BBC Weather app hits 5m mark

Thursday 30 January 2014, 10:33

Michael Burnett Michael Burnett Executive Product Manager

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2014 has barely begun but the popularity of the BBC Weather app goes from strength to strength. This week, the app reached 5 million downloads on iOS, Android and Amazon devices.

Achieved in less than eight months, this milestone feels like the icing on the cake for BBC Weather’s 60th anniversary celebrations earlier this month.

I must admit it has also marked a nice introduction for me to Weather, having joined from News in November, and gives me confidence for our ambitions this year.

Certainly, the response to the app since its launch last June has been fantastic. Consistently high audience reviews and ratings have helped, as well as being named in several end-of-year apps lists.

weather apps.jpg BBC Weather apps on different devices

Another contributing factor has been changing user trends as mobile and tablet traffic continues to rise. December was the first full month where mobiles and tablets represented half the traffic to BBC Weather. This was probably helped in no small part by a whole new bunch of smartphone and tablet devices being unwrapped on Christmas Day. In fact, Christmas week was our largest week-on-week increase since July, with 244,000 downloads.

Obviously another major contributor was the weather itself. I am well aware there have been some very difficult weather conditions up and down the UK since early December. So it’s humbling to know that so many users have turned to the BBC app for their weather information.

Naturally, we have continued to listen to your feedback, in order to prioritise a number of improvements to the app. Recent updates include ability to rotate your tablet device to view the app in landscape, as well as releasing a version for Amazon Kindle devices, sharing, and installing links to the Met Office National UK Weather warnings.

So what now? Well, more improvement are to come, most notably 10-day forecasts. The website already shows 10 days, but the apps only five. It has been a tricky challenge to find a scalable design that works in the app on a multitude of different screen sizes, but still makes sense to audiences.

We are also using the lessons learnt on apps to start building a new responsive website for Weather, and will be looking to integrate more localised Met Office Weather warnings onto the apps and site later this year.

As always, we will keep monitoring your feedback as we continue to improve BBC Weather’s offering on all platforms.

Mike Burnett is an Executive Product Manager, BBC Weather

BBC Weather app facts

• Weather app downloads so far are roughly equally split between iOS and Android devices

• Peak mobile traffic on Friday mornings from 7am

• Peak tablet traffic on Thursday evenings from 10pm.

• In an average week, a 60/40 split between users on mobiles against tablets.

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    Comment number 1.

    Although 10 day forecasts might be popular with the audience, any meteorologist will tell you that they're pretty much pointless as you simply cannot forecast that far ahead. So why you're bothering I don't really know.

    In my opinion there's some far more important improvements that could be made - improving the warning info and tailoring it to your location eg. a red/amber/yellow strap at the top linking to the info. Alerts would be good too.

    Maps would be great - radar, satellite images etc. Also video forecasts I think would be a real benefit.

    I'm not sure a responsive website should be a particular priority either - given the current website is great on PCs and the app is great on mobiles and tablets.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Thanks for your comment Robinho02. I think you may have answered your own question there. We have the data for a 10-day forecast and we know it's something that the audience would be interested in.

    As you've pointed out, the data becomes less reliable the further into the future you go. So, the challenge is trying to give users as much information as we can but making sure they understand the trade-off in accuracy. Hence, we use ranges and probable temps for days 6-10. The forecasts may become less reliable, but we know users are still keen to get some indication of what the weather might be like, even if that changes closer to the time. The other challenge is conveying all this in very tight screen sizes.

    In terms of improving the warning info - yes, as mentioned in the post, that's something we're looking at across the website and apps, including red/amber/yellow labelling. I'm sure I'll be posting about that in the near future.

    And, as for responsive, that's something I'll be saying more about in the near future too. Lots of reasons for implementing this. Responsive gives us a way to future-proof the site and improve layout, performance and design on all devices, not just desktop. Also, the app is great for mobile and tablet, but one of the reasons for its success has been its simplicity. The desktop website offers a lot more information and depth e.g. maps, shipping forecasts, coastal, observations etc. There's an argument for keeping the app simple and providing a more in-depth, detailed experience on the website. In December, 50% of our audience came from mobiles and tablets, but less than half of them were via the app. We need to make the website work for all devices.

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    Comment number 3.

    One of my favourite apps on Android was Rainwatch, a simple app that took the BBC rainfall maps from the website for UK national and your local area and just gave you the slider to show current and future rainfall. It's stopped working recently - I don't know whether the BBC have forced its closure or changed the data format? Anyway, would that not be a nice feature to add to the BBC weather app? Most times for cycling, walking, clothes drying etc., all you need is an idea on when and what the rainfall will be like...

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Thanks dukeofearl,

    Not sure what the situation is with Rainwatch, but I'll take a look. And I'll certainly bear your suggestion in mind for future improvements to the app.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Interesting that you say that more people use the website on tablets than the app.
    Looks like they are looking for more detailed information.

    Like the design of the app Myself, but would prefer more detail.
    For me the website is quite a clunky design, it needs a good revamp there.
    Would rather it had a more detailed table format, than all the graphics.

    Would like to see more up to date local video forecasts, mine being South, they are not available on mobile devices.
    Would also like to see a rain radar, certainly many about now on other sites, not just whats happened but expected in the next few hours.


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