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A quick lesson in web page design

It surprises me how easy-to-use some web designs can be, yet how unusable comparable sites can be even when their designers are supposedly world class.

Here’s a quick example from the world of weather forecasting.

First the good:

http://www.xcweather.co.uk/ – just hover your mouse over points on the map; double click on a point and see even more information.

http://www.windguru.cz/int/ – select a location and see the wind, temperature and weather.

Both of these are quite different from each other but are rich in information, clear, informative, and simple to read. You can see the weather forecast for several days in advance. Brilliant. These are two of the best, but many other weather websites do a decent job of presenting information to the reader.

So that was the good.

Now for the bad, and it is really bad, and – astonishingly – comes from no lesser body than the BBC:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/weather/forecast/324

It’s got nice colours and, superficially, looks more ‘professional’ than the other two… until you actually try to use it to see the weather will be over the next 3 days.

Then you discover the way that the BBC mixes up different time intervals, jumping from 3 hourly to 12 hourly then to daily, with extra information only available if you click on it it, and the way it mixes up time intervals on the X (horizontal) and Y (vertical) axis makes it darned near impossible to read in a hurry. 

The amount of information on the BBC weather site is a tiny fraction of the information on the other two sites – it should be possible to make it a lot clearer (in fact, the previous version of the BBC website was a lot clearer than the current version).

Have a look at complex information on your own company or personal website. Are you clear like XC Weather or WindGuru, or are you confused like BBC Weather in the way you present information?

There are many examples of far worse ‘professional’ web designs than BBC Weather; do let me know if you have any favourites!

(By the way, I find most of the BBC website to be supremely well designed – it’s just the regional weather page that’s awful.)

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