Which App Builder Do I Choose?

The world has become increasingly data-driven, with professionals leveraging data to make sense of information, solve problems, communicate, and collaborate in virtually every industry. Optimizing how we present data makes for a more elevated experience for your target audience.

In today’s rapidly accelerating business environment, organizations aim to analyze and share information more efficiently. One effective strategy to achieve this is by leaning into the potential of no-code and low-code app builders. With an app builder, you can easily create web applications to showcase your data or maps and engage your audience in a more interactive way.

Exploring Esri’s App Builders 

If you can create a map, you can create an app! It’s that simple. Some of the common features supported by all app builders include the following:

Discover the capabilities of each app builder and learn how to select one or more based on your app-building needs.

Graphic table showing the capabilities of the four app builders

Considerations for Choosing an App Builder 

When deciding what app builder to work with, it is helpful to first consider these four factors:

A triangle with multiple colors and text showing factors to consider when choosing an app builder

1. Purpose (Data)

Before building your app, it is always a good idea to clearly define the purpose of your application. Determine the high-level goals your app should accomplish, such as communicating status, answering questions, streamlining workflows, telling a story, giving context to data, engaging the public, or collecting data.

Purpose often informs what kind of data you need to collect or integrate. Alternatively, you could start by considering what data you have available and then evaluating its significance to stakeholders or the public — why would users need to interact or learn from the data?

Some questions you may want to ask at this point are:

App builders can be used to achieve a variety of goals, some include:

A dashboard on a monitor and mobile phone
ArcGIS Dashboards enables users to convey information by presenting location-based analytics using intuitive and interactive data visualizations on a single screen.


A dashboard showing a map an image of a building
ArcGIS Experience Builder allows you to drag, position, and configure widgets such as maps, images, text, 2D and 3D data, and apps. 2D and 3D maps can be synced to give users the ability to interact with the content in one place.


Important note: These are a few examples of how certain app builders achieve these goals, however any app builder could be used and there is no “wrong” choice. 


2. Audience  

When determining the appropriate app builder for your project, consider your target audience. Are they an expert in the field, business executives, or impacted citizens? Your audience type will help determine what app builder is suitable for your project. Other important factors to consider are the technical skills of your audience, their familiarity with GIS, tools, or interfaces, their openness to technology adoption and capacity for extensive training. Advanced users may be more willing to interact with applications that support multiple workflows or allow for high configuration.

It is vital to examine the needs of your potential audience. For example, are accessibility or translation support relevant to them? What region or languages do they speak? Will they require access to information via a mobile device or web browser? Will they need to use other applications or solely share information within the app you build?

For more information on accessibility, see the app builder accessibility compliance reports.

For more information on language support and translations, see what languages are supported in ArcGIS Online. The app builders currently do not have content or data translation capabilities.

ArcGIS Instant Apps is planning to release a language switcher feature at the end of 2023 which will initially be made available in three templates. It will allow app authors to translate user-defined text in their apps into one or more languages.


To understand which app builder supports your audience’s requirements best, see the matrix in the Design and Customization section.

Important note: If you have multiple purposes or audiences, consider creating more than one app! We recommend a single app per audience or purpose. 



3. Design and Customization 

Once you have a clearer understanding of your app’s purpose and audience, it will be easy to identify the layout, style, and features that your app needs.

A few app builder features include 3D data, imagery, attachments, editing, and data collection. Other branding-related features such as custom colors and fonts, CSS, symbology, or custom URL/Embedding allow for layout customization for each app you decide to create.

For a list of features the app builders provide, please see the matrix below:

ArcGIS Instant Apps ArcGIS Dashboards ArcGIS StoryMaps ArcGIS Experience Builder
Supports multiple pages Yes No Yes Yes
Supports scrolling screen Yes No Yes Yes
Drag-and-drop UX


No Yes Yes Yes
Pre-built widgets Yes Yes Yes Yes
Pre-configured templates Yes No Yes Yes
Themes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Developer edition No No No Yes
Mobile responsive Yes Yes Yes Yes
Mobile optimized (can configure for different screens) No Yes Yes Yes
Offline Capability No No Yes No
3D maps Yes No Yes Yes
Data collection with Survey123 Yes Yes Yes




Data editing Yes No No Yes
URL parameters Yes Yes Yes Yes
CSS Yes No No Yes  (Developer edition required)
Usage Analytics Yes (Adobe and Google Analytics) No Yes (Adobe and Google Analytics)




For a detailed list of ArcGIS Instant Apps template capabilities, view the matrix

4. App Creator (You) 

Your capacity and knowledge of GIS technology will play a role in making app decisions. Your skill and design choices will guide your decision in selecting the right tool.

Think about your current knowledge of the data and tools available, how much time you have to complete a project, your desire to learn new technology, and your individual flair and design choices.

ArcGIS Instant Apps allows you to quickly create web apps that make it easy for your audience to use your maps and data.


You can select an app builder based on its customization capabilities and your familiarity with the product. If you’re looking to create an intuitive web app for a specific purpose in as little as five minutes, ArcGIS Instant Apps might be your best choice.

The express mode offers the minimum set of essential choices that you need to consider to configure and publish a well-functioning app as efficiently as possible. You can also use full setup mode with additional configurations to design your instant app.

In the foreground an interface to design a map and include text
Use a flexible, easy-to-use builder in ArcGIS StoryMaps to weave your content together (videos, photos, and more) into a compelling and interactive narrative that's easy to publish and share.


ArcGIS StoryMaps offers modern, stylish designs with elements such as a cover page, themes, image gallery, map tour, sidecar, and timeline you can add. Keep in mind, the art of digital storytelling can require more effort if you are crafting context that will be used to influence your audience.

ArcGIS Dashboards can be designed for specific audiences, events, and situations. With multiple structure and design options, you can take dashboards from good to great. Include data visualization tools, including maps, lists, charts, and gauges.

With ArcGIS Experience Builder, you can start with a focused map-centric template if you have less time for creating your app or if you need to recreate an ArcGIS Web AppBuilder application you were using. If you have more time and coding skills, you might want to build custom widgets and extend your applications by utilizing the developer edition of ArcGIS Experience Builder.

Ultimately, as you become more familiar with these tools, the time and effort needed to create an application will decrease.

There is no correct choice when deciding which app builder to use. It will depend on the purpose of your application, what data you have, your audience’s requirements, what level of design or customization you need, and your own skill set and familiarity with the tools. We only hope to provide some guidance on which tool might be best for your situation. We can’t wait to see the apps you create!


Learn More

Want to dive deeper into the world of Esri app builders?

We encourage you to ask questions, share ideas, and comment on the Esri Community site or in the App Builders LinkedIn group. Follow us on Twitter for the latest updates and release information.



About the authors

Product Marketing Manager for Experience Builder, ArcGIS StoryMaps, StoryMaps, Web AppBuilder, and AppStudio at Esri. With a degree in media and journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Eva has a passion for telling stories in a creative and concise way.


Elizabeth is a passionate storyteller and marketer who enjoys utilizing her expertise in creativity, marketing, and technology to craft compelling brand and product stories.

Stephanie Umeh

Product Marketing Manager for ArcGIS Instant Apps and ArcGIS Experience Builder.

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