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BBC Weather beta - update

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Peter Deslandes Peter Deslandes | 11:25 UK time, Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Ferris wheel against a blue sky

The new BBC Weather site shows prevailing weather clear skies behind a ferris wheel. The site will eventually reflect the weather being viewed on the page.

I’m Peter Deslandes, Head of the BBC Weather product within BBC Future Media. Just over a week ago we launched the new BBC Weather website in beta mode, a work-in-progress version which will eventually replace the current site – my editorial counterpart Liz Howell introduced this over on the BBC News Editors blog. Today I wanted to expand on how we approached the beta, tell you a bit about how audiences have responded, and provide a view of future plans too.

The forecast you want, at your fingertips

Since the last redesign we’ve been in constant dialogue with users about what works and what doesn’t work for them. 

Our constant challenge is delivering the varying levels of detail demanded by the broad audience we serve. Most users say that they ‘just want the weather’. Some use the site to inform short-term decisions like whether to take a coat to work or not. We see seasonal uplifts in traffic driven by this sort of behaviour during periods of heavy snow, or the summer months when temperatures are generally higher.

Other members of this user category tell us that they look at the week ahead via the five-day forecast each Sunday evening, and check the detail for the day ahead each morning.

A separate, smaller group of users like to delve deeper into the meteorology and build a more detailed picture of the weather.

They’re interested in more esoteric factors like observations (radar and satellite maps) and pressure charts, and tend to visit the site more regularly – the percentage of these users who visit us on a daily basis is twice that of ‘just give me the weather’ users.

Of course the notion of detail is subjective and varies by person, but clearly we serve mixed audience.

So, the challenge we set ourselves when redesigning the BBC Weather product was to strike a balance between simplicity and detail.

The new BBC Weather site homepage speaks to this approach: we’ve introduced an infographic map to provide a snapshot of UK weather, plus a quick link through to the full-colour UK map with five-day timeline.

Find a Forecast is still there to take you through to the locations you are interested in, and you can still save a number of favourites to make it is even easier to get to them.

Liz summarized the other new BBC Weather beta site benefits in her blog of October 27th: do check these out.

weather maps side by side

The new BBC weather site offers both a simple infographic map and a complex countoured one.

Better integration with BBC Online

The redesign also provided the opportunity to recreate the site using the new building blocks of BBC Online. 

In January this year the BBC announced that it was reshaping BBC Online around ten distinctive products, each built on the same infrastructure to enable a seamless transition across the BBC family of websites. 

The BBC Weather product now sits on the same platform as the BBC’s recently rejuvenated sites. 

The redesign also provided the opportunity to align the new site with the BBC’s evolving Global Experience Language for BBC Online to introduce visual similarities too – one of my colleagues will publish a post in the near future about the design aspects, including the reintroduction of the iconic BBC Weather symbols.

Initial responses

Throughout pre-launch user testing we reviewed each piece of feedback and made corresponding changes to the site if we felt the experience could be improved.  Commenter dotconnect  pointed to the reintroduction of actual temperatures on maps based on feedback, underneath Liz’s post of October 27th.  This public beta period gives you the same opportunity to let us know your thoughts, which you can do by commenting under this blog, contributing to discussion under the #bbcweather hashtag on Twitter, or via our survey.

Feedback from week one of the public beta has been hugely pleasing.  We’ve had around 40,000 users engaging with the product per day since launch and we’ve had over 3,500 survey responses, plus around 650 emails. 

Although it’s sadly not possible to respond to many, I am reading each one and take every piece of feedback very seriously. 

Overall, most people prefer the new site: they like the look and feel, find it clearer and easier to use with more information available at a glance.  We have also had lots of constructive feedback pointing out areas for improvement and plan to focus on the most common themes first, for instance the preference for displaying temperatures with colour. 

In response to other feedback map colours are being looked at as part of a longer-term project. 

Wind information on maps which many people are calling for is also in the pipeline. 

As a broader update to BBC Online we plan to roll out non-Flash video in areas so this should be coming to the BBC Weather product soon. 

There’s more going on than I can cover here, so apologies if your particular issue isn’t highlighted – as I said, we read everything and take it all on board.

What next?

Aside from working through user feedback, we have a future roadmap of activity including making country guides available on country pages, which will be searchable from the Find a Forecast box.

We’re also working with the Met Office on much more detailed weather warnings that will be visible on affected areas’ forecast pages. 

Lastly, the move to a new technical platform will make it easier to repurpose the refreshed BBC Weather product in time beyond the web, in line with the BBC’s four screen strategy for its ten digital products

Clearly an optimized BBC Weather mobile proposition will be important to deliver an on-the-move look-up experience for users.

Peter Deslandes, Head of BBC Weather Product, BBC Future Media


  • Comment number 1.

    I've been using the beta for over a week now and still feel very comfortable with it. Good to hear there are plans to offer an alternative to Flash for video too.

    In terms of possible room for improvement, here's one...


    I think it's a fair bet that many of us click through to the UK weather map (the sequential one) to get an idea of what weather is about to 'hit us'. However this is currently somewhat hindered by the various location/temperature labels, in particular the larger one indicating the user's saved location, which substantially obscure the detail in the user's location (areas of rain, for instance). Is it possible to add a link or button to the top right of the pale grey 'Maps' header which would allow users to toggle on/off the labels? There seems to be plenty of room for one.


  • Comment number 2.

    one thing missing from the BBC weather map, IMO, is context -- wouldn't it be possible to have a northern hemisphere overview showing the low/high pressure systems and their projected development? this would allow us to "get an idea of what weather is about to 'hit us'." (#1)

  • Comment number 3.

    Thanks as ever for all feedback.

    #1 - We've heard this issue from a number of people and we've decided to do exactly what you (and a few of the other people) have suggested - there will be an option to turn off the labels.

    #2 - We provide a relevant pressure region for all locations, although I'm not sure if that's what you want. I hope you're seeing it - the tab to load the pressure map is alongside the other tabs, running in a row below the title 'Map'.

  • Comment number 4.

    "The new BBC Weather site shows prevailing conditions in the sky".

    Does it?

  • Comment number 5.

    A great system!

  • Comment number 6.

    #4 - Apologies James - as you've spotted, that statement is incorrect. We are preparing different images to reflect the range of weather conditions shown on the page but they are not yet in use on the site.

    #5 - Many thanks :)

  • Comment number 7.

    I have already said that I like the new weather pages.

    What makes my skin crawl is the marketing speak on the old weather page:
    "We're building a new BBC Weather experience for you."

    Does anyone visiting an information website ever consider it an experience? Plain English please.

  • Comment number 8.

    @James Higham, re #4

    To own up: I wrote the incorrect caption after Peter had written the post, so the mistake is mine, not Peter's. Sorry, and thank you for spotting.

  • Comment number 9.

    While I like the beta, one thing you could consider adding is asking the users device/browser where they are. While this isn't supported universally it is getting to be widespread especially on mobile. You could then either have it as an option in the location search area, or use the information to replace London as the example location.

  • Comment number 10.

    @Tony re #9, thanks for this, we are working on this next as part of our work to refresh the mobile site and bring it more into line with the website. The desktop site may then also be able to adopt a similar feature, although as you probably know locating a user on a computer on a 'fixed line' broadband connection is not a very satisfactory experience.

  • Comment number 11.

    Personally I prefer it how it was before. The pictures were clearer, the temperatures were in those little boxes with a colour code, and the weather pictures had words underneath, so you could tell the difference between snow and hail, etc.
    There are a few other points what I don't like about the new weather site. The older weather site was much better, sorry to say.

  • Comment number 12.

    I agree with NCol - the site was better before. I do not find myself so keen to look at the pages so often now - only when I have to!

    The wife also commented that the staff in her office are now using the Met Office site (and Metcheck when it is working) instead.

    I guess if the number of page hits is being counted and compared with the old pages, it should be clear as to what jo(e) public likes.



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