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New look for BBC Weather website

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Liz Howell | 15:10 UK time, Thursday, 27 October 2011

BBC Weather beta

Rain or shine, we know that many of you like to access your weather forecasts through the BBC's Weather website.

The last redesign for the website happened in 2009, and since then we've been working on plans to make it even better and update the site so that it benefits from the latest technological developments.

As a result, we are today launching a "beta" version of an improved site. This is a work-in-progress version of the site which will eventually replace the current version of BBC Weather Online.

So in the coming weeks, we'll be running this beta version of the new design alongside the current Weather website, and you'll be able to access and use both of them. During this period we'll be ensuring that the new site operates as intended - it's important to ensure we've got the basics right in order to deliver the best experience possible at full launch.

BBC Weather beta Edinburgh page

They key improvements around the new site are:

A more focused and clear homepage design gives instant access to a five day and a video forecast and also has a short summary of UK weather. The map indicates the weather conditions in selected locations at the time shown in the right hand corner, and if you're after a more detailed full colour UK map with a five day time line just click "Detailed UK Weather". Our international users will see a world map on their homepage.

The easily personalised forecast favourites allow you to save a range of locations to appear in the drop down menu on the right hand side of the page. With the beta, when you access the site for the first time in the UK, you'll see the weather in Glasgow as the default option for the time being. We are working on this showing the biggest city in your nation, so bear with us.

Improved navigation across the site, allowing there to be more editorial content and audience pictures on the home page. This means the left hand side navigation has gone, and all the key content is accessible through the home page. The latest weather related stories will be where the 'Welcome' message is now on the beta, and news stories about climate and environment can be found from the Science and Environment section of the News website.

Last but not least, all the important, detailed weather information is still there - location pages show humidity, pressure and visibility as well as UV, pollution, pollen & observations. The country guides will also still be available, and the expectation is that the current list of countries will be available via a link on every page and will eventually become part of the country pages with the five day forecast map.

The improvements to the BBC Weather site are part of a bigger programme of change within BBC Online - we've been refreshing the BBC's ten key areas or 'products' to move towards a more distinctive family of websites, supported by a shared infrastructure to allow more intuitive journeys between them. Last summer the BBC News website was updated, BBC iPlayer followed in September, and at the moment there is a beta running for the BBC Homepage too.

BBC Weather will still have its unique look and feel, and the new design will introduce improved and easy-to-use functionality. The redesign & introduction of new infrastructure also means that the new site will be easier for us to optimise for mobile and connected TV devices in the future.

In the past months, we have invited over a thousand users to try out prototype versions of it, but we're still very keen to hear any feedback from you, so please have a look around the new Weather beta website. We've created a handy user guide accessible from the BBC Weather beta or here which should help to explain new features, and this carries a survey option. Do get in touch! We're using the #bbcweather hashtag on Twitter to group conversation, or you can comment below.

My colleague Peter in Future Media will be writing a post on the BBC Internet blog next week with more details, and other blogs about the user experience and technical aspects of the redesign will follow.

Liz Howell is head of BBC Weather

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Nice to see the return of the weather symbols. At first glance the beta site appears to be much easier to view than the existing site.

  • Comment number 2.

    I clicked on the beta link with trepidation. Over the years we have been given "improved" pages and functionality that have been disliked for various reasons based on familiarity. The ever present myth of focus group research always makes users scratch their heads, wondering who on earth was in the group. Then there is the corporate speak such as the BBC's ten key areas or 'products' that also makes normal people shudder. Think news design and the still awful news blogs (compared to this old format blog that does exactly what it should do).

    Anyway, despite that mini rant, I like the new weather page. Well done to all involved!

  • Comment number 3.

    Good to see such an informative weather chart.

  • Comment number 4.

    Like it. 'Am a regular user. Nice to see pressure maps. Any chance of showing IR and rainfall maps from satellites?

  • Comment number 5.

    Agreed - for once it is a great improvement on the current weather pages

  • Comment number 6.

    I presume the worldwide searches will be back at some point. A search on France finds Fort-de_France in Martinque with the correct maps but can't find France!

  • Comment number 7.

    #1: +1.

  • Comment number 8.

    The whole moving clouds and Ferris wheels thing seems a little bit too much "entertain" when what you want is "inform". Also, the lack of colour on the temperatures means that it takes longer to get a feel for whether you'll need a t-shirt or a coat.

    Other than that, it's looking good.

  • Comment number 9.

    By coincidence, I filled in a short BBC survey on the existing Weather website barely a week ago. So you can imagine my surprise when I switched on to see that all the complaints I made have actually been remedied in this new version. And to think you did all that in just a week... such dedication!!

    Seriously though - this is a good solid refresh. Information-wise, much more usable.

    - more at-a-glance info - GOOD
    - dropped Flash for the maps - GOOD
    - actual temp figures on the map instead of just cryptic colours - GOOD
    - Kept it looking fresh and clean - GOOD

    Not sure about the animated background - it's a nice touch, though at first glance I thought it hadn't loaded and the blue background should have continued all the way down the page. But when you get used to it, it works well. I know that every time I tried to view the page on my iPod (iOS5) it caused Safari to quit - and it made Safari on my Mac run sluggish, but Safari has been extremely temperamental since Apple released 5.1 so that may not be your fault. It works well in IE, FF and Chrome.

    To all the devs and designers working on it - nice job!

  • Comment number 10.

    The link to the beta site from the current weather page is incorrect, leading to an error 404.

  • Comment number 11.

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

  • Comment number 12.

    I thought you were broke! If you have the cash to change things that are not broke I'm guessing you don't need my licence this year.

    There was nothing at all wrong with what was there; it's only a few years old. Either money to burn or management that is not facing up to a lack of cash.

    For my part, next time the BBC bray about being poor I'll recall this, and the money it must be costing.

  • Comment number 13.

    Yes, this is a massive improvement. I was wondering when you'd be changing the weather page to the new style.

    The animated background was a great touch. As soon as I noticed it, I opened Firebug to inspect the page's source code. I was disappointed that you opted to do the animation using DOM manipulation instead of CSS animations. Wouldn't it be better to use CSS and fall back to DOM if it's not supported?

  • Comment number 14.

    Much better. I like the new maps and it is much easier to see the important information. Can I suggest pre-loading the content on the maps, currently when I drag to the next day/time I have to wait for it to load each time. It would make sense to me to load all this while I was on the time segment before.
    Also it would be nice to have a widget for the desktop.
    Looking good though!

  • Comment number 15.

    Really like the new site, however could you not use CSS3 animations/transitions for the moving background as the JavaScript animation causes high CPU usage if I leave the page running in the background?

  • Comment number 16.

    Looks Good. Can the designers go over to the BBC Home Page design team and tell them how to do it?

  • Comment number 17.

    Well, it is a different look and the animated cloud in the background is very pretty. However, it is still the same very unhelpful weather forecast.

    The Met Office and the Beeb may boast the best in technology, but the lack of detail to the information makes it more or less useless.

    Time and time again, I look at the weather for a particular day and it will have the sunny icon up, perhaps. Oh good! Except actually, it is only sunny for the morning, it is forecast to be wet the rest of the day - so the one icon summary is completely misleading.

    Why cant you have a split icon - half wet, half sun for instance - with the amount of split giving an indication as to what the real forecast is?

    And why do we not have percentage chance of precipitation? This is something I have seen all over the world over many, many years. In the US you will turn on your radio or TV and hear:

    "It is sunny this morning but clouding over after lunch with a low 20 percent chance of precipitation."

    That one, simple sentence sums up the entire day beautifully. The forecaster has given you an accurate summary of what MAY happen, with a rider to show that there is some possible variation.

    So, today, for instance, the BBC for my area is saying that at 6 it WILL rain, at 9 it WILL be bright at 12 it WILL be cloudy and at 3 it WILL be sunny.

    Weather dot com is saying:

    At 9 there is a 50% chance of rain. At 12 there is a 20% chance, and that carries on through out the afternoon, reducing to 10% by 4 o'clock. Oh, and like most worldwide forecasts, the forecast is laid out hourly, not 3 hourly.

    And guess what? Where I am, at 9 in the morning, it is raining - not a hint of sunshine.

    So, yes you do very pretty layouts - but your communication is terrible. Because at the end of the day, if you are not communicating the information that you the user actually needs, then you are achieving nothing.

    The forecast is worked out in percentages - the Met Office has been doing that for years and years and years. They even show the percentage on their mountain forecasts on their website.

    So why, when this information is so useful and when most of the rest of the world get this sort of detail in every single forecast, do we have to put up with over generalised statements (and silly banter on broadcast) from the BBC?

    Or is it that they think we are not sophisticated enough for the kind of detail that everyone else takes for granted?

  • Comment number 18.

    @17: Assuming you're referring to the local weather on the beta home page have you tried clicking on the place name or day? You'll find the local weather page (eg. http://beta.bbc.co.uk/weather/2653941 ) gives a 24hr forecast split into morning, afternoon, evening, and night columns, with approx times.

  • Comment number 19.

    This is very disturbing- the number of people who continue to be obsessed with weather forecasting that is! I accidentally watched the channel 4 weather last night. It was simple, clear, and easily understood without the OTT stuff put out all day by the BBC on tv radio and online. Less can be so much more.

  • Comment number 20.

    @18:

    Yes, I know how the site is laid out. However, as I said it gives it in 3 hourly lumps rather than hourly like other services and does not give percentage chance of precipitation.

    Forecasting is not and cannot be accurate - therefore it is important to show as much detail at a glance as possible and to show how accurate the forecast might be. Percentages do that very neatly.

    The BBC site presents the weather as an absolute - It Will BE Sunny Intervals At 9 on Wednesday, apparently.

    According to another service, it will possibly be partly cloudy with 86% humidity and a chance of rain of 20%. They then go on to list what it will be at 10 and 11 and so on.

    If you were driving off for a meeting, or going out for the day, or putting out washing, which of those two paragraphs is the more useful?

    Just looking at the satellite map, when you scroll through the timeline you go from Wed at 6 to Wed Night - no fixed time. On the picture, rain suddenly appears and then vanishes at the next step along. So, unfortunately, you cannot tell when it is going to appear and when it will disappear again. And the way it jumps gives no easy idea from which direction it came and went, so you are lost.

  • Comment number 21.

    Lovely update - as informative as the Met office radar that I currently use. Had kind of given up on the bbc weather page but will definitely be using the new one.
    If only you could give James Thornett some help with the Homepage beta which is a total mess.

  • Comment number 22.

    Is there any chance instead of "new looks" you make sure the "Have your say" is run in a logical and transparent fashion when it actually works all the time and there is some logic in what can be commented on and what can't?
    Alternatively, as cuts are coming, would it be a good idea to shut "Have your say" for good and save money if BBC does not have enough skills to do it properly?

  • Comment number 23.

    So.....if the 'old' weather site and the 'new Beta' are being run side by side, why cannot I access the old site? Even from your link?

    The new site lacks the visual clarity of the old and therefore is not an improvement. It's a shame that good design has passed it by.

  • Comment number 24.

    ^ This.

  • Comment number 25.

    The old site worked perfectly on my Android phone, replicating the full site's content so there was a very welcome sense of familiarity no matter which version I was using. The new one won't work at all, with graphics muddled and symbols failing to show.
    These days, who releases a new version of a website without ensuring a compatible smart phone experience? It just doesn't make sense.

  • Comment number 26.

    like the new site for weather better than some of the changes to the website that have been made. not tried in on my smartphone yet but the web version is very good, clear and user friendly.

  • Comment number 27.

    The old bbc weather website was one of my favourite things in life. I use to marvel at the change of colours that a change in temperature used to indicate.
    Changing to a new version is so boring and has robbed me of one of the best things of life.
    please switch back to the old one or keep both.

  • Comment number 28.

    The new "My locations" list is slow to drop down and therefore irritating (I have five). Two clicks instead of one, with a distinct pause while the list is populated, is not an improvement for me.

    Clicking the little arrow at either the end of the "main" information bar to cycle through the five locations is also slow, and the order is pre-determined by the order of input. I don't always want to look at all of them, perhaps just one other.

    My preference is for a pre-loaded static list of locations, permanently visible to enable a fast choice.

    Fortunately I see no animations, but the background image reduces the clarity of the information bar. I used the Firefox "Web developer" toolbar to hide background images and everything was perfectly clear, but for those who prefer a busy environment then I admit it would be boring. I find most web designs use background images carefully or not at all; surely it's a basic design flaw to obscure, or detract from, the content?

  • Comment number 29.

    It's ok but I can't see the point in changing and suspect it is either a new broom demonstrating an ability to sweep clean or it is a 'redesign for redesign's sake' operation or it is the scratching of a tecchie itch or there was some cash that needed burning - as if such rare matter really exists these day. I was very happy with the former site and looked forward to consulting at it every day. The loss of the temperature colours is particularly annoying as it was a very effective 'at a glance' communication. Not sure that I will use the new site as my first port of call as there are alternatives.

  • Comment number 30.

    I want to know which "local" weather station is being used as we used to get - that dealt with a multiplicity of errors and we could factor them in.

  • Comment number 31.

    Don't like it at all, since when have we all started reading up and down rather than from left to right?, there are so many icons and bits of text on there now, some ranged left some centred that it's really hard to read. That combined with the lack of temperature colours doesn't makes it user friendly at all.

    The old one was much better for picking up info at a quick glance, now it's way too busy, sort out your font sizes and stick to a decent grid please!

 

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