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 ArcGIS account, you can sign up for a free public account or an ArcGIS free trial.

  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 lesson uses Map Viewer.

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

    Map Viewer opens.

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

    If you're in a new session, clicking Map will open a new map. Otherwise, it will open an existing map (the last map you were using). If an existing map opens, click New Map.

    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 (such as in the example image), the world, 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 Settings (light) toolbar, click Search.

    Search button on 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 zooms to Houston, Texas, and Search result pop-up appears.

  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. You'll add this layer from ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World, a collection of curated geographic data from around the globe.

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

    Add a layer to your map.

    The Add layer pane appears.

  3. Click My Content and choose Living Atlas.

    Browse Living Atlas layers.

    The layer you want to add is owned by the Federal User Community, an ArcGIS account that contains United States governmental data. You can find the layer more easily by adding the name of the layer's owner to the search terms.

  4. In the search box, type Hurricane Evacuation Routes owner:Federal_User_Community and press Enter.

    The search returns a single result.

    Search for Hurricane Evacuation Routes in ArcGIS Online

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

    Add Hurricane Evacuation Routes layer

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

    Map of hurricane evacuation routes

    The routes are displayed as red lines that travel throughout the city. The line thickness and color show the different types of roads. The dark red lines show major interstates while the lighter red lines show state highways. While these lines are visible, you'll change the basemap to one with a lighter color scheme so the routes stand out better.

  6. On the Contents toolbar, click Basemap.

    Basemap on the Contents toolbar

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

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

    Choose the Light Gray Canvas basemap from the gallery.


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

    The basemap updates. The evacuation routes stand out much more 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 on. 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 and 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 and choose Houston.

    The map zooms to its original extent.

Change the style

Although the evacuation routes stand out more against the light basemap, they could be even more eye-catching. You'll change the layer's style, also known as its symbology, to give the routes a brighter color and a thicker line width.

  1. In the Contents toolbar, click Layers. In the Layers pane, make sure the Hurricane Evacuation Routes layer 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. Under Try a drawing style, click Location (single symbol).

    Show location attribute for the Evacuation Routes layer.

    The Road Classification attribute and Types (unique symbols) options are removed.

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

    Location (Single symbol) Style options button

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

  5. For Symbol style, click the line symbol.

    Change Symbols style

    The Symbol style pane appears with a color palette and additional options. None of these color options are exactly what you want, so you'll specify a custom color by entering a six-character hexadecimal code.

  6. In the Symbol style pane, expand Custom color. For Hex, type or paste 004C73 and press Enter.

    Custom color Hex value entered in Symbol style pane

    After you choose the color, the custom color changes to a shade of dark blue. Now, you'll make the line thicker to stand out better on the map.

  7. Expand Stroke and change Width to 3 px.

    Line Width option

    The map updates with the new line color and width settings.

    Map with blue evacuation routes

    With the thicker, brighter symbol, the routes are eye-catching and stand out.

    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.

  8. Close the Symbol style pane. In the Style options pane, click Done, and in the Styles pane, click Done.
  9. Click a segment of an evacuation route.

    Its pop-up appears.

    Pop-up for I-45 evacuation route

    From the pop-up, you learn the name of the route (in the example image, I-45), as well as whether the route is paved and what type of road it is. The owner of the Hurricane Evacuation Routes layer specifically configured this pop-up to present attribute information in a clear and readable way. You'll learn how to configure pop-ups in a later lesson.

  10. 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 containing 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 layer.

    Unlike the routes layer, the demographic data you'll add isn't in ArcGIS Living Atlas. Instead, it's owned by the Learn ArcGIS administrator account.

  2. At the top of the pane, click My Content and choose ArcGIS Online.
  3. In the search box, type Houston Census Tract Demographics owner:Learn_ArcGIS. Press Enter.
  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 you previously added.

    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 Contents 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.

    Move the Evacuation Routes layer up.

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

    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 all 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 Options 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.

    Table showing Percent of Households without a Vehicle field

    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. In the Layers pane, make sure the Houston Census Tract Demographics layer is selected. On the Settings toolbar, click the Styles button.

    The Styles pane appears. 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. For Choose attributes, click + Field.

    Add Field in Styles pane

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

    Choose an attribute to show

    Based on the 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 map redraws to show the Counts and Amounts (colors) 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 number of households without a vehicle


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

    The default color ramp can make it difficult to see the evacuation routes in areas with high percentages, so you'll change the color ramp to ensure all layers remain visible throughout the map.

  13. For Counts and Amounts (colors) click Style options.
  14. For Symbol style, click the current color ramp (light blue to dark blue).

    Symbol style option

    The Symbol style pane appears with 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.

  15. For Fill, in the color ramp selector, click the blue-to-gray color ramp, 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

    In this map, census tracts with a higher-than-average percentage of households without a vehicle stand out in blue. Based on the legend, the average percentage is about 6 percent. A clear pattern of limited access to vehicles stands out 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.

  16. Click Done two times to close the Styles panes.

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

  17. In the Layers pane, for the Houston Census Tract Demographics layer, click Options and choose Rename.

    Rename option

  18. In the Rename window, 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.

    Save and open and Save options

    The Save map window appears.


    The blue dot next to Save and open and Save indicates that there are unsaved changes on the map.

  2. In the Save map window, for Title, type Houston Evacuation Map and add your initials to make the title unique.

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

  3. 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.

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

    Save Map window parameters

  5. Click Save map.

    The map saves. It now appears in your account's content. You can access your content by clicking ArcGIS (public account) or the options button next to the map's name (organizational account) and choosing Content. For now, you'll set the sharing permissions.

  6. On the Contents toolbar, click Share map.

    Share button

  7. 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 a basic template with only a few standard navigation tools.

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

    Choose Instant Apps templates

    The Instant Apps gallery appears. You want your map to be the primary focus of your app. You also want to show the legend, your bookmarks, and a map description. For these purposes, you'll use the Minimalist app template.

  2. Locate the Minimalist template and click Choose.

    Choose the Minimalist app template.

    The Create App - Minimalist window appears. Before you configure the app, you must specify its title, tags, and summary. By default, the app has the same information as the web map used to create it. You'll change the title to better represent what you intend the map to emphasize and leave the other parameters unchanged.

  3. In the Create App - Minimalist window, for the title, type At-Risk Population in Houston.
  4. Click Create App.
  5. If necessary, close the Welcome window.

    The app opens in its configurable state.

    Default Minimalist template configurable Instant App

Configure the app

Next, you'll change elements of the app's presentation to better communicate the map's story to users. There are four tabs of configurable parameters available for Express Setup. Since you've already selected the Houston map, you'll skip to the second step.

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

    Configure About the app details.

    The About pane appears.

  2. In the About pane, for App title, type At-Risk Population in Houston.
  3. For Select which panel to open at start, ensure it is set to Legend panel.

    This will ensure that when users open the app, the Legend pane will be automatically visible.

  4. Toggle on Pop-up panel and toggle off Enable details panel.

    About pane settings

  5. At the top of the About pane, click Next.

    The Interactivity pane appears. On this pane, you can set different user interactive features, like search. Since you have set two bookmarks showing different zoom extents of the city, you will not need the Search option. The app will automatically open the map to the text of your area of interest.

  6. In the Interactivity pane, turn off Search.

    Interactivity pane configuration

    Since you created bookmarks, you will want to enable viewers to choose and view the bookmarks you created.

  7. If necessary, on the action toolbar, click the expand button.

    Expand button on the action toolbar

  8. In the expanded toolbar, click Full setup.

    Full Setup

  9. In the Switch to full setup window that appears, click Switch.
  10. On the configuration toolbar, click Interactivity.
  11. In the Interactivity pane, click Explore/navigate.

    The setting to enable the Bookmarks widget is now available.

  12. Under Explore, toggle on Bookmarks.

    Bookmarks toggled on

    The Bookmark widget adds to the app on the right side of the map. Now you can return to the Express setup mode.

  13. On the configuration toolbar, click Express setup. In the Switch to express setup window that appears, click Switch.
  14. In the Interactivity pane, click Next.

    The pane updates to the Theme & Layout pane.

    The final step of app configuration is choosing the theme and layout. In this pane, you can select different color options and places where you want the widgets to show. By default, the theme of the application is Light, which matches your basemap. You'll make one change to the widgets, though. The Bookmarks widget is currently in the opposite corner from the zoom control widgets. You'll move it to the top left next to the Home and Zoom controls widgets so that users can more easily find the widget.

  15. Under Manage widget positions, point to the grid for the Bookmarks widget and drag it to the bottom of the Top left column.

    Move the Bookmarks widget

    On the app, the Bookmarks widget is now shown under the Zoom controls and Home widgets.

    App widgets in the top left of the map pane

  16. In the preview, test your app's functionality. Navigate the map and click the various buttons in the user interface.

    Preview of the final app configuration

    When you're happy with your app configuration, you'll publish it so that you can share it.

  17. At the bottom of the Express Setup pane, click Publish, and in the Publish window that appears, click Confirm.

    Publish the app and Confirm.

    A success window confirms that the app is published. Your app is not public yet, so it is replaced by the Share window.

  18. In the Share window, click Change Share Settings.

    Change the app's Share Settings.

    The app's item details page opens. This page provides information about your content. First, you'll share the app, then you'll edit the metadata to help people using the app understand what they're looking at and how to use it.

  19. On the item details page, click Share.

    Share the app.

    The Share window appears. There are multiple ways to share content to different groups of viewers. 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. You want this app to be available to everyone, so you'll share it publicly.

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

    Share the app with everyone.

    Now the app is configured and shared. As a final step, you'll add information about the app to the item details page.

Edit the item details

Next, you'll edit additional information on the item details page to provide meaningful information about the app for your viewers. This information is called metadata, and it's important for all maps and apps to have it. The Item Information bar indicates your progress toward high-quality item information and indicates the most important improvement you can make.

  1. Under Item Information, next to Top Improvement, click Add a summary.

    Item Information improvement

    The Edit Summary box activates.

  2. Type (or copy and paste) the following text:

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

    Edit Summary box

  3. Click Save.

    You have added the summary text. The thumbnail image is currently a default app icon. Next, 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 a thumbnail from the map.

  6. In the Create Thumbnail Using Map window, search for Houston, TX. Once the map centers on Houston, click OK.

    Create Thumbnail using a map centered on Houston, TX.

    A map of Houston is added as the thumbnail.

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

    The Edit Description box actives. 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. 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 Layers and Legend tools 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.

    Learn more next to the Item Information section

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

  11. Click Add terms of use.

    The Edit Terms of Use box becomes active. Your data comes from local and federal governmental authorities and is public domain, so there are no terms of use.

  12. Type None. Public domain data. Click Save.

    The item details page is complete. You can click View Application and copy the app's URL to share it with anyone.

In this lesson, 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 mapmaking in ArcGIS Online, try Fight Child Poverty with Demographic Analysis or Track Crime Patterns to Aid Law Enforcement. To learn more about spatial analysis and problem solving, try Analyze Volcano Shelter Access in Hawaii or Identify Landslide Risk Areas in Colorado. If you'd like to take a more detailed look at web apps, try Oso Mudslide - Before and After.

You can find more lessons in the Learn ArcGIS Lesson Gallery.