Tips on exposing your published map services on ArcGIS Online

By Rupert Essinger, ArcGIS Development Team

Publishing Your Services thumbnail

If you’ve published or are planning to publish web map services using ArcGIS, here are some things you can do that will help people successfully find and use your services through ArcGIS Online.

1. Add metadata about your service

In the ArcMap document for the map that you are preparing to publish as a service, be sure to fill in the description, credits, and other metadata information in the properties dialogs for the map, the data frame(s) and the layer(s) in your map. This metadata is included in the service you publish and is accessible to users in the ArcGIS Services Directory (click here for an example) and when they add your services in ArcGIS Desktop

1.a. Document the map

To document the map, on the main bar menu, click File > Map Document Properties. Then fill in these fields:

Publishing Your Services - Map Document Properties

1.b. Document the data frame(s)

To document the data frame(s), in the ArcMap table of contents, right click the data frame name > Properties. Then click the General tab and fill in these fields:

Publishing Your Services - Data Frame Properties

1.c. Document the layer(s)

To document the layer(s), in the ArcMap table of contents, right click the layer name > Properties. Then click the General tab and fill in these fields:

Publishing Your Services - Layer Properties

2. Add a web map onto ArcGIS Online using your service

Creating a web map lets you show off your service and makes it easy for anyone to access it. It’s also a fun and creative process! You can create a web map that contains your service or services by going to the ArcGIS Online website. If you’ve published several services, you may want to make one web map that contains all of them, or create a separate web map containing each service. That’s totally up to you. You’ll create your web map using either the Map Viewer built-in to the ArcGIS Online site, or using ArcGIS Explorer Online, which offers some extra functionality. Your web map can be accessed by users of either client, irrespective of which client you use to author it. Your web map can also be accessed by people using the free ArcGIS app for Apple, Android and Windows Phone smartphones and tablets.

2.a. Choose a good basemap

When you make a web map, you can choose from any of the built-in basemaps. By default, new web maps use the Topographic basemap, but just choose the one you want to use from the Basemaps menu. You can make your services partially transparent to allow the basemap to be visible under your data. Some of the basemaps, like Imagery with Labels, include a reference layer that displays on top of your services to provide place names etc. You can of course add additional services into your map to supplement the basemap. For example, if you use the Imagery with Labels basemap, you may want to also add the World Transportation service into your map too. That service gives you highways, streets and street names.

2.b. Add popups, extents, and bookmarks

You can also configure great-looking popups for the features in your service, choose an initial extent for the map (the extent you save the map at will be the extent that users see when they open your map), and add bookmarks to highlight important places or help people find their way around.

2.c. Fill in the Details page for your web map

Before you share your web map with the public (or share it with a private group in ArcGIS Online if you want to restrict access), edit the Details page for your web map to add information about your map. You can also add your own custom thumbnail if you want. It also adds authority to your data if you add a complete profile for the account you use to sign in to ArcGIS Online, such as your organization’s name and logo. This makes your map look more official and it’s a useful signal to users that this is data they can trust.

Here’s an example of a web map that we created to enable people to work with the USA Median Household Income map service that Esri published last year. We used the Terrain basemap and made our map service partially transparent so the terrain shows through. We also added the World Reference Overlay map service as a layer so users can turn it off in the map’s contents window if they want. We also configured popups that include a graph showing the distribution of household incomes in each polygon:

Publishing Your Services - Popoup

If you want people to be able to “tour” your map, you can use ArcGIS Explorer Online to add slides into your web map so users can view the map as a presentation. Unlike PowerPoint slides, these presentation slides are completely dynamic, so users can zoom and pan the map and click on map features to find out more about them before moving on to the next slide. Although presentations are created using ArcGIS Explorer Online, they can be viewed either in that client or the Map Viewer. Users can view the presentation either after opening your web map or the presentation can be launched directly using a URL. For example here’s a presentation created by Allen Carroll (formerly the Chief Cartographer at National Geographic and now with the ArcGIS Online team at Esri) that tours you through a web map containing the National Geographic World Map service recently published in conjunction with the National Geographic Society.

In addition to making your service easy to access and use, there are two reasons in particular why you should create a web map containing your service:

  1. Creating a web map enables people using the ArcGIS app on smartphones and tablets (Apple iOS, Android and Windows Phone) to find and view your map. The ArcGIS app enables users to search for ArcGIS web maps and work with them, so if you don’t provide a web map, people using those apps won’t be able to find your data easily.
  2. Creating a web map enables anyone on the web to find your map, zoom in to an area of interest, and then share a URL that opens up your web map at that location. For example, someone may find your web map by doing a Google search, zoom in to their neighborhood on your map, get the link, and then tweet it, put that link onto their blog or embed your map in their website. For example, here’s a link that opens up the National Geographic Map web map centered on the Hawaiian Islands. The really nice thing about this workflow is that it doesn’t require that the person who finds your map sign in to ArcGIS Online, visit the ArcGIS Online home page, or even know anything about ArcGIS. This greatly extends the reach of your GIS work because it allows anyone on the web to instantly leverage your map to share a place they see on it with others.

Of course once you’ve made your web map you can put it to work in various ways, for example,¬†you can embed it in your own organization’s web site or add links to it. Using the web application templates you’ll find in the Share dialog when viewing your map, you can also create a web application that lets people access your map with the look and feel of your choice.

3. Add an entry for your service on ArcGIS Online

In addition to creating a web map containing your service, you should also create an entry in ArcGIS Online for your service. To do this, on click the My Contents tab and click the Add Item button. In the dialog that appears you can specify the URL for your service. When you do this, the metadata you entered in step 1 above is automatically read into ArcGIS Online to provide the default summary, description, and tags for your entry. You can also edit the Details page for your service to add additional information or improve the formatting of what users will see. For example, it is useful to add a link in the description of your service that launches the web map you created in step 2 above. This makes it easy for someone who finds your service to find the web map you prepared to show it off. Working with your service in the web map you created for it in step 2 is a better user experience than working with the raw service, so it is good to direct people to your web map.

Don’t forget that if you configured great-looking popups for your service in the web map you created in step 2 above, you can save this popup configuration into the ArcGIS Online entry for your service. Then anyone who finds the entry for your service on ArcGIS Online and adds your service into their own web map will get the popup configuration that you created for your service by default. As a result, people using any web map that contains your service will see your nice popups (unless the author of the web map that consumes your service has chosen to override your popup configuration and design their own).

For example, here is the entry in ArcGIS Online for the USA Median Income map service used in the web map example we used in step 2 above. If you add this map service into a web map and then click or tap on one of the features it contains, you’ll see the same popups as you do in the web map mentioned earlier. To save the popup configuration you created for your service in a web map into the entry you’ve added for the service in ArcGIS Online, use the “Save Item Properties” command in the menu for the service layer in your web map when you access it in the Map Viewer. For more information about this, see this help topic: Configuring pop-up windows.

There are two reasons why you should create an entry in ArcGIS Online for your service in addition to creating a web map containing it:

  1. When people create a web map in the Map Viewer or ArcGIS Explorer Online, they can search ArcGIS Online to find data they can add into their map as a layer. To do this, they can use the Add button and then type in their search keywords. This search returns entries for services; it doesn’t return web maps. So if you create a web map containing your service but you don’t also create an entry in ArcGIS Online for the service, users won’t be able to find your service easily from within the user interface of the two ArcGIS Online clients that let people authoring web maps.
  2. Similarly, when people using ArcGIS Desktop 10 use the File > Add Data > Add Data From ArcGIS Online command to search for data they can add into their map as a layer, this search returns services and doesn’t return web maps. So if you’ve not created an entry in ArcGIS Online for your service, ArcGIS Desktop users won’t be able to find your service when they search ArcGIS Online using that command. The same also applies to uses searching ArcGIS Online from ArcGIS Explorer Desktop.

So, in short, it’s best to provide both a web map and a map service entry in ArcGIS Online to give your service the best exposure in ArcGIS Online. We look forward to seeing your maps!

Thanks to Tim Ormsby, Esri Technical Writer, for his help with this blog entry. The popups for the US demographic map were configured by Jim Herries.

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  1. RupertEssinger says:

    Hi Don

    Thanks for the comment. I also read the post on your blog and it is a very fair assessment of the confusing metadata situation that occurs when you publish services. You’ve done a better job than we have at mapping it all out. We obviously need to review this whole stack and make it work better.

  2. marylandgis says:

    Thanks for this helpful article. I was looking for something like this last summer when working at San Mateo County (Calif.) GIS. Publishing “metadata” through ArcMap to ArcGIS Server and the REST catalog is not straightforward. If you want to publish only certain fields to the REST catalog, it’s very difficult to know what ends up where. See my post at . Cheers!