Keep your ArcGIS Online organization organized with visual cues

If you’re an Administrator for your organization paying attention to details early on often pays large dividends over time. As organizational assets grow in number, whether they be groups or shared items, the ability to quickly and easily identify them and recognize what they are and how they are used can save time and increase management efficiency. An easy way to accomplish this is to use visual cues.

Thumbnail graphics

Thumbnail graphics are an easy visual cue that helps brand what your organization publishes, and also what item types or sources they include. Below is an example from the City of Houston, Texas. The gallery ribbon is displaying item thumbnails that include the organization’s logo (or “brand”) to help identify authoritative content published by the organization.

Using good thumbnails is also key to quick identification of your organization’s content. Of the three thumbnails below, the two on the right provide a better visual indicator of the map contents, in this case medical facility locations:

Other graphics may be applied to thumbnails to help users in your organization quickly identify item types and how they can be used. Below, the graphics indicate (from left to right) a 3D scene, a story map, and a shapefile:

Group graphics

The visual design notions described above can also be applied to groups. A practice worth considering is to use your organization’s logo as thumbnails for the group building blocks – the groups that are used to populate the featured content, gallery, and other core groups. Consistency in naming is also a good practice, so they appear grouped when listed alphabetically.

Below are several groups that have been created by the organization administrator using different thumbnails to indicate use or purpose. The Redevelopment Project group is easily identified by its unique design using buildings. Building block groups for the organization can be easily recognized by the common graphic representing the organization. Further information is represented visually using color; a gray outline identifies internal building block groups, a green outline represents groups that are public and contain public content.

What works for you?

Experiment to see what works best for your organization. While these practices take a little extra effort, as your organization grows and its assets increase it will save administrative time and help others in the organization identify content. Not every group or item needs to follow these conventions, but for core organizational assets these simple visual cues help distinguish them easily, and help keep your organization organized.

For more information see Administer organization.

This post was originally published on January 6, 2013, and has been updated.

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Leave a Reply


  1. Jaroo says:

    Great post. If you would like to see what we ended up with in Greater Sudbury, check out our blog entry that explains or Organization’s ‘Anatomy of the MapIT & Open Data thumbnail’ at Any feedback or suggestions on how we can improve are always welcome!

  2. dcoley says:

    A challange for us is finding a ready source of icons and images at all the various sizes and resolutions needed not only for our org but also for our open data site. Does anyone have any good sources?

    • Bern Szukalski says:

      A potential source for candidate icons and images can be found in many of the ArcGIS Solutions Get Started downloads. From this page:

      Scroll to your solution of choice and click Get Started. In the Configure your Online Mapping Platform section you will a link to download resources. Many (all?) of those downloads include sample icons and graphics, and templates you can use to modify your own.