Get started with ArcGIS Online

Begin a map

You'll begin your map by signing in to ArcGIS Online and navigating to your area of interest: Houston, Texas.

  1. Sign in to ArcGIS Online.

    If you don't have an organizational account, see options for software access.

  2. On the ribbon, click the Map tab.

    Depending on your organizational and user settings, you may have opened Map Viewer Classic. ArcGIS Online offers two map viewers for viewing, using, and creating maps. For more information on the map viewers available and which to use, please see this FAQ.

    This tutorial uses Map Viewer.

  3. If necessary, in the pop-up window, click Open in Map Viewer or on the ribbon, click Open in Map Viewer.

    Map Viewer opens.

  4. If necessary, in the pop-up, click OK.

    Map viewer opens to a default blank map

    Your map's appearance varies based on your account or organizational settings and your browser window size. It may show the United States, the world (such as in the example image), or another extent. The only layer on the map is the basemap, which provides geographic context such as water bodies and political boundaries. The default basemap is Topographic, but your map may have a different basemap depending on your organization's settings.

    On either side of the map are the toolbars. The Contents (dark) toolbar allows you to manage and view the map contents and work with the map. The Settings (light) toolbar allows you to access tools and options for configuring and interacting with map layers and other map components. The Layers pane is also open. As you add data to your map, it will be listed here. Next, you'll navigate to your area of interest.

  5. On the map, at the bottom corner, click the Search button.

    Search button on the Map tool menu from the Settings toolbar

    A search bar appears at the top of the map window.

  6. In the search box, type Houston and choose Houston, TX, USA from the list of suggested locations.

    Search results


    Some ArcGIS organizations have custom address locators. You may encounter different search results than those in the example image.

    The map zooms to Houston. A Search result pop-up confirms the location.

    Map zoomed to Houston, Texas with Search result pop-up

  7. Close the Search result pop-up.

Add a layer

Next, you'll add a layer to your map that shows hurricane evacuation routes in Houston which is maintained by Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) Traffic Safety Division (TRF)

  1. If necessary, on the Contents (dark) toolbar, click Layers to display the Layers pane.
  2. In the Layers pane, click Add.

    Add button in the Layers pane


    You can use keyboard shortcuts to access common workflows in Map Viewer, such as adding a map layer and opening the panes to style and filter layers. To view the full list of keyboard shortcuts in Map Viewer, press Alt+? on Microsoft Windows or Option+? on Mac.

  3. In the Add layer pane, click My content. From the drop-down menu choose Living Atlas.
  4. In the search box, type Hurricane Evacuation Routes.

    The search returns a single result.

  5. For the Hurricane Evacuation Routes layer, click the Add button.

    Search for and add Hurricane Evacuation Routes from Living Atlas

    The layer is added to the map and the map zooms to its extent. The Properties pane appears.

    The major evacuation routes are displayed as lines that travel throughout the city. Next, you'll change the basemap to one with a lighter color scheme.

  6. Zoom into Houston.

    Map of hurricane evacuation routes

  7. On the Contents toolbar, click Basemap.

    Basemap button on the Contents toolbar

    The Basemap pane appears. It lists basemaps that you can choose to add to your map.

  8. In the Basemap pane, find and choose Light Gray Canvas.

    Light Gray Canvas basemap in the gallery


    Some ArcGIS organizations may have different default basemaps. If you don't see the Light Gray Canvas basemap, scroll to the end of the list, and click Living Atlas. Search for Light Gray and add the Light Gray Canvas web map.

    The basemap updates. The evacuation routes show up better against the lighter-colored, less-detailed basemap.

    Map with Light Gray Canvas basemap

Navigate the map

Before you continue, it's a good idea to explore the map and familiarize yourself with Houston's geography. With a better understanding of the area, you'll be better informed to make decisions and draw conclusions later. Before you explore, you'll create a bookmark of the current extent so you can quickly return to it when needed.

  1. On the Contents toolbar, click Bookmarks. In the Bookmarks pane, click Add bookmark.

    Add bookmark

    A text box for the bookmark's title appears.

  2. For Title, type Houston and click Add.

    Add the Houston bookmark

    The bookmark is added. You can choose this bookmark to automatically navigate to the map extent where the bookmark was created.

  3. Close the Bookmarks pane.

    You're now ready to explore the city.

    Houston has several major bayous (flat, low-lying marshes or wetlands) that run through the city. During a hurricane, these bayous are prone to flooding and can become especially dangerous. You may want to keep this area in mind when you later identify high-risk areas.

  4. Zoom in to the center of the city, near the Houston label, until the Buffalo and Brays Bayou labels appear on the map.

    There are several ways to zoom. You can click the Zoom in button in the corner of the map or scroll up with the mouse wheel. Alternatively, you can press Shift while drawing a box around the area you want to zoom to.

    Map zoomed to bayous

    These bayous bisect the city, crossing several major roads and intersections. When flooded, these bayous can cause serious challenges to infrastructure.


    If your organization uses the vector tile version of the Light Gray Canvas basemap, it's possible that you may not be able to see the labels for the bayous on the map.

  5. Add a bookmark for the current map extent. Name the bookmark Bayous.
  6. In the Bookmarks pane, click Houston.

    The map zooms to the previously saved extent.

Change the style

Now you'll change the route layer's style, also known as its symbology, You'll choose a thick blue line for the routes in the map.

  1. In the Contents toolbar, click Layers. In the Layers pane, verify that the Hurricane Evacuation Routes layer is selected so you can access its settings.

    The blue line next to the layer name indicates that it is selected.

  2. On the Settings toolbar, click Styles.

    Styles button

    The Styles pane appears. Layers can have either a single symbol or multiple symbols based on attribute information such as names or speed limits. You'll learn more about attribute information later. Currently, the roads are being drawn based on their classification, but you're only interested in showing the location of roads, so you'll symbolize the layer with a single symbol.

  3. In the Pick a style section, click Location (single symbol).

    Styles pane with Location (single symbol) highlighted as the drawing style to try

    The Road Classification attribute and Types (unique symbols) options are removed from the settings and the map updates to a single symbol with a default style.

  4. For Location (single symbol), click Style options.

    The Style options pane appears. You'll change the color and size of the symbol.

  5. For Symbol style, click the line symbol.

    Symbol style

    The Symbol style pane appears with a color options and additional options. You'll specify a custom color by entering a six-character hexadecimal code.

  6. In the Symbol style pane, for Color, click the current color to edit it.

    Color option

  7. In the Select color window, for Hex, type 004C73 and press Enter. Click Done.

    Custom color hex value for line symbol style

    After you choose the color, the custom color changes to a shade of dark blue and the map updates. Now, you'll make the line thicker so it's easier to see on the map.

  8. In the Symbol style pane, change Width to 3 pixels.

    Stroke Width option set to 3 pixels

    The map updates with the thicker blue line symbol for the routes.

    Map with blue evacuation routes

    The routes layer is a feature layer, which means it consists of individual features with distinct characteristics. In this case, each route segment is a feature. You can view a feature's characteristics, also known as its attribute information, by clicking the feature on the map and opening its pop-up.

  9. In the Style options pane, click Done. In the Styles pane, click Done.
  10. Click a segment of an evacuation route in the map.

    Its pop-up appears. A map can show descriptive information about features configured through pop-ups.

  11. Click a few more route segments to view their pop-ups. When finished, close the pop-up.

Add demographic data

Next, you'll determine areas of the city that are likely in need of evacuation assistance. To do so, you'll add a layer that contains demographic data by census tract. United States census tracts divide counties into smaller geographic areas, which are useful for revealing spatial patterns.

  1. In the Layers pane, click Add.

    The demographic data is owned by the Learn ArcGIS administrator account.

  2. In the Add layer pane, change My content to ArcGIS Online.
  3. In the search box, copy and paste Houston Census Tract Demographics owner:Learn_ArcGIS.
  4. Add the Houston Census Tract Demographics layer.

    Houston Census Tract Demographics layer

    The layer is added to the map. It's styled by location and shows all census tracts with a single color. Right now, the layer doesn't tell you anything or provide any insight into areas in need of evacuation assistance.

  5. At the top of the Add layer pane, click the Back button to return to the Layers pane.

    Back button on the Add layer pane

    The new layer is listed in the Layers pane above the Hurricane Evacuation Routes layer.

    Layers are drawn on the map in the same order they appear in the Layers pane. In your map, the evacuation routes are partially covered by the census tracts because the Houston Census Tract Demographics layer is above the Hurricane Evacuation Routes layer in the Layers pane. (You can still see the routes somewhat because the census tracts layer is transparent.) To better see the routes, you'll reorder the layers.

  6. In the Layers pane, drag the Hurricane Evacuation Routes layer above the Houston Census Tract Demographics layer.

    Hurricane Evacuation Routes layer in Layers pane with arrow pointing to new position

    The layers are reordered in the map and the evacuation routes layer is now visible on top of the census tracts.

    Map showing evacuation routes on top of census tracts

    Next, you'll look at the layer's attributes. Every layer has a table that contains attribute data about the geographic features in the layer. You'll view the table for the Houston Census Tract Demographics layer to find data that will help you identify areas that are vulnerable during a hurricane.

  7. In the Layers pane, for the Houston Census Tract Demographics layer, click the Options button and choose Show table.

    Show table button

    The layer's attribute table appears. Each row in the table represents a feature (in this case, a census tract area). The columns, or fields, provide different types of information about the census tract features. For example, the ID field contains a code that represents the state, county, and census tract identifier for each census tract feature, and the Total Owner/Renter Households (ACS 2013-2017) field shows the total number of households in each tract.

  8. If necessary, use the scroll bar at the bottom of the table to scroll to the right and locate the Percent of Households without a Vehicle field.

    To see the full attribute name, resize the column width or point to the header.

    This field shows the percentage of households in each tract that do not own a vehicle. Areas with a high percentage of people who don't own vehicles might need help evacuating, so you'll style the layer using the values in this field.

  9. Close the table.
  10. For the Houston Census Tract Demographics layer, open the Styles pane.

    When you styled a layer previously, you styled evacuation routes with a single symbol based on location. This time, you'll choose an attribute and style the census tracts with multiple symbols.

  11. In the Styles pane, for Choose attributes, click + Field.

    Field button

  12. In the Select fields window that appears, choose Percent of Households without a Vehicle (ACS 2013-2017) and click Add.

    Selected field in Add fields window with a green box around the Add button

  13. In the Styles pane, for Pick a style, click Counts and Amounts (color).

    Counts and Amounts (color) option

    Based on the type of attribute you chose, several styles become available. The list of available styles is determined by your type of data, a process known as smart mapping. In this case, the options are for numeric data. The map redraws to show the Counts and Amounts (color) style. The colors are based on a color ramp called High to low. This style symbolizes each census tract with a different color based on households without a vehicle. Census tracts with the lowest values have a light color, while those with the highest values have a dark color.

    Map showing the percentage of households without a vehicle


    Your default colors may differ from those in the example image.

    With the default color ramp, it may be difficult to determine the evacuation routes in areas with high percentages, so you'll choose another color ramp.

  14. For Counts and Amounts (color), click Style options.
  15. For Symbol style, click the color ramp.

    Symbol style option

    The window that appears includes options to change the fill color and outline of the symbols on the map. You'll choose a blue-themed color ramp to match the evacuation routes.

  16. For Colors, click the color ramp.
  17. In the Ramp pop-up, choose Blue 7.

    Point to a color ramp to see its name.

    Blue-to-gray color ramp

    The new color ramp is applied to the map.

    Map with blue-to-gray color ramp

    Now the census tracts with a higher-than-average percentage of households without a vehicle are more noticeable in the map. Based on the legend, the average percentage is about 6 percent. A clear pattern of limited access to vehicles is evident in downtown Houston, close to the geographic center of the city. These census tracts would likely benefit the most from increased evacuation assistance, such as public transportation.

  18. Click Done.
  19. In the Style options pane, click Done two times.

    Now that the layer is styled to show the percentage of households without a vehicle, you'll give it a more descriptive name.

  20. In the Layers pane, for the Houston Census Tract Demographics layer, click the Options button and choose Rename.
  21. For Title, type Percentage of Households Without a Vehicle and click OK.

    The layer name updates in the Layers pane.

Save and share the map

Next, you'll save your evacuation map and assign it a title, tags, and a summary to make it easy to find and identify later. Then, you'll share the map to make it accessible.

  1. On the Contents toolbar, click Save and open and click Save as.


    The blue dot next to Save and open indicates that the map has unsaved changes.

    Save as button

  2. In the Save map window, for Title, type Houston Evacuation Map.

    Next, you'll add tags. Tags are terms that allow users to search for your map in ArcGIS Online.

  3. For Folder you could leave the default or choose a folder of your choice. Similarly, for Categories, you can add or select a category of your choice from the drop-down menu.
  4. For Tags, type each of the following tags, pressing Enter after each one:
    • Hurricanes
    • Roads
    • Evacuation Routes
    • Houston

    Finally, you'll add a summary. The summary appears on your map's details page and should provide information about the map so users better understand your map's purpose.

  5. For Summary, type This map shows hurricane evacuation routes in Houston, Texas.

    Save map window parameters

  6. Click Save.

    The map is saved and it now appears in your account's content. You can access your content by clicking the options button next to the map's name and choosing Content. For now, you'll set the sharing permissions.

    By default, your content is private and only visible to you and your organization's administrator. There are multiple ways to share content to different groups of viewers depending on the level of privacy you wish to maintain and the content's audience and purpose. For example, if you choose to share to your organization, only people with accounts in that same organization will be able to access your content. For the purpose of this tutorial, you've created a public information map and you want it to be available to everyone, so you'll share it publicly.

  7. On the Contents toolbar, click Share map.

    Share map button


    Depending on privacy and other concerns around your data and organization, not all content should be shared publicly. For more information, review Best practices for sharing.

  8. In the Share window, choose Everyone (public) and click Save.

Create a web app

You finished your web map by adding and styling demographic data to show census tracts with a high percentage of households without vehicles. Next, you'll use your map to create a web app. A web app is a customized user interface that enhances your map's appearance, adds (or removes) functionality, and helps you integrate the map with other media. You can choose from a variety of configurable templates, depending on how you want to display your map. You simply want to showcase your map to the public, so you'll configure an app with only a few standard navigation tools.

  1. On the Contents toolbar, click Create app and choose Instant Apps.

    The Instant Apps gallery page that opens provides information and guidance to help you choose an appropriate app template, depending on your needs. When browsing the available apps, you can click the button next to each name for more information. Instant Apps checks the data and configuration of your map. If your map doesn't meet the requirements for an app, it's moved to the bottom of the gallery and a warning message appears on the thumbnail to inform you. You can also search the apps for a particular capability or tool.

    You want your map to be the primary focus of your app. You also want to provide access to the bookmarks that you created.

  2. In the search box, type bookmarks and click the suggestion that appears.

    The gallery is now filtered to show only the apps that support bookmarks. The Basic app template is a good choice for sharing a map in a simplified layout with standard navigation and exploration tools.

  3. On the Basic card, click Choose.

    Choose the Basic app template.


    Click Preview to try an app before creating it. If the default settings meet your needs, you can publish it as is. If you want to make changes, you can configure the app and customize it before publishing.

    By default, the app has the same title and tags as the web map used to create it. You'll change the title to better represent what you intend the map to emphasize.

  4. In the Create App - Basic window, for the title, type At-Risk Population in Houston.
  5. Click Create app.
  6. If necessary, review and close the welcome window.

    The app is created based on the template you chose. The app configuration window provides several app settings and an interactive preview of your app.

    Basic app preview with configuration in default express mode

Configure the app

Next, you'll specify the tools to include in the app. When configuring the app, you can use the default Express setup mode, which offers a subset of the configurable options to facilitate creating an app with the most essential settings. Or you can turn off Express to access additional options and configure all the settings available for the template. If the default settings are acceptable for your use case, you don't need to go through each step in the setup. You've already selected the Houston map, so you'll skip to the second step.

  1. In the Express pane, click Step 2. About.

    The About settings include options to provide information that helps users understand the map, including a header for the title and a map legend. When users open the app, it will include a button to view the map legend. You'll accept this default setting.

  2. In the About settings, turn on Header.

    Enable Header.

    The app preview updates to include a header with the name of your app. The app automatically saves as noted next to the Draft badge that appears in the configuration panel.

  3. Click Next.

    The Interactivity settings provide tools for exploring the map, including spatial bookmarks and a search tool. The app will automatically open the map to the extent of your area of interest, so you don't need to include the search tool. Your map includes two bookmarks that show different zoom extents of the city. By default, the app includes a button to access the bookmarks in the map.

  4. Turn off Search.

    Interactivity settings with Bookmarks turned on and Search turned off

    The app preview updates and the search button is removed from the map. Next, you'll search the settings to find where you can add a scalebar to provide a visual indicator of distance on the map.

  5. In the vertical toolbar, click Search settings, type scale, and click Scalebar in the suggestions.

    Search settings results for scale keyword

  6. When prompted to turn off express mode, click Continue.

    The configuration panel updates to include all settings available for the app. The Interactivity pane opens to the Explore/navigate section with the Scalebar setting highlighted.

  7. Turn on Scalebar.

    Scalebar setting turned on and shown in the map

    The app preview updates to include a scalebar in the bottom corner of the map. You can test the app as you configure it.

  8. In the northeast corner of the map, click the Open bookmarks button.

    Open bookmarks button

  9. Zoom to the Bayous bookmark. Click a feature in the map to display its pop-up. In the pop-up, click the Dock button.

    Map with bookmarks shown and feature pop-up with Dock button highlighted

    The pop-up window moves to the top corner of the app so you can see more of the map. The docked pop-up covers the buttons for accessing bookmarks and viewing the legend, so you'll reposition these tools.

  10. On the vertical toolbar, click Theme & Layout and click Position manager.

    You'll move the bookmarks button next to the other navigation tools.

  11. For Manage widget positions, click the grid next to Bookmarks and move it below Zoom controls. Move Legend to the bottom corner so it's on the opposite side of the scalebar in the app.

    Position settings showing moved tools

    In the app preview, the Open bookmarks button now appears with the other map navigation tools.

    Open bookmarks button moved

  12. Test your app's functionality by navigating the map, opening pop-ups, and viewing the legend.

    Preview of the final app configuration

    Now that you've configured and tested your app, you're ready to publish it.

  13. In the configuration panel, click Publish. In the Publish window, click Confirm.

    A success message appears when publishing is completed and the Draft badge changes to a Published badge with the date and time you published. The Share window appears, which includes a link to the app and a button to launch it in a new window to test.

  14. Close the Share window. Click Exit. When prompted, confirm that you want to exit.

    Updates made and saved to your map will also be shown on your instant app.

Edit the item details

Next, you'll add item details to provide meaningful information about the app. It's important for all maps and apps to have complete item details. The title and tags are already completed from when you first created the app. The Item Information bar indicates your progress toward high-quality item information and indicates the most important improvement you can make.

  1. On the Overview tab of the item page, under Item Information, click Add a summary.

    Item Information section with Add a summary link

  2. In the Edit Summary box, type (or copy and paste) the following text:

    This web app highlights areas in need of assistance during a hurricane evacuation in Houston, Texas.

  3. Click Save.

    The thumbnail image is currently a default app icon. You'll change the thumbnail to an image that reflects the area featured in your app.

  4. Click Edit thumbnail.

    Edit thumbnail

  5. In the Create Thumbnail window, click Create thumbnail from map.

    Create Thumbnail window

    The map of Houston appears.

  6. In the Create Thumbnail window, click Save.

    Create Thumbnail window with search box and map centered on Houston, TX

    The map of Houston is added as the thumbnail.

  7. Under Item Information, next to Top Improvement, click Add a description.

    A description should be even more detailed and in-depth than a summary. It should explain not only the app's purpose and what kind of data it shows, but also information about how to use the app and how it was created.

  8. In the Edit Description box, type (or copy and paste) the following text:

    This app shows evacuation routes and demographic data by census tract for Houston, Texas. The darker blue tracts have a higher percentage of households without a vehicle. This pattern helps answer the question: Where in Houston should we provide evacuation assistance during a hurricane?

    Use the map legend and feature pop-ups to learn more about the data shown in the map. Click individual census tracts to see pop-up information, including the percentage of households without a vehicle.

    The map in this app contains a Living Atlas layer of Houston evacuation routes and a layer of Houston demographic data. The demographic layer is styled using an Arcade expression that calculates the percentage of households without a vehicle. This information is also provided in pop-ups.

  9. Click Save.

    The Item Information progress bar indicates that you are closer to completing the item information for the app.

  10. Next to Item Information, click Learn more.

    Item Information section with Learn more link highlighted

    A complete list of suggested improvements is displayed. You have completed all but one: Add terms of use.

  11. Click Add terms of use.
  12. In the Edit Terms of Use box, type None. Public domain data. Click Save.

    The item details are complete.


    To modify app settings and republish with changes, you can reopen the app's configuration page by clicking Configure.

  13. Under Item Information, for Tags click Edit.
  14. In the Edit Tags box, delete any duplicate tags and add couple of tags of your choice and click Save.
  15. On the item page, click Share.

    The Share window appears. For the purpose of this tutorial, you've created a public information app and you want it to be available to everyone, so you'll share it publicly. Publicly sharing content makes the item available to anyone on the web.

  16. In the Share window, for Set sharing level, select Everyone (public) and click Save.

    Now that the app is configured and shared, you can use the Copy button in the URL section to copy the app's URL to your computer's clipboard and share it with anyone.

In this tutorial, you created a map with a layer of hurricane evacuation routes in Houston, Texas. You added demographic data by census tract and used smart mapping to emphasize areas with limited vehicle ownership. The spatial patterns revealed in your map helped you determine where evacuation assistance is most needed in the event of a hurricane. Finally, you shared your findings by turning your map into an interactive web app.

What's next? To learn more about making maps in ArcGIS Online, try the guided workflows in the Make a map in a minute and Try ArcGIS Online discovery paths. To learn more about spatial analysis and problem solving, try Discover patterns and trends in data. Explore additional ArcGIS Online discovery paths, including a more detailed look at smart mapping, Arcade expressions, and ArcGIS Living Atlas.

You can find more tutorials in the tutorial gallery.