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Review: The new WUnderground beta site

So I finally caught wind of the new Weather Underground Beta page and provided them with some feedback, but I figured I could go into a more detailed review here. For this review I looked at the DCA (Ronald Reagan Washington National, DC) page. Keep in mind that this is a beta version and will be changed as time goes on. If you have your own feedback to give, please do so on their site.

The new beta version was announced on the Weather Underground Product Team Blog back on January 8th, though apparently with not much fanfare since this morning is the first I’ve heard of it. In it includes a description of how they’re going about this development phase, and like any other beta product, it is by no means intended to look like the finished product. My one gripe comes from what is said in the embedded video on the blog post, which states that their new forecast graph “tells a really clear and detailed story about the forecast in a way that hasn’t ever been done before.” I don’t know if they’re just talking about being able to move about the timeline of the graph specifically, but in a more general sense the graphing system (what meteorologists typically call a meteogram) is very similar to what the National Weather Service currently has, so I’m not quite sure what their interpretation of “hasn’t ever been done before” is.

They also discuss how much they want this site to have the same experience across all platforms, whether it be your phone, tablet, PC, etc. I don’t blame them for trying it, and it certainly has its advantages, but like the whole Windows 8 fiasco it may prove to be quite difficult to get something that someone can have an equally satisfying experience with when transitioning from say PC to phone (as I often do). I cannot praise nor condemn them for trying, but I do wish them good luck.

A lot of comments to their blog post talk about how much better the old version is at providing the most data possible. Yes, it is nice to have all that data, but they’re still adding these data as time goes on, so it’s hard to completely fault them for not having all of it up and displayed on the beta pages yet. I imagine some parts will be gone or simply just links to different pages in order to keep the more minimalist feel to the page and to allow for faster loading on mobile devices.

On to the main review!

current_and_topnav

The top navigation area with the Search & Favorites and the Recent Cities section is fine. It’s pretty hard to screw up this area, so in my book they pass, but it’s nothing that’s really praiseworthy to begin with. They really need to add the toggle option back for English SI/Metric units, though. I’ll assume that it is just missing because it’s in beta and will eventually be added back in.

In the Current Conditions section, we get most of the basic stuff we need right off the bat, but please give us the units! The temperature, feels like, and wind speeds are there, but their units are not explicitly expressed. For most people, it’s pretty intuitive that they mean Fahrenheit and mph, but really, the units should be on there. The expanded More Conditions area is good, though at the time of this post for some reason the temperature in the More Conditions section was not right. An easy enough fix, but again it’s in beta, so I will not fault them for that. I love reading the raw METAR data and am glad that they kept that around.

forecast

The forecast section looks excellent. I like the look and interactiveness of the hourly data, with the daily summaries above it. The default layout is very nice, and the customization features are great. The only thing I would like to see added is QPF and precipitation types. The Table and Descriptive tabs are also good, though in the Table tab I’m not sure why I have to scroll through the daily summary part at the top. The only difference that has from the similar one in the Graph tab is it’s bigger and has the POPs listed. If it doesn’t have to be there, take out the scrolling and make each day smaller or just leave it with fewer days, or maybe even give it two rows with five days in each row.

weather_map

The weather map is where you can really tell that this is more geared towards mobile/tablet screens rather than PC. To me, it is just way too stretched out with full width on PC, giving a huge bias to east/west but providing very little north/south data. It looks perfectly fine and square on my phone, but to keep a more even perspective on PC there should definitely be a limited width. Personally, for PC users I would stick it up in the Current Conditions section, which would help give it the more square appearance. It is “current conditions,” after all. I’ve always preferred the NEXRAD radar to their WunderMap, but it’s their main radar and I cannot blame them for prioritizing that over NEXRAD.

Actually, when it comes to the radar, I prefer using the classic page! When they moved to the current version, the options to toggle different radar features like SRV and VIL covers the ENTIRE radar, whereas the classic version just had a nice tab that left the radar area visible. The difference for me is keeping the radar area visible makes it easier to go back and forth between the different products to compare their location/overlay. I may or may not be in the minority with preferring the old radar product menu, but it’s really the only reason why I still use the classic page.

whats_missing

I would like to thank WUnderground for offering this beta and feedback option. Too often nowadays we are forced to just accept changes made to web sites *cough* Facebook *cough* Twitter *cough*. I appreciate having the opportunity to provide feedback, just as I hope they appreciate every bit that they get. It is not pictured, but like the header, the footer is good. Again, it’s pretty hard to mess that up.

Overall, the minimalist and full-width look of the site is nice and for the most part, it carries over to different devices well. I keep my browser on full width at home, and it is nice to be able to see as much data right up front as possible. The easy historical data look-up and the NEXRAD Radar are the two biggest (and almost exclusive) reasons why I visit this site, so for me it is pivotal that these are easy to access.