In mid-April, I purchased my very first iPhone. The weather app that came with it was barely functional and looked like a mid-’90s NetScape refugee. I needed something that worked well and matched the sleek, efficient design of my iPhone. Why not the Weather Channel’s new (and free) iPhone app?
While I’d read some high praise for TWC’s new and improved iPhone app, I was still suspicious. Their far-too-busy local forecast page, another recent redesign, had me thinking the app would be a disaster. Thank goodness I was wrong!
Well, mostly wrong. The elegant information design makes TWC’s iPhone app a winner. Unfortunately, the latest version (5.0.1) seems to have done away with one major (and beautiful) feature. Perhaps someone at TWC will read this post and reconsider.
First, we have the thoughtfully designed landing page. (These screenshots are from my iPhone; watch this video tutorial to learn how to take screenshots on yours.)
The app opens to show my current local conditions. Look at that gorgeous daytime sky graphic behind the Helvetica and Swiss text! I’ve set LaGrange as my home location, but I can also set it to update according to wherever I travel (much like automatic time zone updates on mobile phones). I can add other cities to my “Favorites” list, too, and access their conditions and forecasts with a right-to-left sweep of my finger. At night, or when the weather changes, the background changes along with it.
Oh, but wait. The app’s been updated since June 13, when I first saved these images. Here’s a June 22 screenshot:
The notes accompanying version 5.0.1 indicate that programmers found a way around the main screen freezing for no good reason. I’m assuming they thought the real-time graphics were the problem. (I haven’t had problems with the main screen freezing—it’s the radar map that gives my iPhone fits.) Note to programmers: Those stupid banner ads at the top are more likely the problem.
Some will say, “Well, you can’t have it all with mobile apps.” But with the crazy-fast advances in mobile web technology, why not? That’s a pretty shade of blue, but it adds nothing to the mobile user’s experience. The real-conditions graphics indicating day, night, sun, rain, clouds, fog, and so on didn’t keep users from finding what they need. Information design-wise, it was beautiful, thoughtful, and smart.
Perhaps the developers assumed that practical overrules everything else. But it no longer has to. While version 5.0.1 may run faster (not that I can tell thus far), it eliminated what other reviewers touted as one of the app’s best features.
Back to the app. If my plans depend on an hour-by-hour forecast—a yard sale, a cookout, mowing the lawn—the app provides more exact weather predictions.
If you’re familiar with Weather.com’s local forecast page design, you’ll notice that the iPhone app offers a much cleaner, more streamlined design. I can scroll down to see the hour-by-hour weather forecast up to 24 hours from now.
The 36-hour and 10-day forecasts, too, are spare and efficient, yet aesthetically pleasing. How often do you get that with a mobile app?
And of course, there’s the Weather Social section built into the app. The difference between the mobile social media section and that on Weather.com is that it’s unobtrusive here. If I don’t give a rat’s patootie about Facebooking my local weather conditions, or about pointless weather tweets, no big deal! TWC’s social media components aren’t front-and-center to jab at my eyes. Rather, they’re in the lower right corner in case I decide to care about weather in under 140 characters:
Now here are some helpful weather tweets—the current conditions as reported from the weather station at LaGrange-Callaway Airport. If I get a wild hair to tell millions of people I don’t know about the weather craziness in my yard, I can send weather photos directly from my iPhone to @WeatherChannel. Chances are, though, that if a tornado’s about to blow the critters and me into the next county, I’ve got things on my mind more important than tweeting pictures of, say, the chicken coop flying up over the house.
As I mentioned earlier in this post, the radar map portion of the app tends to freeze regardless of whether I’m on a wifi network or standing in my kitchen. It’s pretty to look at, though, and provides the current temperature at both my “home” location and major cities around the country.
While moving the map view around the Southeast, I noticed current temps popping up for the most unlikely locations: Allenhurst and Adel, Georgia; Adamsville, Tennessee; Abbeville, Mississippi; and Akron, Alabama, for starters. The combined population of these places might be 4,500. The small-town girl in me loves seeing what the weather’s doing in these “blink and you’ll miss it” places. However, I can’t figure out why the developers chose tiny towns whose names all start with the letter A. What is this, Sesame Street?
I’m still trying to figure out why someone would want to watch a video on the teensy-tiny iPhone screen, but it seems plenty of people do. And if it’s weather forecast videos you want, the app has them.
Other than the plain, boring solid blue background behind the current weather conditions, the Weather Channel’s iPhone app is pleasant to look at and very well designed for easy access to weather information. So how come their main website doesn’t look like this? I’ll have to save that for another post.
There’s an old saying that goes, “If you don’t like the weather around here, wait five minutes and it’ll change.” Perhaps TWC’s web developers will soon give us something new and improved.