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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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Talking of weather

13 November 2019

If you ever need to strike up a conversation with someone but have no shared interests then the subject of weather is often a good place to start.

But today, I'm not talking about weather, I'm talking about websites that provide weather and forecasting information.

For a long time I had a page bookmarked on the Metservice website. This page gave me two-hourly predictions over the next 24 and 48 hour periods. It showed the anticipated wind strength and direction, the cloud cover, temperature and any predicted precipitation.

It was a well-designed page with a high information-density that didn't require scrolling and loaded fairly quickly.

If I wanted the 10-day extended forecast on a day-by-day basis I could simply hit the PgDn key and see what was coming in the week (and a bit) to come.

Brilliant!

As someone whose work scheduling relies on weather to quite a degree, that bookmark got a lot of exercise and that page was often seen on my screen.

Yesterday I deleted the bookmark and will probably not be returning to the Metservice website.

Why is that?

Well Metservice rolled out their new "better" website design and, in my honest opinion, have ruined the functionality of that specific page.

Now this data is spread over two separate pages, the two-hourly 24/48hr forecast being on one, the "extended" forecast being on another.

Instead of being a rich, information-dense page (as before) containing all the info I need, the page I need on the new site has much bigger and more prolific advertising (ugh!) and is littered with irrelevant info such as a weather video, "current extremes", "yesterday's extremes" and other stuff that does nothing but slow down loading and waste time/bandwidth.

To be honest, I don't give a toss that yesterday's second highest temperature was 20.02 degrees and it was measured in Roxburgh because when I look at the top of the page it says "Tokoroa - 48 Hours" and so clearly THAT is the info I am wanting.

The site also seems to have a few issues, popping up the " Oops there has been an Error" message at regular intervals -- or simply failing to load completely, leaving me staring at a shaded blue browser window.

I did take a look at the site when it was in "preview" and expressed my concerns in respect to the new layout which, to their credit, was replied to and acknowledged.

It was disappointing however, to see that in the final release, not much has changed and that we seem to have more "flash and sizzle" than form and function -- at least from the perspective of someone who's just looking for key info without a lot of page-loading, scrolling, etc.

Fortunately, the internet is full of choice these days... so I have replaced my Metservice bookmark with one to the WeatherWatch/RuralWeather website page for Tokoroa.

Yes, it also requires some horizontal scrolling and has lots of advertising but with my browser set to the preferred width, much of that advertising is pretty much cropped off the side of the page and I can see the next four days worth of rain, wind and temperature predictions on an HOURLY basis before I need to start shifting stuff sideways.

The "brief outlook" (aka 10-day forecast with rain, wind and temperatures) is also there (just below), without the need to load an additional page into my browser.

Also, instead of telling be all about Roxburgh's temperatures, the "live observations" on the WeatherWatch page shows me the temperature right now, right here in Tokoroa, via a bunch of live weather station inputs, all within spitting distance of where I live.

Now I realise that "web design" is often a somewhat subjective thing and one man's meat is another man's poison but I'm a busy guy with little time to fart around with "Oops" messages or to waste my effort on sites that spread key data across several pages when it can all be nicely displayed on a single page. For this reason, Metservice is off my radar and RuralWeather/WeatherWatch is now my first-choice.

As an aside, I've been watching the daily videos posted on the WeatherWatch YouTube channel for quite some time now and comparing the predictions to those that were appearing on the old MetService website. I have to say that WW has been far more accurate over time than the state-funded forecaster -- perhaps another reason to change horses.

And yes, I still use the maps at VUW because it's always nice to get a second-opinion on such things.

Where do readers go to get their forecast info and which service(s) have you found to be the most accurate and well presented?

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