Review: weather.com Forecast “Dashboard”

San Diego: America’s finest city. And the weather! We crow about it all the time…. 77 degrees and sunny, a perpetual paradise. Well, the vast majority of the year anyway. But thanks to this year’s crazy strong El Niño, San Diego has actually been cold and rainy (well, cold for San Diego standards!) for the last few days.

After getting caught minus an umbrella in what was a relatively decent rain storm yesterday, I actually decided to check the weather forecast (for MAYBE the second time EVER? since I moved here almost seven years ago). So I googled “San Diego weather” and this is what I got:

weather1

And when you click on temperature…

weather2

It’s essentially a weather dashboard! Information graphics are everywhere if you just keep an eye out 🙂

I’ve been meaning to start a series of information graphic reviews and critiques, so I figure I’ll start with this one. Here goes….

Context

This graphic shows up at the top of a pile of Google search results, and is a great draw for the eye as a graphic amidst so much text. From the user perspective, my goal was to get an immediate idea of what the weather was like outside now, but I also got quite a bit more than that. The graphic pretty effectively shows no less than 10 variables in a very small space. These include:

  • Location
  • Time
  • Current weather (Mostly Cloudy)
  • Current temperature
  • Current chance of precipitation
  • Current humidity
  • Current wind speed
  • Hourly precipitation forecast
  • Daily overall condition forecast
  • Daily high/low temperature forecast

Overall impression

The graphic is clean, and concise, and uses visual hierarchy to emphasize the most important / relevant information (current temperature) with larger, bolder text. It includes a small amount of interactivity so users can customize what they are looking on depending on their needs (for example, you can switch between Fahrenheit and Celsius – great for tourists! – and between temperature, precipitation, and wind – great for knowing when to grab an umbrella or an extra layer).

Effective redundant encoding

Simple iconography provides redundant encoding (using more than one visual cue, to represent a single variable) for the overall conditions, which adds visual interest without overdoing the redundancy bit and providing the same information too many times.

Wait a minute – where’s the Y axis on that precipitation graph?

Although I usually preach about the importance of axes on bar graphs, this graphic provides a GREAT example of the very limited instances in which a bar graph doesn’t necessarily need a Y axis. Here, the probability of precipitation is a variable people are very used to seeing in the context of weather reports, and is clearly marked on every third bar. Adding in a Y axis with percent from 0-100 would be redundant and a waste of valuable pixels in such a small-space summary graphic.

Good use of color

The weather summary also uses color very effectively. The limited color pallete is easy on the eye and allows the color icons to stand out and draw attention (e.g. the one day of rain on Thursday). Most of the text is grey, allowing the large, black temperature number to stand out. The x axes of the temperature and condition forecasts are in an even lighter grey, allowing the eye to focus on the more important data within the forecasts.

My one critique would be that the Celsius marker, precipitation graph, and rain icons all use different colors of blue (picky, I know!). This likely is a result more of browser settings and link/interactivity defaults, but in my perfect world they would all use the same blue for consistency.

How do you like Weather.com’s summary forecast? Anything you would change or add?

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