We think frameworks are the future of GIS web apps. No more developing web apps from the ground up, but leveraging existing structures. We have looked at a number of frameworks and, in this blog post, made a comparison with our own GeoAppSmart.
GIS Web App Frameworks Compared
Let’s start with some context. In the old days of GIS there were a number of popular and excellent GIS engines. Then we were talking servers, not platforms. At that time good applications, and in particular good web apps, were badly lacking. ‘Too many engines, and not enough cars’, was how some saw this state of affairs. Custom web apps were popular, but they were costly and tough to extend or modify. Some recognised a gap in the market and created commercial out of the box (COTS) frameworks. These provided a cheaper alternative to custom web apps. Users could configure their own web apps.
The world of GIS web frameworks has expanded. In the table below we compare a number of frameworks (grouped together under ‘existing frameworks’) with a new open framework which is a more flexible version of Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS. Note, GeoAppSmart is an extended version of this open framework.
|Type||Web mapping framework which generates all device web apps||Web mapping framework which generates all device web apps|
|Classification||Commercial off-the-shelf (COTS)||Custom Commercial off-the-shelf (COTS+)|
|Dojo Style||Legacy (in many cases)||Modern Asynchronous Module Definition (AMD)|
|Custom Modules||In-house developed MVVM (in many cases)||Generic MVVM pattern|
|Custom Development Resources||Commonly limited/Poor documentation||Comprehensive and detailed documentation with live examples|
|Cost of Customization by Professional Services||Medium/High||Low/Medium|
|Third Party Widgets||Limited||Comprehensive|
|Offline Capability||Yes, but many not reliable||Yes|
|Performance||Slower due to legacy Dojo||Fast due to AMD|
|3D Enabled||No, in may cases||Yes|
|GUI based App Builder||Commonly yes||Currently no. Simple file configuration|
|Layout Options||No. Many need custom coding||Yes. Multiple options available|
|How licensed||Often part of a wider license||Stand-alone license|
We classify many of the existing HTML Viewers generated from frameworks as COTS solutions. Meaning they offer out of the box functionality which is easy to configure, but is a generic not custom solution. In other words ‘you get what you get’. These frameworks may well save customers time and money, as long as the out-of-the box widgets do exactly what you need. If they don’t, in many cases customization can be challenging and expensive. Some framework providers have started building more focused widget suites.
We are big fans of GIS web frameworks, and think developing focused widget suites makes much sense. But we believe open is important, as is easy customization. Unlike in the past, today there are a number of good solutions to choose from in the GIS web app universe, powered by frameworks. The best option for your organization depends on both your budget and need.
Contact us to learn more about GeoAppSmart.