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Heat Mapping in Two Simple Steps

Smart mapping has the capability to create a map based on spatial density, without needing to run extra analysis tools. It’s a valuable method to display your data in new ways and potentially make discoveries that otherwise may have been missed. This quick guide introduces a fast, simple way to effectively analyze point data using heat maps within smart mapping. For the full interactive guide of these tips, visit this story map.

Smart mapping will recognize when a points layer is added to the map and by default the points will be symbolized by location. As the map maker, you can go beyond this default by showing your points as a heat map which can tell a better story about density. Heat mapping allows us to see the location and distribution of features. Are you most interested in where many points are located or where high and low values for a particular attribute are clustered? Heat maps can answer both these questions.

They are particularly useful when many of the points on the map are close together or overlapping, making it difficult to distinguish between features. Heat maps are also effective for displaying layers that contain a large number of points such as the example below.

It’s as easy as two simple steps!

1. Select Heat Map style

2. Explore the options

Select Heat Map Style

When viewing your point layer within the Map Viewer in ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise, click Change Style to access the smart mapping options. Selecting Heat Map will transform your points into a heat map. It’s that easy.

Explore the Options

There are a few options we can use to adjust the heat map to tell a more informative story. What if you wanted to show clustering of statistically significant areas? You can! By choosing an attribute, the heat map will show density based on values in the data. The resulting map can tell a drastically different story than the default heat map.

Open heat map options after selecting the attribute field to allow for even more adjustments. Changing the symbol color ramp can help the heat map stand out against the basemap. See this blog for more tips on making informed color choices.

Increase or decrease the area of influence to make the clusters larger and smoother, or smaller and more distinct. To change how the colors are applied to the density surface, simply adjust the position of the two handles on the color ramp slider.

Another handy tip when heat mapping is to add the points back in on top of your heat map for pop up information and reference. Increasing transparency on the points ensures the heat map is still clearly visible.

Small adjustments such as these can vastly transform your data into a captivating story. While smart mapping will come up with a useful default heat map for you, don’t be afraid to adjust the settings to make a more informative map.

For more ways to make great maps, check out How to Smart Map. For more tips and tricks, check out these additional resources:

– Change Style Help Pages

– Six Easy Ways to Improve Your Maps

About the author

Julia Holtzclaw is a Product Engineer on ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World's Demographic and Policy Teams. She enjoys making great data into useful layers and maps using all that ArcGIS has to offer.


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