My organization wants to create a few maps that will be interactive and viewable via phones (android, iphones,etc) and ipads.

We already have a solution using Geocortex (Silverlight) for browser which cannot display on most devices. I've been looking into HTML5, Javascript and ArcGIS Online.

What I need is something that displays nicely for mobile use and that is easy to set up. Looking at Javascript is slightly intimidating to me and ArcGIS Online maps don't display well in the phone's browser.

I do not come from a Comp Sci or development background so if there's already an existing interface that makes it easily to display for mobile I'd prefer that rather than messing with code. The map would contain point features with hopefully a pop-up containing a picture and a short description of the property.

I'm pretty computer savvy but I'd like this to be as painless as possible.

Are there any other interfaces that exist that make this easier?

The mobile map will be only for viewing purposing, no editing or capture.

I'm open to looking at other platforms outside of ArcGIS as well.

As an added bonus (but not mandatory), I've been looking into Story Maps and plan on using one in the future, specifically the Short List. However, I don't see this working out for a mobile device as its very picture heavy and would crowd the display. If anyone has any other alternative ideas I'm open to them!

I've been looking at Leaflet and Mapbox as a possible solution for mobile use - there is plenty of documentation - but still a lot of code!

For now we've gained access to HTML5 viewer for geocortex and will be using it for our mobile sites. If there are any other alternatives I haven't already listed above - that are about on-par with ArcGIS Online for ease of use for non-programmers, I would be interested to hear about them.

  • Do you want offline maps (no wifi/cell/mobile data) functionality?
    – Mapperz
    May 1, 2014 at 14:51
  • No, we want to have it on our website and have a link to the map/app. So it could be viewed on the browser on your phone (or if there are other map alternatives). Kind of like this landing page: citywindsor.ca/residents/Culture/Pages/Windsor-Culture-Map.aspx It would be used by the public
    – GISHuman
    May 1, 2014 at 15:00
  • How does this work? a simple javascript developers.arcgis.com/javascript/samples/exp_history/…
    – Mapperz
    May 1, 2014 at 15:32
  • @Mapperz that's interesting. I would need to be able to configure the popups and add my own layers.
    – GISHuman
    May 1, 2014 at 15:43
  • Only 2 changes required var basemap url and parcels = new FeatureLayer to your feature layer which need to be on arcgisonline.com
    – Mapperz
    May 1, 2014 at 16:06

5 Answers 5


You're right to look into Mapbox, despite not having a Computer Science background. Mapbox has a utility called TileMill which is essentially a web map development studio that has a familiar GIS-like interface. It is based in Javascript, but is designed to make development easy for non-developers. It gives you all of the code as well, though you may or may not actively use it.



You have a few alternatives for simple, free maps:

  • Google Maps Engine, upload your data, style it, servie it up as a simple map with an iframe to embed it in a website, or tiny code snippets. Very easy, point-and-click interface, no javascript
  • ArcGIS Online, similar to Google Maps Engine, just limited like you say
  • MapBox, you can upload a simple dataset that was styled in TileMill, with popups and everything nice. Then you can link and embed that map. It's really easy to get nice maps. Here's an example: http://a.tiles.mapbox.com/v3/alexgleith.map-m2406w0i/page.html

For the most flexibility, I like Leaflet. You need data stored somewhere still, though. So, for static maps, I'd recommend MapBox. You can also try Google Fusion Tables, CartoDB, or any number of others. MapBox is the fastest to make something pretty, though.


For a fully native Android solution (with no HTML/Javascript):

If you want a standard map, with specific features displayed on it (points with pop-ups, lines, polygons...), you could use OSMBonusPack:

  • Define your features as a KML file (using for instance Google Maps web site or Google Earth)
  • Display this KML file with OSMNavigator application
  • If the approach seems valid, then you can create your own application by just following closely the OSMBonusPack tutorial related to KML display (§12. Loading KML content). This should be an app with around 20 lines of code.

Up to this point, you have a zero-fee solution.

Now if in addition you really want a customized map: same as above, but using a MapBox map as the "TileSource" instead of the standard OpenStreetMap map. And you can customize your MapBox map, as described in other posts above.


If you are somewhat familiar with ArcGIS online maps than take a closer look at the share and publish feature. Make a web map with ArcGIS online and save the map. Click the share button. Check the appropriate sharing level. Then click on the Make Web Application link in the sharing window. Choose the single map viewer template and click publish. This will create a web application with a url that you can view from any browser or mobile device. Be sure to check that the sharing level is set on the web application so that it is accessible. You can experiment with some of the other templates to see how they look on a mobile device.

  • Yeah, I'd like to stick with ESRI if possible but I wasn't too impressed with the way their templates look on mobile. And our organization would have to pay a large fee - so i'm looking at alternatives!
    – GISHuman
    May 12, 2014 at 16:47
  • Gotcha, I guess I was assuming you already had a subscription.
    – NBabel
    May 12, 2014 at 17:42
  • Yep, we have a subscription but for organizations using ArcGIS Online you have to pay additional fees. Money is tight here, so I'm hoping it'll be approved. Trying to prepare for the worst case!
    – GISHuman
    May 12, 2014 at 17:50
  • I'm not sure I understand what you mean by additional fees. The ArcGIS Subscription uses a service credit model. Simply creating web maps does not charge credits. If you host and publish data that will begin to charge credits. They have a credit estimator that might help: esri.com/software/arcgis/arcgisonline/credits/estimator
    – NBabel
    May 14, 2014 at 16:22

Depending on the number of user you are having you could use the free google maps api to create a mobile friendly map.

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