When making weekend plans, it’s hard not to heed warnings of afternoon thunderstorms. The problem is, what is the afternoon, exactly? Even hour-by-hour forecasts seem to leave gaping holes in strategic recreational planning. Can we, say, sneak in a quick outdoor lunch at 1:30 if it’s not going to rain until 2? After all, it’s noon right now and the sky is beautiful.
This is the philosophy of Ourcast, a free weather app that will tell you the weather down to the 10-minute mark. That’s right, you can view what the weather will be at 1, 1:10, 1:20 (and so on) for up to a two-hour lead window. It’s a somewhat revolutionary take on the weather report. It’s not really focused on the now, and it’s not really focused on the later. It’s weather for the “very soon” or the “what I’m about to do.” And in that regard, it feels extraordinarily designed for human purpose–last minute planning for whether or not you’ll need that umbrella.
But let’s be honest: It’s also a bit silly. When you check the weather on Ourcast, as useful as it is to know the weather report from 20 minutes from now, you inherently feel like a some OCD climate freak because you see every 10-minute increment of weather for the next two hours on the same page (this is the default view). Sure, it’s handy to scan a list, but the effect is complete design overkill. And the only real alternative is to tap through Ourcast’s weather maps, each configured at 10-minute intervals.
You can fix almost any problem if you throw enough features at it. The secret of good design is to make these features natural, and better still, invisible. Meanwhile, Ourcast feels like a clock that tells you the time that it isn’t.
Ourcast would be a far more elegant app if it let me choose the time of my activity, and then just told me the result, along with a few meaningful times around it. So will it rain at 2? No. That’s all I need to know–especially if Ourcast could give me a warning if I can expect rain before 4.
Weather to the 10-minute mark is a pretty ingenious idea, especially as its predictive proximity to the now means it’s based upon the most immediate, accurate data. But I don’t need to see every prediction that Ourcast can generate. I just need to see the weather that I need to see.