5 Oct 2014

The iOS Weather App is a Marvel of UI Design

I’d thought of the iOS 7 Weather app as a somewhat boring app that didn’t give me much information, and gave me whatever information it gave me in a visually appealing way. I’d switched to other apps [1], moving Weather into my Unwanted folder along with other forgettables like Notes, Reminders and Game Center.

But with iOS 8, Apple really improved Weather. It’s now a marvel of UI design — detailed, compact, beautiful and minimalist, all at once. Weather apps that are detailed often have multiple screens, which means that you have to understand and remember what information is available where, and navigate there when you need that information.

Some apps like Yahoo Weather eschew navigation across multiple tabs or detail screens by laying everything out in one long page, which is roughly four screens’ worth of information in one long scrolling page. This is confusing, because I don’t remember where something is placed in those four pages. Quick, is “Feels like” on the second screen or fourth? You have to hunt all over, which makes it confusing and somewhat frustrating to use.

Apple’s Weather app, on the other hand, has such a simple and compact layout that you can’t lose your place. There’s nowhere to navigate to, and there’s no need to remember where something is in the UI, because it’s all in one place:


Notice that it shows the current temperature and the max and min temperature for today (which, as it helpfully points out, is Thursday).

It shows both the hourly forecast and the weekly forecast in one screen. Most apps require navigation to multiple places to see both these.

The hourly forecast includes the sky condition (cloudy, sunny, etc), the temperature and the chance of rain. And it extends for the next 24 hours, unlike most weather apps which, when I check around dinner time to plan tomorrow’s activities, refuse to tell me if it’s going to rain tomorrow evening. This prevents me from being able to  plan my day based on how hot it’s going to be tomorrow afternoon and whether it’s going to rain tomorrow evening, in which case, what’s the point of using the weather app in the first place? Not so with Weather, whose hourly forecasts extend 24 hours, and include the chance of rain:


It also shows me the time of sunset:


And even more information at the bottom, like what it feels like, how hot it was today (important, because if it was very hot today, I’d better be careful tomorrow), the humidity, chance of rain, wind speed, and sunrise and sunset times:


This is a huge amount of information compared to most other weather apps, but presented in a very compact, easy-to-understand layout, which does not require navigation and cannot possibly confuse the user as to which screen some information is found in.

This is a marvel of UI design. It’s not often that you see a weather app make a substantial leap forward. Now, Apple has set a new standard for a weather app. Whenever a weather app comes along, I’ll check if it gives all the information Weather gives, in such a compact UI that needs no navigation and causes no confusion. This is a high bar for anyone to meet. Whoever at Apple designed this should be proud of themselves.

[1] Yahoo Weather, which was detailed and still beautiful. And Haze, which is an absolute beauty, but a little impractical for daily use, since it requires multiple taps and navigation to see something as basic as the max temperature for today.

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