I’m not familiar so much with GIS applications and libraries. There is something that I would like to know if it’s possible or not.

We are using ESRI suite of products as our GIS infrastructure. We use products like ArcGIS desktop and ArcGIS server. However, the published maps are not that user friendly and not smooth. ESRI provides a lot of tools and utilities but not in the UX part. We want to reach a level when maps UX is something similar to the latest Google Maps.
Everyone can agree Google Maps has very smooth graphics, nice display to streets and amazing markers and info box animation.
I would like to ask if it’s possible to approach this goal or not by using some specific libraries or technologies.

  • You could look at your server to ensure that it's performing optimally. Where's the bottleneck? Database? Processor? Ram? Are your maps trying to fling too much data around?
    – Alex Leith
    Nov 5, 2013 at 23:43

3 Answers 3


Google Maps works so well because some clever people spent time making something incredibly complex appear to be simple.

Switching to a new mapping API isn't going to automatically make your web map nicer to use - some alternative suggestions:

  • Rather than making a mega-application with every possible layer, make a series of smaller, focussed apps
  • Find some web-maps (or non-mapping sites) that you like, and figure out what's nice about them. Emulate that behaviour in your own maps
  • Learn everything you can about your mapping API (Esri or otherwise) and know when to use each function - and when to omit it
  • Read about useability. Some great books are The Design Of Everyday Things and Don't Make Me Think
  • Hire an expert (look up my details, I'd be happy to help ;)

There's nothing inherently wrong with the Esri suite, or inherently better about any other mapping API - it all comes down to how you use the tools.

  • 1
    I think this is the right answer. Keep it simple, use one or two basemaps and one layer, or if there's multiple layer, only think of one purpose. If you want interactivity, think about your data structures, and either try to keep your data layer small and simple, so that it's fast, if you want vector style interactive (like the google feature points) or just use 'onclick' and have a deeper, optimised layer that does a point-in-poly for your click coordinates.
    – Alex Leith
    Nov 5, 2013 at 23:42
  • Thank you Stephen for your amazing answer. That helped me a lot
    – Mike
    Nov 7, 2013 at 14:07

Using leaflet on the clientside could be a good idea:


Apart from that, it generally takes hard work to make the UI simple.

  • This library seems interesting. I would like to confirm if it works on ArcGIS server which I think yes because it's already support ArcGIS online
    – Mike
    Nov 4, 2013 at 14:15
  • 1
    It does work with ArcGIS Server Services, Mike. It isn't very fast, though. Here's a demo that I threw together including querying for individual feature information on clicks: maps.gcc.tas.gov.au/lcc_ps
    – Alex Leith
    Nov 5, 2013 at 23:39
  • While Leaflet is a wonderful library, I feel that just suggesting to use Leaflet is too simplistic a Solution. Most of the hard work needs to be done by the server's Cartographic engine. Leaflet also lacks most UI Tools. The OP will need to use some other tools in conjugation with leaflet to achieve what they want. Nov 7, 2013 at 4:57

I don't know much about arcgis but perhaps tilemill/mapbox could help you recreate a Google maps style interface? It allows you to generate tiles from your shapefiles, apply custom styling using cartoCSS and also add varying levels of interactivity:


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