Over on the Esri forum, user Matt Moyles suggested that the approach used in the Esri JS samples isn't suitable for robust development of a web mapping application using HTML, JavaScript and CSS:

ESRI's suggested approach to javascript application development is ancient and outdated. I would not recommend following the samples. Dojo 1.7 supports AMD with Asynchronous dependency loading. I would start with the dojo boilerplate template and "work" the arcgis api into that. The samples are not suitable for serious application developers. They are mostly just proof of concept snippets.

A serious application should be developed with the aid of some sort of framework to help structure things. I have been using dojox.mvc with great success! But other options include things like backbone.js, spine.js, or even javascript MVC.

Dojo Boilerplate - https://github.com/csnover/dojo-boilerplate

  • does anyone agree/disagree with this statement?
  • are there any online examples of better approaches to web application development using the ArcGIS Server JS API?
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    yes dojo 1.7 uses AMD but the latest esri js api is built on top of dojo 1.6.1 and the layer packages/modules that they serve or you can download are not in the AMD format. Therefore it wouldn't just work. It seems silly to load the js api (dojo 1.6.1) and dojo 1.7 just to use AMD
    – Steve
    Commented Jan 12, 2012 at 16:42
  • I just noticed that there's a session on backbone.js at the Esri Developer Summit this year. Commented Jan 19, 2012 at 5:22
  • I ran into trouble using the latest dojo boilerplate. I fell back to a 1.6.1 boilerplate package since that is what esri supports. ESRI will prob. release AMD version of their API for dojo 2.0. Here is the boilerplate project I used blog.rebeccamurphey.com/a-dojo-boilerplate (Matt Moyles)
    – dubvfan87
    Commented Feb 27, 2012 at 16:26

4 Answers 4


I would agree with Moyles that the samples are just samples and dojo boileplate is a great resource however at current snovers boilerplate isn't a viable solution. You have two different versions of dojo going on there. The current js api still uses the classic require syntax of dojo 1.6.1 and does not support AMD. I'm sure that a newer js api will be built on 1.7.x and since converting classic dojo.defined modules to AMD is mostly trivial I would choose that route.

If you're starting your project now then I would choose whatever server side framework you wanted to use (if it is necessary for your application. If its just a single page viewer with no server side requirements then don't over complicate things). It could be rails, php, asp, whatever. Follow the best practices for your framework/language.

Then since esri is built on dojo you are already loading a great js framework for creating large scale web applications. Structure your code so that the dojo's loader can load your widgets and modules with the dojo require syntax. Write dojo widgets and modules, use dijits and dojox tools when necessary ( http://dojotoolkit.org/documentation/tutorials/1.6/declare, http://dojotoolkit.org/documentation/tutorials/1.6/recipes/custom_widget/, http://dojotoolkit.org/documentation/tutorials/1.6/understanding_widget, http://dojotoolkit.org/documentation/tutorials/1.6/templated, http://dojotoolkit.org/documentation/tutorials/1.6/cdn). Do not write inline js like the samples do. Create a build profile to optimize all your code when its time for production.

You have to keep your esri and custom code separate to a certain degree because they don't offer the source for compiling - it's already built and minified. The build tool doesn't like that so much.


I built a grunt tool, esri_slurp to download the esri js api so you can use it as a package in your applications. This allows you to run the build and get a single file.


It should be pretty obvious that samples aren't meant to be serious applications: they're samples.

That said, it's much less common, in the typical internet world, to use something like Backbone than to use dojo, which is known for being expansive and complex, but often unnecessary.

If you could describe your objective more, it'd be easier to make a solid recommendation. Stuff like Backbone is written for full client-side applications - so if you're actually doing most of your work in PHP or ASP or nodejs, it's less necessary. Or if you don't need multiple pages and views all wired up, you could easily get by with just jQuery, or no framework at all.

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    if the esri code is built on top of dojo why would you use anything other than dojo? Dojo can do all the things backbone can and jquery. You're already loading a very capable framework, why would you recommend loading other ones?
    – Steve
    Commented Jan 12, 2012 at 16:40
  • @tmcw fair enough that the identify tool sample shouldn't be used to develop an application - but what about the more complete ArcGIS.com-based samples? Are Esri on the wrong track with these? Commented Jan 12, 2012 at 19:26
  • @tmcw as for my objective, here is an example of a site I worked on, using the Esri Dojo approach. If I was to start it again tomorrow, should I do it differently? Commented Jan 12, 2012 at 19:28
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    @Steve yep, there's a recording of the talk here if you're interested. Commented Jan 13, 2012 at 1:04
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    @StephenLead i was there :)
    – Steve
    Commented Jan 17, 2012 at 19:30

Totally agree. ESRI is javascript api, i feel like they are competing with ArcGIS Viewer for Flex. Samples are nothing but just proof of concept that how can you can use their dijits...I wish that they just provide a simple pure javascript API, and let user decide which framework people gona use like Bing, Google, Openlayers and several other...


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  • Hi Ryan, welcome to our site! I have made minor edits to your answer to conform to our policy about commercial posts. For more information, please consult our faq. If you would like people to get in touch with you, you may use your user profile to present contact information.
    – whuber
    Commented Apr 30, 2013 at 14:33
  • 1
    DO you have a link of a ArcGIS JS API mapping site using your technology? Otherwise this answer just feels too much like spam. Commented Apr 30, 2013 at 15:16

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