I try to get out on the bike as often as I can. This means that I spend most days at work through the summer and autumn checking the weather forecast to determine if it’s going to rain in the evening, or the weekend. [Yes, I’m a fair-weather cyclist.] This means that I’m a frequent user of phone-based weather apps, and a frequent user of anything will expose which aspects you like and which you don’t like.
I’ve been through a lot of weather apps on my Windows Phone while trying to find a sweet-spot, and currently have 5 on my home screen, though more than this have been tried, discarded and uninstalled. By and large, across virtually all of the apps I’ve tried, there are two aspects that I don’t like.
The Current ‘Forecast’
Here’s the live tile of a weather app on my home screen, Weather View.
Image from the Windows Marketplace.
Here’s another live tile from Weather Flow.
Image from the Windows Marketplace.
And here are some more captured directly from my phone’s home screen:
See something in common with those images? They all spend a considerable proportion of the widest tile available telling me how the weather is right now. And I don’t know why they feel that they need to tell me how the weather is right now. Perhaps I’m lucky in that I continue to have all my faculties and senses at my disposal, but if I was blind and couldn’t see the weather outside then what use is a live tile?
My point is, I don’t need to know how the weather is right now. If I’m inside then I can look out the window; if I’m outside then I’m literally in the weather anyway.
Weather app makers: please don’t waste a wide tile – or one side of a flipped tile – telling me how the weather is right now.
A Summary is too Vague
This is my second problem: those apps which thoughtfully display how the weather is going to be – a ‘forecast’, they call this – use one symbol for an entire day.
Image capture of The Weather Channel app from author’s phone.
Image capture of the Forecast app from the author’s phone.
My problem here is that these symbols imply that the weather will not change over the course of the day. It may be sunny and partially cloudy for the whole of Sunday, but I doubt that one symbol could be used to summarise every day. But that’s what the apps do. What symbol do they use if it’s due to rain in the morning but be sunny in the evening?
But Too Much Information is Pointless
While most weather apps are guilty of overly-summarising information, I really have no need for the following pieces of information which I frequently see inside weather apps:
- Precipitation (in millimetres or centimetres)
- Humidity (relative or otherwise)
- Dew point (I don’t even know what this is)
- Barometer (so what?)
- Cloud cover (as a percentage)
Because this information is available (from whichever weather service is being used) doesn’t mean that it’s of interest to me. I’m not a pilot and I simply want to know if it’s cold/warm/hot, sunny/cloudy/rainy, or more simply if it’s dry or wet.
What I’d Like to See in a Weather App
So here’s what I’d like to see on a live tile for a Windows Phone weather app:
- A tile which flips.
Windows Phone developers, please make use of the features available. There’s lots of information at your disposal so please don’t summarise a simple forecast too much while not using all the tools at hand.
- Bypass the current weather
I just don’t have any need for a graphic displaying what I can see through an actual window.
- Use one side of a flipping tile to present a breakdown of the weather between now and the end of the day.
- Use another side of a wide flipping tile to present the next few days (three days would be fine), with each day divided into morning, afternoon and evening.
With those suggestions, I could have a weather app on my phone which I could glance at and determine if I can go cycling this evening, or tomorrow morning, or tomorrow evening, etc., without getting wet or struck by thunder.
I’ve also wondered why weather apps don’t aggregate information from multiple weather services. The reason I have so many weather apps on my home screen is because they rarely provide the same forecast across the entire day, so which one should I believe? Why not query, say, three services, somehow aggregate these on the live tile and then show the individual forecasts if I open the app?
If you want a job done properly then do it yourself. But really, I’m quite happy to pay a developer who has already built the foundation of a well-presented app to make it more useful rather than my starting from scratch.