Product and technology updates from the Weather Underground. Great new things are coming!
By: Product Team , 6:56 PM GMT on April 01, 2014
We’ve been working furiously for the past few months, updating our site page by page. Some of the design changes are obvious, but we’ve also been making a lot of backend changes, cleaning up our code and implementing the newest technology in order to cut down on page load time and make smarter (and fewer) data calls. Today, we’re launching the lion’s share of our site to our beta domain, preview.wunderground.com! We are still tying up some loose ends, and we’re hoping to push live sooner rather than later. Take a look at all that we’ve added, and of course let us know what we’re missing. We think you’ll find everything you’re accustomed to, plus a few new features we’re really excited about. And, everything is responsive!
If you want to learn more about our redesign process, I’m handing it over to our Creative Director, Jennifer Potter. She can tell you about why we made the decisions we made, and how we think they’ll help you absorb more data and be more informed about the weather:
Hi wundergrounders! Jennifer Potter here.
If you’ve checked out our beta page, you’ve gotten a hint of the visual changes that are underway. To start, we’ve updated our palette and typeface. We’ll be updating our logo, too, but I’ll talk more about that later.
To help you get the data you need faster, we’re thinking more about visual hierarchy. If you were to take a step back and look at our current site, you’d see a lot of square containers with blue bars at the top. We didn’t have a good plan for adding information, so we put everything in boxes to try and organize it. But you’re not here for boxes. You’re here for data. What good is a bright blue box that says Weather at a Glance when you could just as easily focus on the actual weather data, at a glance? In many cases, those boxes just add to the visual clutter that draws the eye away from what you’re really interested in. The new hierarchy lets us give weight to the important everyday elements, while still giving you access to the deeper data when you need it.
In addition to the visual hierarchy, we’ve worked on our palette. Because of the sheer volume of data visualization we provide, we have a lot of colors to deal with, so it’s important to make our core palette as accessible as possible. We wanted to make sure that someone with protanopia (a form of colorblindness) could turn on all of the data sets on the new forecast graph and be able to interpret the information without a problem. We also want color to impart information. When it’s very cold, the current temperature is blue. When it’s hot, it’s red. That way you get information about the weather even before you’ve read the numbers. Forecast highs are red, and lows are blue, helping you pick out the information you need as quickly as possible. You’ll see little details like that throughout the site.
We’ve also changed the type to make it easier to read. For the typography fans out there, we’re using VerbTM by Yellow Design Studio. It’s a great typeface. It has way more variation between the characters than Helvetica and Arial, the type we were using in the past, which allows your brain to parse the information it sees faster (we’re dealing with a lot of information so that’s a big deal for us)! It also works better at small sizes, although on the whole, we’re trying to open up the type a bit, and make the truly important things larger, so you’ll get the info you’re looking for more quickly. Plus, we’re increasing type size and line spacing on blogs and articles, to reduce eye fatigue.
Now about the logo. Yes, we’re changing it. In fact, we’ve already done it, and we’ll be unveiling it soon. Changing it wasn’t easy. We’re all attached to the old one, but it wasn’t working for a number of reasons, as many of you suggested. To name a few, it was dated, overly complex, and most importantly, it didn’t scale well. As the web evolves and screen sizes get smaller (and bigger in some cases), we needed a logo that could adapt. The new logo is clean, vibrant, and it looks as cutting-edge as our technology is. But my absolute favorite thing about it is that it subtly nods to our data collection and, more importantly, to the incredible PWS owners who so generously share their data with the world. We’re really proud of it and we think you’ll love it, too.
I was going to end with that, but then something interesting occurred. We had some unusual weather in San Francisco yesterday. It started just after lunch. We all knew the rain was coming, of course, but we were surprised to hear thunder. That’s remarkable for our city in and of itself, and it gets everyone a little excited, but in addition to lightning, we also saw what looked a lot like snow flurries! True to form, everyone raced to the windows to check it out and watch the flakes drift past our 6th floor window. (Hours later, the meteorologists are still debating the science behind the phenomenon.)
It’s nice to know that despite getting caught up in the daily task of honing our forecasting tools and kicking out more sophisticated products, we’re still a company that can stop and enjoy the weather.
The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.
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