The Art of Crafting an Excellent Idea

Blog Post created by KKramer-esristaff Employee on Apr 2, 2020

I spend a considerable amount of time reviewing ideas on the ArcGIS Ideas site and I thought that it might be helpful to share some tips and best practices on how to craft an excellent idea.  I like to use analogies when I write, I suppose in hopes of making stuff more digestible.  Maybe I was hungry when I had this inspiration, because it occurred to me that putting together an excellent idea is pretty much like wrapping a burrito.


Summary for those more into take-out rather than the sit-down meal:

Creating an Idea is like wrapping a burrito - start from the bottom up!


Category = Tortilla  Be thoughtful and choose your Category first.  It is the Idea’s foundation.  An idea without a category is like a burrito without a tortilla – just a bunch of stuff on a plate.


Tags = Meat/Protein  You should be able to add at least two meaningful tags – one related to the area of focus in the application (e.g. Settings, Map Viewer, Attribute Table), and the other related to the requested functionality.


Body = Fillings and Salsa  This is your opportunity to provide context.  In addition to detailing what you’d like to see, describing your workflow and positioning the request in that context helps product teams understand why developing this idea would be a beneficial investment of limited development resources.  Specific and descriptive wording is great.  Including screenshots is encouraged.  Gifs or videos are the best!


Title = The burrito’s name  Since you started from the bottom up, you’ll know exactly what product the idea applies to, the part of the application and requested functionality is clear and concise, and you’ve provided specifics in the description.  This makes it easy to write a great title and post your excellent idea.

Now stay with me on this.  When we talk about a burrito, we tend to jump straight to the fillings and the toppings.  Like a chicken, cheese, and bean burrito with extra sour cream and guacamole.  Yum!  Or a seared steak burrito with roasted poblano pepper, covered in melted pepper jack cheese and garnished with fresh pico de gallo.  Qué rico!  What’s missing in these awesome, and delicious-sounding descriptions, though?  That’s right, the tortilla!  Dónde está la tortilla?


Let’s take a walk through the idea submission process.  We are first asked for a title.  So, I suppose we all feel the need to dive right in by authoring the title.  I’ll argue that doesn’t make the most sense, because we haven’t taken the time to really let the idea marinate.  Let yourself go just a little bit loco and leave the title blank…

Idea Title

Next we are presented with the body of the idea where we’re prompted to add some persuasive details.


This is good as it means we should take time to clearly articulate the idea.  Humor me, though, and leave the body alone.  Don’t worry, we’ll be back.

Idea Body

Next come the tags:

Idea Tags

Just like it says, tags will make the idea easier to find.  Community members may be looking for ideas about editing, or navigation, and ArcGIS product teams rely on tags to research what users are asking for.  So not adding tags is just, well… Anyways, let’s leave them blank and move on.


Finally, we come to categories:

Idea Categories

Since categories are the last thing, they just can’t be important, right?  I mean, we filled in the requisite title and wrote a description.  That’s gotta be enough, no?  Falso! 


Now that we’ve laid out the elements of an excellent idea, it’s time to bring this thing together. 

Here’s the trick, the real magic.  Ready?  Brace yourself for this radical concept.


Take the four key ingredients:

1. Title --> 2. Body --> 3. Tags --> 4. Category


And flip them around to start building your idea from the bottom up:


1. Category --> 2. Tags --> 3. Body --> 4. Title


1. The Category is your idea’s tortilla. This is the most important part of your idea. Why?  Because if you do not choose a category, it is possible that the right product team will never see it.  Yup, it could be brilliant, something that everybody needs.  But the team that can make it happen will never see it.  I’ve read ideas before where I honestly have not been able to determine whether the request was for Collector, ArcGIS Online, or ArcGIS Pro.  So leaving the category blank is bad.


Just as bad, however, is doing something crazy like checking all the Categories:

All Idea Categories checked

Because really, have you ever tried wrapping a burrito in 39 tortillas? That thing might appear inedible and be ignored for a better-balanced, more palatable option.

“Hold up there, hoss. I have an idea that legitimately spans more than one category. What d’ya reckon I do?” you ask.Funny Taco


Fair question. I used to go to a place in college that made funny tacos (I won’t include a link because I want you to stay focused, but if you ever find yourself in Kalamazoo, MI, look up Taco Bob’s). The fillings were held in a classic crunchy taco shell wrapped in a warm soft tortilla with nacho cheese spread between. These things were the bomb! So, can it be done? Sure! Does it take some design? Absolutely! Just be judicious and note that we now have a taco rather than a burrito.


2. The Tags are the description of your idea’s key ingredients and help others find your idea. This goes for both community members as well as for product teams. Try to think of one tag that describes the part of the application where you want to see an improvement, like “symbology pane.”  And try to provide at least one more tag describing the functionality you’re looking for, like “transparency.”  Taking a minute to think about how you would tag your idea will help articulate a descriptive and meaningful title, ultimately making your idea more powerful!


3. The Body is like all the other great stuff in the burrito - the fillings, salsa, sour cream, guacamole and pico de gallo. This is where you can bring the idea to life. In addition to detailing what you’d like to see, describing your workflow and positioning the request in that context helps product teams understand why developing this idea would be a beneficial investment of limited development resources.  Specific and descriptive wording is great.  Including screenshots is encouraged.  Gifs or videos are the best!  Your goal here is to provide the reader with an unambiguous understanding of what is being requested.  Create a hunger for the requested functionality that nothing short of its implementation could satiate.


4. The Title comes last because we can’t adequately name the burrito until it has been built. I noted that spending a minute on tags will set you up quite nicely for a great title. The title should include the area of focus in the application (attribute table vs. attribute pane) and the functionality requested.  Think carefully about keywords.  How will other community members find your idea when searching so that they can support it as well?  While it may be tempting to shortchange the title, knowing that your description is rock-solid, remember that other community members may not find your idea without a clear title.


While creative, here are some examples of poor burrito names:


The Geisha’s Kiss, The Original Hollenbeck and The WV Hot Rod


What’s in these?  No clue.


Whereas here are some burrito names that provide me with an understanding of what I’ll find inside, should I care to more fully investigate the fillings:


The Cap’N Crunch-Crusted Tilapia Burrito, The Wet Vegetarian Burrito, and The Pig Bomber


In conclusion, if you’ve never posted an idea on ArcGIS Ideas, I hope that this has whetted your appetite.  And for anybody who has a great idea to make ArcGIS work better for you, I trust you’ll take my challenge of building your idea from the bottom up.  That’s a wrap!