ArcGIS Open Data provides a convenient way for organizations to both display relevant data to employees, but also opens archives of information for general use by the public. However, while Open Data provides a relatively intuitive interface for building these sites, it does lack in customization features that would bring in more visually appealing features. With base HTML editing allowed, developers of these sites need to take advantage when widgets allow occasional editing. Creating a consistent brand is not only a core asset in conveying ownership over the provided data, it helps to define a map’s layers and category queries in a more instantaneously recognizable way.
There are two primary pathways for customized iconography on an Open Data site. The first and most commonly used are unique or visually distinguishable map points and lines, which can be added onto any base map or website mapping application. When utilizing this feature, it makes site galleries far easier to navigate and reduces time taken searching for a specific data set. Though when setting up the gallery or data set widget on a site, it’s important to consider the relatively small thumbnail size. If points are too detailed or lines are an odd color, it can lead to a map looking aesthetically incongruent and negate the initial benefit. When used correctly, viewers can quickly recognize the data that they’re looking for.
The second available method is creating visually distinct thumbnails for your available search queries. This allows users to narrow down their search, something especially helpful if an individual isn’t looking for a specific map, but a generalized compilation of data that your organization may offer. One of the primary issues with these thumbnails – for GIS programs that don’t have a familiarity or concern with graphic design – there’s a chance that the images created for your categories may be visually unappealing. I’ve observed that issues with overly condensed text, pixelated images, and uncomplimentary color schemes are common. The Americans with Disabilities Act provides a helpful guide for designing accessible websites.
Providing accurate data is essential, but it’s equally so to convey it in an aesthetically appealing and convenient way.