The ruination of Weather.com

For the past couple years I’ve preferred Weather.com over AccuWeather.com — mostly because AccuWeather had slower page-load times.

But the most recent redesign of weather.com has destroyed most of that site’s utility. I visited AccuWeather and found that they had actually improved the site significantly over the years — AccuWeather is now back on top of my weather bookmarks list.

What’s so wrong with Weather.com? Let’s take a look. This is the front page of the forecast for Davidson:

All I get on the opening screen is the current conditions. This can sometimes be useful information (if it’s dark out or I’m in a windowless room), but what I’m more interested in is the forecast: Will I need an umbrella today? How cold (or hot) will it be? What can I expect tomorrow? I can get this information by scrolling down and looking at the 36-hour forecast, but since that’s my primary interest (and, I’d argue, the primary interest of most viewers), why not put it first?

Compare this to the front page of AccuWeather.com:

Here I get today’s forecast and tomorrow’s forecast, right on the front page. Maybe I should carry the umbrella after all. It’d be better if I could get the current conditions too, but that’s a click away with the hourly forecast.

And the hourly forecast is yet another problem with Weather.com:

I took this screen shot at 10:09 this morning. See anything missing? How about the current hour? If I’m interested in the details about what’s happening with today’s weather, wouldn’t I want to know what’s happening *right now*? Sure, I can look out the window (if I have one), but that doesn’t tell me the temperature or how hard the wind is blowing. When I head out for a run, I dress differently if it’s 35 versus 40 degrees.

And don’t get me started about the inanity of the temperature graph. This graph shows that temperature increases over the course of the day (duh), but it doesn’t tell me anything actual numbers don’t. If the graph is 2 inches tall, does that mean I should wear a sweater? Why waste time with a graph when you could actually give me more information — like the weather for the entire day, not just the next four hours. Clicking on “details” just confuses things further. I only get one more hour, and the first three hours are broken into fifteen-minute increments. That might be useful for some people, but I’d venture a bet that more people would prefer to have more hours, and fewer details within each hour. Do I really need to know the temperature is slated to go up by 1 degree in the next 15 minutes?

Again, AccuWeather does this better:

Nice! 8 hours at a time. But it does concern me that I’m told the weather for the past three hours. Why do I care? Or does this just mean you haven’t updated your site for three hours?

So AccuWeather wins the battle of the weather sites — for now. There is still room for improvement though. Why not give the morning low in addition to tonight’s forecast low on the main forecast page? Why not give me the option to create my own home page — if I’d like more details about current conditions, give me the choice to have that on my page. If I prefer to start with the hourly forecast, let me do that. But don’t stoop to Weather.com’s level and force information on me that I don’t need — like a graph of temperatures over the next four hours. If I wanted a graph at all, it might be a minimalist 36-hour temperature graph at 2-hour intervals, something like this:

This gives me a sense of meaningful long-term trends, and a way to compare today and tomorrow, not just the idea that temps increase over the course of the day.

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2 Responses to The ruination of Weather.com

  1. Freiddie says:

    I think you have a point that AccuWeather might be a bit more utility, but I personally think AccuWeather needs a more “open” layout; e.g. the left and right sidebars should be hidden.

    One of my greatest frustrations of using any weather website has been finding the “Metric” button, which both Weather and AccuWeather have thankfully. On some weather programs/websites, they don’t save that preference, which can be really frustrating: e.g. try using Google for weather (I never found where I can toggle the temperature units).

  2. dave says:

    Freiddie, your comments point out the problem with sites like Weather.com — users have so many different needs and expectations. A farmer would be interested in different info from a golfer, who has different interests than a business traveler, who has different interests than a skier.

    It’s tough to provide weather info for all those diverse groups, while generating enough ad revenue to keep the site afloat. But still, that shouldn’t stop us from asking them to do better. The data collection is still the most expensive part of this gig. Data presentation should be easy by comparison.

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