“Weather is very visual,” says Scott Jensen, VP of digital and mobile apps at the Weather Channel. It’s why we look out the window to decide whether to wear a T-shirt or bring an umbrella. Blue skies or gray clouds are likely are the most convenient barometers of the temperature outside, in other words.
But when it comes to the wealth of digital forecasters out there like Accuweather or Weather Bug, users have had to depend on deciphering textual clues: hourly, weekly, monthly and–who knows?–yearly forecasts; precipitation warnings; atmospheric pressure; wind levels, heights, directions; and, worst of all, dew points. Reading the weather today is about as entertaining as perusing the federal tax code. Not anymore. Today, the Weather Channel launched the latest iteration of its iPad app, with a sexy, stripped-down user interface focused on simplicity.
“We wanted to make it both visually and data rich, but realized that not everyone needs all the details,” Jensen says.
To wit: Once the app is launched, users will see what they would if they opened up their curtains. Featured on the home screen is a clean (and, on the iPad 2, animated), real-time scene of the weather outside. If it’s raining outside, it will be raining on your iPad; if the sun is shining bright outside, so won’t the landscape on your screen.
It’s a refreshing take that’s likely to breath new life into the Weather Channel’s apps, which have been downloaded more than 50 million times on smartphones and 5 million times on the iPad. The app’s backgrounds, supplemented by a few simple metrics (like temperature) and a row of icons to enable users to take a deeper dive if they want more data, are designed to update throughout the year. (Day and night scenes will also be included.)
“Certainly there will be seasonal changes,” says Cameron Clayton, EVP of digital products. “In the winter when it snows, there won’t be any leaves on the tree–the pond will freeze over with ice.” He says to expect other visual updates on certain holidays such as Valentine’s Day. “But I don’t know if we’re going to do what Google does and do one every day,” Clayton adds.
Jensen and Clayton hope the app drives more user engagement, and plan to implement a similar streamlined interface across the Weather Channel’s many digital properties.