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Quick lesson: Create a map

Try this lesson to experience ArcGIS Online mapping for yourself. You'll take on the role of an investigative reporter looking for a lead on a story about hospitals in Clark County, Nevada. Throughout the scenario, you'll be guided through the following skills: adding data to a map, choosing a different basemap, changing the style of the data symbols, customizing the information that appears in pop-ups, saving the map, and sharing it with the public. This lesson is designed for beginners—anyone who is new to ArcGIS Online, GIS, or web mapping. Estimated time: 20 minutes.

View the finished map

You're an investigative reporter who's been assigned to write about general acute care hospitals in Clark County, Nevada. It's up to you to find the interesting story. You've asked your intern to collect some basic data—where the hospitals are located, how many patients they see each year, and what they charge. From there, you'll see if anything interesting emerges that you can dig into. Your intern gives you a spreadsheet and recommends you get started with ArcGIS Online; she says you can add the data to a map and quickly see patterns and make adjustments to better highlight the information. You can save your work and share it with others—all in less than 20 minutes.

Sign in and explore the ArcGIS Online website

  1. Your first step is to go to and sign in.
  2. If you haven't joined an organization and don't have an account yet, you can sign up for a free trial or create a free personal account. You can also complete this lesson without signing in, but you won't be able to save or share your map.
  3. Once you're signed in, take a quick tour of the site to get familiar with what's available.
  4. Notice, for example, the Content page with the Living Atlas tab. ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World is a collection of curated geographic data from around the globe. Explore some of the Living Atlas content.

Download a spreadsheet of data shared to a group

Your intern created a comma-separated values (CSV) spreadsheet of information about general acute care hospitals in Clark County, Nevada. She shared the spreadsheet with a public group in ArcGIS Online and sent you a link to the group. This way, you can easily access the spreadsheet and see other related items she's shared with the group.

  1. For now, open the link to the group, download the Clark County Hospitals CSV file to your computer, and open it.
  2. You see a table with columns of longitude, latitude, cases, name, cost, and so on. It’s hard to visualize where these hospitals are located or any patterns in the information. Making a map is a more powerful way to understand your data than simply viewing it in a spreadsheet, so that’s your next task.

Add a data layer to a new map and start visualizing patterns

Web map layers are the way geographic data is organized and combined to create maps. They are also the basis for geographic analysis. Just seeing location-based information on a map is the foundation of understanding and making decisions. You can create a web map layer by adding your CSV file to a new map.

  1. Click Map at the top of the site, click Add > Add Layer from File, open the file you saved to your computer, and click Import Layer. If you didn’t sign in, click Modify Map so the Add button (and others) will appear.
  2. Map Viewer reads the geographic information in your file and displays the data so you can immediately spot patterns. For example, you see different-sized circles and a legend at the lower left telling you the circles represent total cases in 2015. The larger the circle, the more patients that hospital admitted.

    You also have quick access to the rest of your data by viewing pop-ups.

  3. Click any point in the map to see all the information from your dataset.

Change the basemap and layer style

It’s a bit difficult to see the circles with the default basemap. You can fix this by choosing a different basemap.

  1. Click Basemap and choose Light Gray Canvas.
  2. That’s better, but you want the circles to stand out even more so you’ll change the style and choose a different color for your symbols.
  3. In the Change Style pane, click Options in Counts and Amounts (Size).
  4. Click Symbols > Fill and choose a medium blue color.

Configure pop-ups and view a table

There’s information in the pop-up you viewed earlier that you don't need, which you can remove by configuring pop-ups. You’d like to only show the name of the hospital and the number of total cases.

  1. Point to the Clark County Hospital layer, click the More Options button, and click Configure Pop-ups. Delete the text in the Title field, choose A custom attribute display, and click Configure. Click the plus sign (+) to add a field name, choose {Name}, and type admitted. Add another field name, {Total_cases_in_2015}, and type patients in 2015. Add bold formatting to the two field names. Your display should look like this (without the bold):

    {Name} admitted {Total_cases_in_2015} patients in 2015

  2. Click OK and click OK again to save your changes. Click a circle to see your new streamlined pop-up.
  3. And don't worry, you haven't lost your data. You can still see it by showing a table.
  4. Below Clark County Hospitals, click Show Table and review your data.

Save the map and update the item details

Your map now tells a story about the location and size of hospitals in Clark County. For example, the hospital with the largest caseload in 2015 is located in Winchester, an unincorporated township that contains the Las Vegas strip, and the hospital with the smallest caseload is in Boulder City about 26 miles away. You assume these size differences reflect relative population density in those places, but you will want to add some demographic data to your map to verify that. For now, you want to save your map so that you can share it with your editor when you present your story.

  1. Click Save, enter a title, tags, and a summary, and click Save Map.
  2. In addition to saving your map, you've also saved an item details page that contains a variety of information, actions, options, and settings.
  3. In Map Viewer, click Home > Content and find your map in the table. Click the name of your map and open the item details page.
  4. Your map’s item details page is missing important attribution and descriptive information that you should fill in before you share the map. For example, you should give credit to the data providers.
  5. Next to Credits (Attribution), click Edit, type Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, Center for Health Information Analysis (CHIA), and click Save.

    If you're signed in with an organizational account and your organization has set up content categories, you can click Edit next to Categories and select up to 20 categories to help others find your map. You can also use the Filter categories box to narrow the list of categories.

Share the map

Eventually you’ll want to share the map with your editor as part of your presentation, but it’s not quite ready for that yet. You need to do some more work on it until a newsworthy story emerges. In the meantime, you want to share the map with your intern and one of your colleagues so that they can see what you’ve done so far and provide feedback on what to explore next.

The fastest way to share a map is to share it with everyone and send an email that includes a link to your map. In the future, you could also embed the map in your newspaper's website and create a web app including a story map with additional text, videos, images, and web pages to enhance your map.

  1. Go to the top of the item details Overview tab and click Share.
  2. Check the Everyone (public) check box, copy the link to the map, and paste it into an email.

Next steps

Your intern was right. In less than 20 minutes, you got started with ArcGIS Onlineand have ideas to explore for your story about hospitals in Clark County. What’s next?

To find more scenario-based lessons, browse the ArcGIS Learn gallery. To start, try Get started with ArcGIS Online. You can also visit The ArcGIS Book and The ArcGIS Imagery Book websites.

You can also explore ArcGIS Online on your own and discover what else is possible. A few ideas are listed below. Some require an organizational account with publishing or administrative privileges and may consume credits.

  • Browse Living Atlas layers and add demographic data to your map. Answer questions such as Is there more to the obvious difference in the number of caseloads than simple relative population density?
  • Perform spatial analysis on your data to analyze additional patterns such as density of hospitals in Clark County. Answer questions such as Are there any areas where hospital capacity is too low to meet demand?
  • Choose an app to share your map.