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Best Practices for Building Web AppBuilder Widgets

Author · Scott Davis
Published · Jan 25, 2019
Last modified · Mar 20, 2024
Category · Developer
Read time · 3 min

Recently, I have been working on a project, opens in a new tab building custom Web AppBuilder (WAB) widgets for a client. This has been an interesting digression from our typical development projects, and working within the confines of WAB has proved to be both liberating and frustrating. In this post, I would like to share a few solutions that have helped me make the most of working with WAB.

The Pros and Cons of Working with WAB Widgets

But before we get to those tips, let’s talk about some of the general pros and cons of working with WAB that I have discovered through this project. First, being able to focus on a single widget and not having to worry about an entire application has been great. I have loved letting Esri take care of all of the basic application stuff, such as loading the application framework, web map, and widgets. However, not having control over the entire system has created some headaches. That’s where the WAB solutions came in.

Tips for Building WAB Widgets

The first big win for me was finding Esri’s WAB-related Yeoman generators project, opens in a new tab. It provides several different generators. The first sets up a project structure and development environment specific to developing WAB widgets. It includes:

  • a best practice folder structure;
  • grunt tasks for JS tooling, including babel, livereload, and sass; and
  • a grunt task to automate the copying of your development code to WAB developer edition.

Esri also includes a generator for scaffolding out the widgets themselves. This project provided a great starting point for my work.

2. Write your WAB widgets as dojo widgets

Another great tip that I found was to write your WAB widgets as plain old dojo widgets (inherit from dijit._WidgetBase) and then wrap them for WAB. This made unit tests much easier. The other benefit to this approach is that it makes it much easier to reuse the widgets in non-WAB applications. Here is an example repo: gbochenek/wab-test-example, opens in a new tab.

3. Use

Using babel worked great for this project until I needed polyfills for older browsers. (I’m looking at you, Internet Explorer.) Loading third-party libraries via AMD from within WAB widgets is a pain, opens in a new tab. Fortunately, I found, opens in a new tab. This is a service that dynamically returns a set of polyfills as defined by query parameters. The cool part about this service is that it only loads the code required for the browser that is making the request. Using this library from within WAB requires adding it to the loadResource method in init.js, opens in a new tab.

Through working on this project, I feel like I now have a much better understanding of WAB and how it fits into our offerings at UGRC. There is definite potential with WAB as long as its shortcomings are well understood by the developer and client. I hope that these tips save you some headaches if you decide that WAB is a good fit for your next project. Let me know if you have anything to add to them: Scott Davis from UGRC at