Two friends and I are developing a series of web mapping applications, only with some basic tasks (measure tools, identify polygons, and others). We are looking for suggestions on what to implement to make our applications better. So, my question is:

¿What tasks do you add to your maps to add something extra?

As an example, we recently added a tool that get the distance between the selected points in a polygon, the selection is made by drawing a polygon in the map.

We are using ArcGIS Server 9.3.1 with .NET, but the tools listed in the answers could be implemented in any framework.


This is not only for us, everyone here could benefit of each idea/answer.

4 Answers 4


I almost didn't say anything, because Simon's "don't ask us, ask your users" is great adivce. It's a question not asked often enough by builders. I do have one suggestion though that probably fits in just about any mapping application: ability to query or identify location.

For reasons I'm not clear on the universal question "where is that? {stabs finger at screen}" is often missing, from both web maps and desktop mapping applications. Reporting the mouse pointer or crosshair coordinates in the status bar or a text widget somewhere is insufficient. Usually the next step after getting an answer to wheres-dat is to do something with that information. So don't just report location, give it. If the user has to hover the mouse pointer and then copy numbers down, the tool has failed.

That's the bare bones functionality. Making it more useful might include things like multiple coordinate systems/formats - degrees minutes seconds (131w33'22" 61n24'12"; 131:33:22, 61:24:12), decimal degrees, UTM, ... or geocoded (4024-4rth Ave) or relational (500 meters northwest of bus stop #345) if they're in an urban area.

Snapping to the nearest object is another feature to consider.

Also be kind, remember the last X locations which have been queried. Perhaps look for relationships between them. And so on, I'm sure there are other useful features I'm not thinking of right now.

  • 3
    The corresponding tool to the "where is that" tool is a "where is this" tool - where a user has a given thing in mind (house, address, incident, business, geocache, monument) and they want to find it on a map.
    – mwalker
    Commented Jan 18, 2011 at 16:44
  • @mwalker +5! post as an answer and get your dues :) Commented Jan 18, 2011 at 18:03

Dont ask us. Ask your users. :)

Id argue you should avoid crowding your web apps with lots of tools i.e. Avoid trying to replicate ArcGIS Desktop on the web - The tools maybe useful and familiar to you, but perhaps not to your end-users who may not be as familiar with GIS tools

You mention you are creating a series of web apps. Id look at the different audiences for each of the apps and try and get a good understanding on what answers they need to get from the spatial data in your apps.

e.g. Instead of giving them a bunch of discrete GIS tools, perhaps think about encapsulating some geoprocessing into a gp service

= This then gives your app one very powerful button that could answer a very common question in one hit.

  • I like your answer, but the thing is that we already have a couple of standar tools that we add to the applications, we just were thinking that it would be cool if we get to know what tools other people use.
    – eiefai
    Commented Jan 17, 2011 at 17:13

Metadata! Have a way for users to find out what data is being shown in your map, when the dataset was made and by whom. Without context no-one can really be sure what they are looking at.


For me, the main problem area is the design, the composition of the map. Not only symbolization and layer styles, but proper layout of the map document (even if it's only an on-screen document). There is some in-progress work about those question in the OSGEO, for example about the print layout capabilities of MapGuide OS : http://trac.osgeo.org/mapguide/wiki/MapGuideRfc67

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