Design Critique: Weather Channel (iPhone app, V7.2.1)

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This mobile application from the Weather Channel provides users with accurate and up to the minute information. The application also goes beyond basic weather reports, featuring video clips of breaking weather news and broadcasted segments from Weather Channel programs, as well as seasonal tools (i.e. road conditions, local pollen and flu reports, etc.).

Issue 1: Inconsistent labeling for unavailable weather content

While the application is reliable in regards to quickly loading it’s full content and showing the loading process with a rotating dial, in the cases where data is not available–due to connectivity issues or otherwise–there are two ways that the app displays the occurrence.

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Information is blank with no explanation, leaving the user to think that their is an error related to content.

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Current location page provides quick feedback for unavailable information.

The first version clearly tells you that the app cannot access data, cuing the user to attempt to reboot or check connectivity. The second version has poor feedback in terms of operation. The blank information appears as a performance error, confusing users as to why it’s not working–it could be an error in the application’s performance, maybe the phone is frozen, or it could also be a connectivity issue.

Suggestion 1: Label all unavailable content as “Cannot Get Weather Data.”

By consistently labeling all pages as “Cannot Get Weather Data,” it forces function and gives the user a clearer response for unavailable data, rather than leaving information areas blank. This allows the user to attempt to fix the problems, rather than assuming that the application is simply not working.

Issue 2: Preview of premium content

The Weather Channel app has a variety of content to fully inform users of most weather related activities. However, the user has the option to upgrade to the premium version of the app for $3.99 to unlock even more content, for further customize location information and a reward program. That said, there is an issue regarding access and visibility of the features.

Sidebar menu. Premium content is not labled as such and is interspersed.

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Sidebar menu. Premium content is not labled as such.

The user appears to have access to mPOINTS, even showing what they have “earned.” Yet to find out further information, the user is immediately directed to the sign-up page. While this acts as a preview and a constraint of allowed activity, it does not advantageously advertise the premium content. In fact, having so many options that are seemingly “available” to the user–if they upgrade–become quite annoying and distracting to the user.

Suggestion 2: Separate premium content from free content on menu

To resolve this issue, I suggest labeling a section of the menu sidebar as “Premium Content” and moving the features and options of the premium content under that heading. By creating a separate area for premium content, users can clearly see what the premium version offers while not leading them to false available content. Thus, prompting the user to upgrade consistently indicates good mapping to lead them to premium content, rather than a false sort of preview of what you could be doing. The addition of an information section could help further explain the features and benefits of the premium version.

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Users can swipe left or right to view other locations. However this is unclear to new users.

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Issue 3: Unclear number of locations in swipe motion

One of the benefits of this app is that the user can view full weather activity for multiple “favorite” locations, in addition to their current location. The user can move between the various locations by swiping left and right to view them. The issue with the current design lends to poor visibility of which location, out of however many locations, the user is swiping through. This is especially confusing when the current location is also a saved, “favorite” location.

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Suggestion 3: Add swipe “bubbles” to provide clear distinction between location pages

In order to improve visibility, I suggest adding directional bubbles, which are common on the iPhone in order to help users navigate between their various locations. This will also help users remember the order of their locations.

An alternative to bubbles.

An alternative to bubbles.

Swipe "bubbles"

Swipe “bubbles”