nearby configurable app was embedded in the Make Tracks experience to provide location information to users.

A Tour of the App

When a user opens one of the 15 community centre routes, they are greeted by a map of the chosen route and a carousel of images and directions in the bottom portion of the screen. A variety of pre-made templates are available in Experience Builder to make the development of an experience much easier. The Journey template was selected because of its map-centric layout and the use of the Bookmark widget provides information about each section of the route.

The layout of the app, a map of Kitchener in the top half and a Bookmark widget on a lime green background in the lower portion.

The map-centric layout of the Make Tracks app. Here is the self-guided Downtown walking route.

The Map widget, which occupies the majority of the screen real estate, features important information like the self-guided route, public parking lot locations, playground locations, community centre locations, directions and points of interest. Once zoomed in, the directions, which are symbolized as red dots, become visible. By clicking on one of the blue firefly symbols, fun facts about historical buildings or significant people appear in the popups.

An example of cool information stored in the Points of Interest popups. Along the Breithaup route, residents will walk by the George Lippert Park, which is named after an industrialist who built a furniture factory in the city.

An example of cool information stored in the Points of Interest popups. Along the Breithaup route, residents will walk by the George Lippert Park, which is named after an industrialist who built a furniture factory in the city.

The maps have also been embellished with a folded paper texture layer, giving the impression of a crinkled or creased map that was just pulled out of a pocket.

The Bookmark widget, which occupies the bottom portion of the screen real estate, supports the guided walk experience. This powerful widget is highly customizable; the app developer has the option to display existing bookmarks stored in the web map connected to the Bookmark widget. Luckily, bookmarks in web maps configured in the new Map Viewer support editing, rotation of the bookmarked extent and best of all, the ability to set a thumbnail. As a result, Leslie created all the bookmarks with the accompanying thumbnails in Map Viewer and those configurations were used in Experience Builder.

The Bookmark widget provides a sleek user interface to scroll through the different points along the walking tour.

The Bookmark widget provides a sleek user interface to scroll through the different points along the walking tour.

ArcGIS Experience Builder is an effective tool to transform your data into compelling web applications. Learn about the latest updates in ArcGIS Experience Builder and start sharing your work!

Interested in creating your own app? Explore ArcGIS Experience Builder.

This post was translated to French and can be viewed here.

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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