Embracing the Online Platform
It is no secret that Web Applications are the new norm and have been for a while. The ways in which we interact with our data has changed drastically over the years. Gone are the days where paper maps are a company's go-to resource...for most organizations, anyway.
In their place have sprung up mediums like Mobile Applications and Dashboards. Not only do these resources encourage organizations to stay in-tune to the technology around them, they also offer a way to collaborate both inside and outside of these groups. Sharing is caring, and this type of resource gives you much more control over those data-oriented feelings.
Paper and pins aside, one of the most useful ways in which data can be consumed is through web applications. It is likely you are already giving these a run for their money in your own organization. With the internet as available as air in many places, it is hard to not have realized the benefits of this type of solution. That is, unless you just cannot pass up spending time with a plotter at the end of an already long day.
Still need a bit more coaxing to embrace the web side? Okay, let's break down just why we believe these apps are the best.
Cross Platform Compatibility
If you have worked with spatial data enough, you know the pain of having to ensure your files are compatible with whatever version of ArcGIS you are working with. This is applicable to you as well as to whomever you share your ArcGIS Map Documents. Rather than require you have access to ArcMap or triple-check that MXDs have been saved to a compatible file type, these sorts of solutions typically only require a web browser and an internet connection. They can be opened from your desktop in Chrome, Firefox, or - if you are feeling brave - even Internet Explorer. The ease of use alone from this vantage point is a benefit, but not having to double-check that your ArcGIS 10.4.2 Map Document was exported with ArcGIS 10.2.1 compatibility? That is another relief in its own right.
In addition to interacting with Web Apps via a desktop connection, they can be accessed on the go. Devices like smartphones and tablets make it easy to open these resources from anywhere - a feat that was previously unheard of when having to consider, say, the necessity for a static ArcGIS connection. The biggest difference between interacting with Web Apps and Web Maps within a mobile environment versus a desktop component is that of the screen real estate.
Manageability on High
Since web-based applications typically need only be installed on the server, this places little-to-no responsibility on the end-user. Because of this reason, as well, maintaining and updating the system is much more straight-forward considering the administrator has full knowledge of what needs to be accomplished. This also helps to limit the number of users who are actively working on the back-end, cutting down on any potential errors and issues that may arise from having too many cooks in the kitchen.
Deployable, Not Destroyable
No data is exempt from corruption, unfortunately. However, the more we can limit access and maintain control over this information, the less likely we are to experience the headache that comes along with such a travesty. Giving your end-user full reign of your data is not always the most ideal scenario. This could be for any number of reasons, with accidental modification or deletion of records to name one or two.
When working outside of the cloud, you often must provide the end-user with said data. When working with the web? Well, that is a different story. In these instances, you can choose what he or she will see and what can be altered. Can they edit that record? Can they move that point? Will they be able to download this highly sensitive information to have as their very own? These are questions you are allowed - not to mention, highly encouraged - to answer when approaching the development of a Web App. This way, you have the opportunity to secure live data and control your audience when need be.
Over the coming weeks, we will be exploring the primary characteristics of Web Apps and Web Maps that should be taken into consideration during the design and development of the solution. In the meantime, what are the reasons you have for integrating more web-based mapping in your workflows? What are a few applications you have found to be especially useful?
About This Series
These posts provide examples and reasoning for aspects that should be taken into consideration when building Web Applications and Web Maps. Other posts in this series discuss the benefits of the web, user interface features, types and quality of data included, advanced analytics, and reporting.