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Best Practices for Publishing Web Mapping Services

These best practices were developed by a working group of Massachusetts executive branch agency GIS staff to assist with the publication of Commonwealth web mapping services.

Web mapping services are becoming a more common way for users to access geographic data because they allow for access to the most current data, and do not require storage of the data. These are some best practices for publishing the services.


These best practices were developed by a working group of Massachusetts executive branch agency GIS staff. They were further informed based on suggestions from other state GIS offices. Executive branch agency staff publishing web mapping services should be familiar with and adhere to these best practices. MassGIS is facilitating coordination and communication about services for executive branch agencies. That facilitation is principally through a Microsoft Teams group (TSS-TEAMS-MASSGIS Services). Membership in that group is for those who develop and publish web mapping services. If you publish mapping services for an executive branch agency and you are interested in being added to the Teams group, please send your request to Michael Trust at MassGIS.

Best Practices

  1. Identify what agency is publishing the service; ideally identification includes the agency logo.

  2. Provide contact information for the service publisher

  3. Identify whether the service is authoritative. A service is considered authoritative if it is published by the agency that created and, as appropriate, maintains, the data on which the service is based.

  4. When publishing a service, put the agency name into the copyright text (this is a property of the service)

  5. As services can only be created by certain roles in named user management, assignment of roles that can own content and/or allow service publication must include education about best practices in publishing web mapping services

  6. Before a service is moved to production use, confirm that basic QA for the data on which it is based has been completed: topology is correct, attribute domains are enforced, and there is consistency in field name aliasing.

  7. Data behind services you publish must have FGDC-compliant metadata, including information on data currency and the maintenance schedule/plan.

  8. Services should have service metadata

  9. If a service duplicates another service, metadata should make clear the reason for the duplication, especially when services are public.

  10. A service should provide a means for anonymous users to provide feedback about a service

  11. Educating users of your services about how to confirm the service’s authenticity

  12. Time service updates and changes to avoid disrupting use

  13. When a service is removed, tag it as “deprecated” and then after 30 days remove the service. A service is considered deprecated when:

    • Shifting publication from ArcGIS Server to ArcGIS On-Line.

    • Shutting down publication because a service is obsolete

    • Replacing one service with a better one

    • Agencies should publish any data set that is “publication ready” to avoid publication by non-authoritative source.

  14. Communicate service changes/updates to consumers:

    • Internally, as appropriate 

    • Via the Teams channel (TSS-TEAMS-MASSGIS Services) dedicated to cross-agency communication concerning web mapping services. New services announced through this Teams group will also be included in Michael Trust’s regular “data and services update” emails. Those updates will also be included in MassGIS’ bi-monthly GISette email newsletter.

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