Since my last blog post 3 months ago the BBC Weather team have been quietly busy. We have been working closely with our colleagues in the BBC Weather Centre to move to a new, more complex forecast data model from the Met Office.

This new data set gives us more granular data, both in terms of the number of forecast points across the UK (a tenfold increase), and in terms of granularity and frequency of the forecasts themselves.

The new data was rolled out in time for the start of the Torch Relay, which enabled the BBC Weather Centre to give more detailed forecasts along the Torch Relay route. Today we rolled out a change to the BBC Weather website to make the most of this rich new data set.

A Tight Squeeze

The most dramatic improvement we have implemented today is hourly forecasts for UK locations.

You can see in the image below that 24 hours' worth of data is a lot of information to squeeze onto the page and still make it readable and user friendly.

A 24 hour forecast for Exter Devon, with a graphical layout

We developed and audience tested various layouts, and finally came up with two options.

The first view is a 'graphical' layout which shows the forecast data divided by time on the horizontal axis and the range of temperatures on the vertical axis. The scale of the vertical axis automatically adjusts depending on the maximum and minimum temperatures, maintaining a fixed space on the page.

The first day shown is a moving window, showing the remaining weather for the current day, whereas the following days' forecast shows a full 24 hours of weather.

As you might expect the granularity of the weather data reduces the further ahead in time you go. So as you move from two to three days ahead, the forecasts go from hourly to three-hourly. In the near future we will also be introducing 'Further Ahead' extending us out to nine days of weather forecasts.

Back to the challenge of space… in addition to the most common forecast data that users want (temperatures, weather icon/type and wind speed) we had the challenge of also displaying additional information like humidity and wind direction.

To keep things nice and compact we've introduced a hover-over state, which shows all the additional forecast data:

Additional weather forecast data which comes up when you hover the mouse over a weather icon.

However we also recognised that many users prefer an expanded tabular view of weather forecast information, which does not rely on the hover-over box, and is therefore more accessible.

This second, 'table', layout (the button to switch between the views is below the "Find a Forecast" box) takes up more page real estate but gives the full detailed forecast at one glance, which may be preferable to some users.

If you're using cookies, the browser should remember your preference the next time you come back to visit the BBC Weather website.

The detailed table view of the 24 hour weather forecasts

To accommodate the new page design we moved around other elements on the page.

You will now find the regional forecast text summary under the forecast data, in line with the environmental summary data (UV, Pollen and Pollution) and the regional forecast video.

In the near future we'll be further improving this section by adding colour scales to highlight the severity of the environment summary data, much like we use colour for the temperature scales.

Better World Weather

In addition to delivering hourly forecasts for UK locations, we now also have three hourly forecasts for international locations - a vast improvement from our previous day/night only forecasts.

You can see in the example below that we have adapted the same layout of graph and table views to work for both UK and international forecast data.

An example of an international weather forecast using the Graph view

Other Improvements

In my last post I mentioned we had implemented RSS feeds on our forecast pages, but one reader keynet pointed out that we had in fact only implemented the three day forecast RSS feed:

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) 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.

In today's release we have also added in the Observation RSS feed to our forecast pages, which is available from the same RSS icon (the unblurred box below).


The observations RSS feed is now available alongside the 3 day forecast RSS feed

We've also added a link directly to the 'UK Monthly Outlook' from the weather homepage http://bbc.co.uk/weather as many users didn't know it was accessible from the 'More UK Weather' page.

As mentioned above we've got a few more improvements coming soon - nine day forecasts and improved designs for the environmental data. I'll come back with another blog update as soon as we release this next set of improvements, and in the meantime I look forward to your feedback and comments.

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

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Comments

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  • Comment number 40. Posted by Jo Wickremasinghe

    on 17 Aug 2012 13:28

    Hi Gus - in response to your two questions (38 & 39).

    There is no difference between the black or white wind symbol. The wind symbols change between black or white as you move between the forecast tabs. The active forecast tab background is white so we change the wind symbol to black so it is visible. When you change to a different forecast tab, the wind symbol on the inactive tabs are white against the dark blue background. We don't have any indicator for wind gusts, other than the information provided in the forecast summary text.

    Regarding video playback - we're not currently running a version of our media player for the Weather videos that will work across mobile devices. We are working on an improved mobile experience for Weather, so please bear with us!

  • Comment number 39. Posted by Gus T Butt

    on 16 Aug 2012 07:58

    I'm unable to play the weather videos on my Samsung S3 even though I uninstalled and reinstalled flash player using the link from your website.

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  • Comment number 38. Posted by Gus T Butt

    on 16 Aug 2012 06:58

    I can't find a key to symbols. What is the difference between a black or a white wind strength symbol please? I would like to know if the wind is gusting.

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  • Comment number 37. Posted by DaveRP

    on 5 Jul 2012 23:56

    Checking the local forecast today I noticed there was no consistency between the day summary and the 3 hourly breakdown.

    In the day summary the day was showing light cloud (white) but when looking at the detail it was made up of three, three hour blocks, of light rain (black), three blocks of heavy cloud (black) and one instance of light cloud. (white)

    How is the day summary decided upon for days where there is variable weather?

    The summary temperature also didn't seem to make sense with a min/max for the day of 13/17 the three hour blocks maxed at 14 degrees (at 7pm in the evening) and 3 blocks with 12 degrees as a minimum

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  • Comment number 36. Posted by keynet

    on 5 Jul 2012 11:49

    Jo,

    The feed came back to life 24hrs later, but it's gone wonky again today -

    http://open.live.bbc.co.uk/weather/feeds/en/2643743/observations.rss is:
    Temperature: null°C (null°F), Wind Direction: East South Easterly, Wind Speed: 3mph, Humidity: null%, Pressure: nullmb, Rising, Visibility: N/A

    It does seem a bit hit-and-miss since the recent changes...
    Could you look at putting a bit more error checking in there?
    Thx

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  • Comment number 35. Posted by Sue_Aitch

    on 23 Jun 2012 10:38

    That's alright, Jo: a kind person has updated Ceefax page 400 in the meantime and Pollen Index 426 is there on Weather Page 400 now.

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  • Comment number 34. Posted by Jo Wickremasinghe

    on 21 Jun 2012 20:00

    Keynet - can you specify the URL for the feed which seems frozen? We'll look into it.

    Sue_Aitch we won't be able to make any more changes to Ceefax service before it ends with the digital switch over in October.

    Clemenad - we know that some of the icons ('white cloud' and 'partly cloudy' icons in particular) have lower contrast than the rain shower and other icons, but it is a challenge to get all the different icons to work with both the light and dark backgrounds used on the website. However if you hover over any icon you will get the text explanation for the icon, which details the weather type the icon represents.

  • Comment number 33. Posted by clemenad

    on 21 Jun 2012 15:52

    Firstly any chance of getting this comment box moved to the top of the blog or the sign in box moved to the bottom!!. Having to scroll all the way down to see if there is anything you want to comment on and then scroll up to the top to sign in then scroll down to bottom to add a comment seems daft!!.
    Secondly any chance of a response on my two earlier comments numbers 24 and 25.
    I find the fact that the symbols are virtually unreadable makes discussing the amount of data and the layout of the page rather pointless!!

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  • Comment number 32. Posted by keynet

    on 21 Jun 2012 08:08

    Your "weather conditions" feed for London appears to have been frozen since 13:00 yesterday! The website info is similarly frozen.

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  • Comment number 31. Posted by Sue_Aitch

    on 19 Jun 2012 10:34

    Any joy on my request at 18 Above? Ceefax page 400 would then have all the page numbers still available for the viewers in the North East of England and Northern Irelans for them to use for navigating the steampunk version of BBC Weather.

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