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Cold weather and a new look online

Richard Chapman Richard Chapman | 12:30 UK time, Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Without wishing to fall into cliche mode February 2009 will always be remembered by the BBC Weather team as a month of two halves.

According to provisional Met Office figures, as a whole, this winter is expected to be the coldest in the UK since 1995/6. The low temperatures have also been accompanied at times by heavy snow.

Woodmansterne railway station, Coulsdon, Surrey on Monday 2 February 2009

Monday 2 February saw heavy overnight snowfall in south-east England, the heaviest snow in 18 years, causing trains and buses to be cancelled, and airports and schools to be closed.

Some parts of London saw up to 20cm (eight inches) of snow with the highest accumulations reported on the North Downs at 28cm (11 inches).

There was little comedy value for those of us who needed to get to work but with hundreds of schools closed many children enjoyed making snowmen as the thousands of pictures sent into the BBC demonstrated.

The snowfall also raised the question of imperial units versus metric measurements. Our weather policy has not changed over the years and we continued to present the data in metric with conversions, in this case to inches, when significant.

Although, I have to say at times it did remind me of one of the most famous lines in comedy, from Hancock's Half Hour, The Blood Donor: "A pint, that's very nearly an armful," as we did our best to present the detail of the snow depths and offer conversions when the pictures really told the story well enough.

Aviemore recorded the lowest February temperature since 1986 (-18C) on the morning of the 9 February, Altnaharra in the Highlands was down to -15C and Aberdeen was -12C.

From the 15 February the weather turned much milder and we entered a far quieter period of weather. Temperatures peaked at 15.3C (59F) in Charlwood, Surrey on Friday 27 February, making it the warmest day of the year so far.

Of course, the weather itself was not the only major feature of February 2009 for the BBC Weather team. As you may have noticed from my previous blogs on the subject we managed to plan the launch of our new look weather website just in time for the significant snowfall.

Screengrab of BBC Weather site

Although this produced major interest in the new site it also presented us with a problem. The traffic to the site was greater than we had ever experienced with a reported 500,000 users per hour. As a result the decision was taken to roll back to the old weather site until we were able to ensure we could cope with the increased traffic numbers.

It took a huge effort by the project team to ensure that we had the resilience to migrate everyone across to the new look site and during the last week in February users of the weather site were re-directed to the new version.

Some pages still need to be migrated over to the new design and this will happen over the next few months. So take a look around the new site and let us know what you think.

And for the outlook, the first week of March is seeing temperatures dipping back down below the seasonal average, as cold air floods across the UK. And with that comes a return to wintry weather.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    I still can't find a UK pressure map on the new weather site.

    Is this dumbing down?

  • Comment number 2.

    Looks okay - I have one issue. The site is now really slow to load.

    In fact, its so slow I'm tending to look for the weather at another site which takes about 1/4 of the time to load.

  • Comment number 3.

    One small issue that I've found is that the 'Search' function doesn't seem to know where I live. I typed in 'Galashiels', and it gave me the option of:

    * Galashiels (near Douglas, South Lanarkshire)
    * Galashiels, Midlothian

    Neither of which is correct (there's only one, and it's actually in the Scottish Borders).

  • Comment number 4.

    The new /weather page is much slower to load, but does offer a more personalised experience, thus giving us what we want in detail, overall outweighs the slow response times.

    A clean and modern look and feel.

  • Comment number 5.

    I have found that since the beta version, some features have been removed. I no longer see the forecast video, the ability to collapse sections you want to see has been removed, when clicking one of the links such as "Night Weather" rather than seamlessly open, it reloads the page. Only one can be opened at a time and it does not remember what you have selected like the beta site. Search now returns page can not be found message

    Its a shame as I was teased by the beta site and now its live, its dummed down!

  • Comment number 6.

    "So take a look around the new site and let us know what you think. " Well - an email contact would be good. But there isn't any contact info in the site.
    You've ruined what was a decent website by replacing it with something that looks as if you bought it on the web for £20.
    Pressure charts ? Wind ? How can you have weather without wind ?
    And your reliance on Flash is of little use to mobile users - particularly the fast-growing iPhone sector. We are out and about and need weather - not blank spaces where the Flash won't run.
    Our only solution now is to use your old WAP site. Now, there's progress!

  • Comment number 7.


    A 'new look' site that provides less information, and at a slower speed. Not good.

    Frankly, I do not expect a weather forcast to resemble some kind of visual treat - what counts is the information it contains, and the accuracy of the forcast.

    Forget the beauty contest, priorities have been lost here and some professional influence is required to bring the service up to the standards expected.

  • Comment number 8.

    I was having great difficulty with the new site and it not remembering anything I told it but since clearing the cookies from the beta version it seems to be working.

    Perhaps a little help bubble about that might help others?

  • Comment number 9.

    Well, I can quote myself from the previous blog post

    "IT and the BBC always seems like watching your Dad dancing at a wedding party. Full of enthusiasm, but just really painful to watch."

    Style over substance

    Looks over functionality

  • Comment number 10.

    Not much good is it?

    Too many IT toys taking too long to load, and it provides less information "at a glance" than before as the hourly forecasts have been lost in favour of only 4 "snap shots"

    One glaring issue is the default chart (once it loads) is on such a small scale you cant see what is coming your way which is rather essential in terms of weather.

    3 steps backward I would suggest.

  • Comment number 11.

    With respect to Kurisu, it is not a 'small issue' if the BBC search can't find Galashiels. It's a major one. And the search database should not include every tiny village, but main places in the UK. I don't want to be asked if I meant Cambridge, Gloucestershire, or Brighton, Cornwall. A search for main towns or the first half of the postcode is simple and people are used to it.
    The BBC seems obsessed with providing a Web service to the whole world. Very often this gets in the way of the service to British residents and the weather site demonstrates this. In the illustration accompanying the blog, off the bottom of the screen you will find "More about United Kingdom", "Travel advice for United Kingdom from government website (!)" and so on.
    The page is headed "BBC Weather : United Kingdom". This should be synonymous with "BBC Weather". No objection to special pages for those travelling abroad, as we have special weather bulletins on BBCTV, but the principal function of this page should be to give the BBC's customers and funders the web version of what we get on the radio or TV, and this site does not do that.

  • Comment number 12.

    If this amount of snow had fallen in the North East of the UK, there would have been almost nothing said about it, except for 'They are used to it up there !' When it falls Darn Sarf, it is portrayed as a National Emergency/Disaster. The BBC Weather Forecasters also are South East/ South Coast biased. Why is this ? It is the WEATHER that is important and NOT the Darn Sarfers !

  • Comment number 13.

    The bigger issue for me is that the "Latest Observations" are wrong, certainly in my location.

    The forecat for Huddersfield is at http://news.bbc.co.uk/weather/forecast/335 and claims latest observations as taken at Emley Moor, which is 5.24 miles away.

    Click the RSS feed and look at its source and you see that the latitude and longitude are different to those quoted for Emley and areactually of Linton on Ouse.

    The site is passing off weather observation from some 40-50 miles away.

  • Comment number 14.

    I ask again: what was wrong with the old fashioned pictograms that showed at a glance what the weather was likely to be?

    Now we have shades of colour representing... what?

    I don't use the Beeb's weather page any more, particularly now it's relying on the resource-eating Flash to make it work.

    2/10 BBC, must do better.

  • Comment number 15.

    Likewise, I'm not enamoured of the new-look weather site. Apart from the lack of useful information at a glance (temperatures, wind speed / direction), I don't like how you can't see Scotland or England as a whole but have to go on to regional views. These, incidentally don't even have a separate temperature map. Not only that, they are not consistent with each other. In Scotland during yesterday's snow, the snow area was between Inverness and Elgin and visible on the North East map. On the Highland map which also includes Inverness to Elgin too, there was nothing. A few days earlier the forecast on the maps was completely different from what I'd just watched after the 10:00 pm News.

    I'd like accurate information, at a glance, which I can trust. Right now the new look BBC site delivers very little in all these areas.

    If it doesn't improve, I'm off.

    TTFN

  • Comment number 16.

    no pressure maps? no wind speed/direction maps? And the layout will not win any prizes. Please have a re-think and stop believing that we - your customers - regard being given less information is somehow a good thing.

  • Comment number 17.

    I biggest thing I miss from the old site is the ability to looks down a single column to see the progression over 24 hours - I can look across a row for 12 hours but then have to look across another row for the next 12 hours.

    Are the BBC monitoring how many people keep the 24 hour mode open or use the night section on the 5 day?

  • Comment number 18.

    Earlier in the year the Met Office predicted that winter 2008 would be one of the warmest on record.

    They could not have got it more wrong if they tried!

    Despite having access to massive number crunchers the 5 day forecasts are usually a joke.

    Wind Speed/Direction is a Must!

    Come on BBC, don't just cater for the lowest common denominator, assume some viewers would like to be informed not whitewashed.

    Instead of repeating, ad nauseam, the most trivial of "Breaking News" do little specialist 30 second weather spots for glider/power pilots, sailors, surfers, fishermen etc.

    Finally, Eire should be included as most East Coast Irish aerials point at UK transmitters and weather knows no political borders. And lots of Brits live in the Southern part!

  • Comment number 19.

    I would say "why on earth have you spent so much licence payers' money on redesigning the website when the new version is worse than the old one?", only I expect I know what the answer is.

    Have you, perchance, recently had a new senior manager given responsibility for the BBC Weather website, who, much like tom cats and furniture, feels compelled to leave his mark?

    It's really hard to imagine any other reason. I really liked the way I could get the forecast maps on the old version to specifically show temperature, rain, or whatever else I was interested in. To judge from the comments above, that's not the only feature of the new website that's less good than the last.

  • Comment number 20.

    Too small an area..... yes it would be nice to see what is coming! a zoom out facility would be a good idea.

    Has the BBC, in their wisdom, decreed that temperature, wind and its direction, have no relevance to the weather,as a weather forecast, the maps are useless without these, so go on let me into the secret, how do I display this info within the maps?

    Change for changes sake, if it aint broke dont fix it!

  • Comment number 21.

    A pretty damning verdict, and I'm afraid I have to agree with everyone else.

    8/10 for style, 2/10 for content. Never have so many pixels been used to convey so little information to so many people.

    For heaven's sake, please bring back the pressure charts. Then we can begin to explore the many other shortfalls of your pretty new toy.

  • Comment number 22.

    Richard:

    I am glad....with the new format of the BBC Weather Site...

    ~Dennis Junior~

  • Comment number 23.

    Forget about the snow in the UK - we can't go skiing here - unless you live in Scotland! I think what's really appreciated is the snow reports in the Alps and further afield in the USA. The snow reports let people know if and where they should be going! It's appreciated. Snow Menu team - http://www.snowmenu.com

  • Comment number 24.

    Forget about the snow in the UK - we can't go skiing here - unless you live in Scotland! I think what's really appreciated is the snow reports in the Alps and further afield in the USA. The snow reports let people know if and where they should be going! It's appreciated. Snow Menu team.

  • Comment number 25.

    It is REALLY slow... sometime I just want to look at what the weather is going to be... why have temperature colour coded? What about rainfall and temperature together? Why does my firefox look like it's crashing for 15 seconds after I click on the website... very pretty but pretty useless

  • Comment number 26.

    The new weather site is horrible. Slow to load and run, and those ugly muddy shaded colours - what on earth do they mean? I agree with most of the comments above. Stop dumbing down. Give us wind speeds, temperatures and pressure contours, not a map shaded a muddy brown.

  • Comment number 27.

    "Both broadcasting and computer technology are continually being developed to allow BBC Weather to deliver the clearest forecasts we can."

    Quote from http://news.bbc.co.uk/weather/hi/about/newsid_7837000/7837610.stm

    Who are they trying to kid?

    If they added a screen shot of the new online maps to the bottom of this web page, they would then see, just what we all are trying to drum into them!

  • Comment number 28.

    I couldn't agree more with the comments above. This is a continuation of the dumbing down of the TV weather maps which used to show isobars, wind speed, frontal systems etc. Why does the BBC continually aim for the lowest common denominator? When weather maps showed the above detail, viewers could actually learn something about weather systems. For those who weren't interested, the forecasters still included all the required detail regarding sunshine, rain, hail etc. And looking at the current displays for one's locality - where has the expression "White Cloud" come from. Does it matter what colour a cloud is - what is of interest is whether it's unbroken, overcast, broken. I just wish I didn't have to subsidise the Broken Broadcasting Corporation.

  • Comment number 29.

    I trust that the BBC will take notice of all those who have expressed disappointment at the new weather site, which has highlighted what an effective and successful product the previous site was. And I hope the organisation will be sensible enough to make some changes.
    At the very least please bring back synoptic charts for the UK and atlantic, both current and forecast; and bring back charts with wind vectors and temperature.
    Please have some consideration for those who play sport, fly, sail, or simply want to go for a walk with a good awareness and understanding of what the weather is likely to do. Otherwise we will all desert to Metcheck!

  • Comment number 30.

    Could we please have the option of using the old layout?
    The new site looks very pretty, but as an at-a-glance 5-day forecast I find it a lot less useful: things are no longer lined up in a table, and we are forced to read the labels ("Wind:", "Hum:", "Press:", "Vis:") every time which instantly becomes very tedious. It thus takes two or three times as long to get the 5-day rundown.

  • Comment number 31.

    The redesign has made the weather information sought much harder to access.
    It used to be my default choice for forecasts but, frankly, it is now so unfriendly I am seeking an alternative. I don't understand the necessity to tamper with something for the sake of it.

  • Comment number 32.

    Let me add my weight to the mass of less than positive comments about the new weather site. I had posted these issues at length during the beta phase. None were answered, none were fixed, all were ignored.

    1. As many have said, there is now no wind or pressure information. How can you have a weather site with no pressure or wind information on the maps???
    2. On the detail maps you even lose the temperature information.
    3. Arrow navigation on the detail maps is riddled with errors. Try it. For example you can't navigate north from Cumbria to Scotland, but you can navigate south from Scotland to Cumbria. You have to go extreme east or west to get north. Cheshire is a black hole. You can't navigate to it at all.
    4. The weather people don't seem to understand the geography of the country. Town searches take you to inappropriate detail maps. Major towns are missing whereas minor ones are present. Towns are cited as being in the wrong counties. Lancashire apparently covers most of the Lake District so "Manchester" had to be introduced to correct the defect, but this map covers all of Lancashire anyway and there is already a separate Cumbria map. Stockport is on the "Manchester" map and isn't in Greater Manchester. Stockport is in Cheshire and isn't on the Cheshire map. The Cheshire map has only one Cheshire town on it and seven Lancashire towns. OK I live in Cheshire but have checked other maps and the same kind of error is repeated.....
    5. There is no key to the colours on any of the maps. I can only see that the temperature is going to be light green or that the weather is going to be a bit grey verging on brown. Very useful.

    The only useful thing about the new site is the ability to move more directly to a particular forecast point in time, but I would gladly have foregone this for some proper weather data.

    I used to use the BBC weather site all the time to predict conditions for my hobby activities, but now it is virtually useless because I need information much more than I need pretty fades and sliders. Sad to say that I have now moved to the Met Offices own site plus Metcheck and XCWeather.

  • Comment number 33.

    Whether it was my browser or a mod to the site - but a map key has appeared, so I withdraw that objection.

  • Comment number 34.

    Would you please take note of all these comments (I'm sure there would be more if the page were easier to find!) and simply give us the option of using the old layout?

  • Comment number 35.

    Are you just waiting until we get sick of complaining so that you can say to yourselves "Oh they've got used to it now."?

    PLEASE can we have some kind of response. The option of seeing the old format would be easy and cheap, and would satisfy everyone. Come on, we're sick of waiting!

  • Comment number 36.

    Dear BBC

    I would like to enquire when you are going (a) change your website back to the old version or (b) employ someone other than a baboon to make you a new one that makes different features more accessible.

    For example the wind speed on a particular day or time. I mean the wind has some significance on us people that go outside. surely it can't be hard to have some form of arrows on the map so you can see what it's doing at a certain time of day.

    Similiarly the map now doesn't have any temperature indication without navigating thorough some unnessesary tabs. Why?

    There also seems to be lots of glitches that make navigating the site slow and clunky, surely these should have been fixed before the site moved away from the Beta version.

    The previous incarnation of the site was my sole source of weather information. It providing a quick and easy overview via the interactive maps of the temperature, wind, cloud cover and rain fall to be expected at a particular time of day. The new site simply does not do this.

    Despite persevering with the new site for a while i now use alternatives which while not as good as the old site provide much more complete information far faster and more clearly than your new site!

    Please sort it now!

  • Comment number 37.

    Clearly you ARE just waiting until we get sick of complaining: it's almost three months since the last comment here, so perhaps you think that's enough. Now "they've got used to it" and everything is rosy.

    PLEASE can we have some kind of response. The option of seeing the old format would be easy and cheap, and would satisfy everyone. Come on, we're sick of waiting! The new site is STILL pretty but much less readable.

    Can Richard Chapman be fired?

  • Comment number 38.

    I note that we cannot email the weather team so have chanced on this board in the hope that someone will read and respond.

    Please could we have the wind direction and force arrows. Looking at one's region in three hour segments gives very little idea of which way the weather is moving and how strong it is out there. I live rurally and near the sea - wind direction and strength make a huge difference to me.

    You said initially that wind arrows were encountering technical problems but would be re-instated - is that still going to happen and when?

 

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