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More Ambience for BBC Weather - and other improvements

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Jo Wickremasinghe Jo Wickremasinghe | 17:00 UK time, Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Firstly, let me introduce myself. Formerly the Head of Product for BBC Homepage, I came back to the BBC in late January this year after maternity leave and I've taken over as Head of Product for Weather & Travel News from Peter Deslandes. In earlier posts, Peter gave an overview of the new BBC Weather site that was launched in October 2011. Peter subsequently posted about updates we made to BBC Weather including adding colour to temperatures and improving visibility of the weather on maps.

Since then we've continued to receive and review feedback from you about how we can further improve the BBC Weather site. We have been working on a few of these changes over the past weeks and months. Today we released a couple of changes we hope you'll like.

Page ambiences

In November Melanie Seyer gave a detailed overview of the BBC Weather Design Refresh in Pictures. In that post Melanie described our plan to introduce page ambience as a way for us to inject personality into the site, by reflecting the current weather at your selected location. Today we've rolled out page ambiences for both UK and International locations. The ambience reflects the latest forecast for the selected location.

Weather forecast for Canterbury with a blue sky behind it.

Sunny skies over Canterbury, Kent

Forecast for a warm few days in Faro, in front of rain

Heavy rain shower in Faro, Portugal

Forecast for a balmy few days in Warsaw, in front of grey skies

Couldy skies over Warsaw, Poland

Weather forecast for a few cold days in Alaska, before grey skies

Light snow falling in Anchorage, Alaska

The return of RSS

Quite a few of you have been asking when we would enable RSS feeds on the new BBC Weather site. In December Jeremy Tarling described how the new BBC Weather site was re-designed to a three-tier architecture as part of the BBC's wider strategy to move to a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA). As a result we had a bit of work to do to publish RSS feeds from our new service layer. This work is finally complete and in today's release we've enabled RSS on all forecast pages. You'll see the orange RSS icon next to the Share Tools, under the Find a Forecast box.

Other Improvements

We've had feedback that some of you were having problems saving your favourite forecast locations. So we've made some changes to the Find a Forecast box, to make it easier to save your favourite locations. After you have searched for your location, click the + Add to Favourites link which appears above the Find a Forecast box. Read more about how to personalise your BBC Weather page on our Help and FAQ page.

We've added a timestamp to the top of the forecast pages, so you can see the last time the forecast data was refreshed (the time shown is GMT).

Forecast for Birmingham, showing timestamp

Last updated timestamp on forecast pages

In addition we recently updated the performance of the maps so all the tiles load together. You may also see a loading indicator whilst you are waiting for the weather to appear over the map. We've done some work to make a much smoother transition between forecast times once the images have loaded. And now the arrows on the timeline are adjacent to each other, so it's easy to flick back and forth and watch the weather progress over time.

We will continue to review your feedback, and work to deliver new features and improvements in future. We've answered some of your questions on our Frequently Asked Questions page, and I look forward to reading your comments here.

Jo Wickremasinghe is the Head of Product for BBC Weather in BBC Future Media


  • Comment number 1.

    It's nice to see RSS feeds making a return but the current conditions feed appears to be missing. Has this useful feature been dropped or will it appear in future updates?

    One other minor niggle is that on the maps the loading indicator doesn't show up well when it is positioned over a location label. Other than that, well done BBC.

  • Comment number 2.

    I don't really seem to be getting much of an "after sunset" ambience.

  • Comment number 3.

    Page Ambiences - Oh dear, what a waste of effort. Right now, the "ambience" for the Glasgow forecast page suggests patches of blue sky with some dark cloud. Looking out, all I see is that it's dark and the cloud cover is unbroken, as forecast. How does this "ambience" reflect the weather at my chosen location? And if it's not accurate here, why should I bother about it for anywhere else?

  • Comment number 4.

    I find the maps very difficult (next to impossible) to read, I can't workout if I'm looking at rain or frost, cloud or fog. For my area Kendal the map implies that between now and Sunday it'll be clear or cloudy yet on the summary it says it'll be raining - the map doesn't show anything that would indicate rain on Friday, even the national map doesn't show rain anywhere in England on Friday.

  • Comment number 5.

    Still need changes in the map because it is not readable. The content would be readable more quickly if this will be in headings and in points.

  • Comment number 6.

    You seem to be tinkering with the 'ambience' of the site when the main structure, design, ease of use and functionality is flawed.. Please move away from gimmicks and make a well designed easy to use site. Just design a site that works ('out of the box', in BBC managment speak).

  • Comment number 7.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 8.

    Thank you for taking time to respond to my blog post above. Regarding the current conditions feed, we hope to have the Observations RSS feed available for you in a few weeks.

    For the questions raised about the ambiences – we set the ambience using the forecast in the first time slot of the current day’s forecast, but we do not have a different ambience for every weather icon or for night time. The images are really just to provide a background ambience to the forecast, but not to give a detailed forecast themselves.

    We are also aware that some users have difficulty distinguishing weather types with the colours on the maps. The Map Key below the maps is there to help explain the different weather types, but we are also working on ways to improve the clarity of the map colours.

  • Comment number 9.

    "The images are really just to provide a background ambience to the forecast"

    Well that really does need shouting from the tree tops doesn’t it, how about making some fundamental changes to this design disaster rather than just sticking some plasters on it.

  • Comment number 10.

    @9 'Well that really does need shouting from the tree tops doesn’t it, how about making some fundamental changes to this design disaster '. So what do you want changed - all you've ever said is that you hate it....

  • Comment number 11.

    Rather than purely visual changes such as "ambience", I'd much prefer you to concentrate on reinstating features which were in the old version but have been lost with the switch to the new one. Temperature maps, for example, and the ability to scroll the detail screen.

  • Comment number 12.

    The "Observations" RSS feed appears to be broken since Monday this week, the example given on your RSS page for Manchester (http://newsrss.bbc.co.uk/weather/forecast/9/ObservationsRSS.xml%29 for example gives "Temperature: N/A (N/A), Wind Direction: N/A, Wind Speed: N/A, Relative Humidity: N/A, Pressure: N/A, N/A, Visibility: N/A" London is same. Forecasts are still working though.
    Can you look into it please? Thanks

  • Comment number 13.

    keynet - thanks for raising this issue.

    We made a release on Monday which inadvertently disabled our legacy RSS feeds (those which were shown on the last version of the Weather site, before Nov 2011).
    We have not yet enabled Observations RSS on our current Weather forecast pages, though this is coming in a matter of weeks. Our plan was to disable the legacy RSS feeds after enabling the new ones, but clearly we were a little early with disabling the old feeds.

    However you can already get access to the new Observation RSS for Manchester here: http://open.live.bbc.co.uk/weather/feeds/en/2643123/observations.rss.
    For any forecast location, simply go to www.bbc.co.uk/weather, search for your forecast and then take the geo-ID (the set of numbers at the end of the URL) and replace it in the Observation RSS URL.

    For example:

    Our geo-ID for Manchester is: 2643123

    and the Observation RSS feed is: http://open.live.bbc.co.uk/weather/feeds/en/2643123/observations.rss

    Our geo-ID for London is: 2643743

    and the Observation RSS feed is: http://open.live.bbc.co.uk/weather/feeds/en/2643743/observations.rss

  • Comment number 14.

    Thanks, I've got the feeds working again with some code changes - the forecast and observation XML data formats have changed a bit at the new ID's you list.

    It would be really handy if the BBC could aim to publish the schemas it works to, or standardise, for example the US national weather service publishes theirs at http://www.nws.noaa.gov/view/current_observation.xsd

  • Comment number 15.

    I realise this page may be a bit old but the new forecast page format (from somewhere around 12th June 2012 onwards) seems to be a bit over the top. I mean it dosen't seem to be any more accurate than the previous one and (to me) it is so much more confusing!!!

    Please can someone try and do something, it's just getting ridiculous BBC can't get anymore precise with the weather and still be correct, surley!

  • Comment number 16.

    Hi Amelia,

    Jo has blogged about the June 13th updates to bbc.co.uk/weather, and you might find her post explaining them of interest.

    Because Jo's new blog post is a more logical place for new comments, I'm closing this comments thread.


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