With the 7-day forecast and home screen more or less set, I focused on implementing the details of the secondary view. As detailed in Sketched Views, I decided to combine the screen that showed current conditions and the one that showed hourly conditions into one view.
I landed on a double tap as the best way to access it. Mainly due to my beginners lack of knowledge on how to implement any other way.
When you transition to the new view, the “header” area of current city, region and temperature remains the same. This provides an anchor of sort as you transition from one view to another.1
I had toyed with having a text summary of the current conditions mixed with the current chance of precipitation as the lead-in sentence for the view, but in practice that proved to be less than interesting. The current conditions summaries were usually very simple; which makes sense, how would you describe outside right now? Exactly. And then most of the time it’s 0% precipitation unless it’s raining, or about to rain.
Still I liked the aesthetics of the text summary as a lead-in to the daily details, so I changed it from the current conditions to that day’s summary. And as you might expect this turned out to be much more helpful and interesting to boot. (Forecast.io does a good job with their text descriptions.) I combined the precipitation chances and anticipated highs and lows as a natural language summary alongside the daily conditions summary for one lead paragraph. Later, I realized this summary was useless when viewed in the evening, so I changed the code to where after 9pm it switches to the next day’s summary and adds a “Tomorrow:” label in front of the text summary.
This single paragraph took care of the daily summary.2 I then turned my attention to the hourly data. And a quick break in the narrative to say that as orderly as this perhaps sounds, the actual process – for me anyways – is much messier. It’s a lot of going back and forth, implementing something and living with it for a few days, seeing it not work in practice and redoing it to something else. I just take all this mess and clean it up a bit to present something a little more orderly on the blog. If this were a true step by step it would just be a lot of me writing out mumbles and stray thoughts. Anyways, back to it.
A challenge for the hourly information is there is usually little change in the hour by hour sequence. Ergo, the presentation and data is not very interesting.
You can graph it, and that looks nice, but I find the mental processing needed to parse a value from a graph to be unhelpful. If the goal is to communicate specificity quickly, a graph fails. You can use the hourly data to present a macro view of the day, but that’s what the text summary did. And really unless there’s a precipitation event, or severe conditions, the weather follows a predictable pattern. If each day’s graph looks more or less the same, what use is it?
I latched on to this because of reading about Claude Shannon’s work with information theory as described in The Information. Here’s a sample:
“The more inherent order exists in a sample … the more predictability there is, and … the less information is conveyed by each subsequent [item].”
Take this Dribbble shot for example:
This is a mess of communication. An early draft, of course, but even when polished you can imagine how it’s still not going to be that helpful.
So taking a step back there is the question of why even have hourly data? What use is it? With myself as subject, the only time I really care about hourly data is when I want to see what the weather conditions will be like around a certain hour of the day. Perhaps we’re going out to dinner or going
for a run to get donuts. The circumstances for that moment in time are special and have necessitated a special weather report for that moment. This was the conceptual job I defined to create the design approach for the hourly view.3 The details of which I will go through in the next post.
- I’m changing this transition to a slide left to reveal, which changes the dynamic enough to where I must reconsider this approach of repeating the header data. Yet to be determined at the moment though.
- Full disclosure: having had the paragraph summary in place for a couple months now I am considering simplifying the language for the high and low temperature and extracting it from the paragraph form into something closer related to a list.
- For more on the idea of jobs in the context of product design see Ryan Singer’s excellent article, Vital Elements of the Product Design Process