Everyone talks about the weather and yr.no tells us what to expect. With up to 3.8 million unique users per week, this website has really given us something to talk about.
In 2007, the Norwegian Meteorological Institute freed all its data for access by the public. At the same time, www.yr.no was launched as a collaborative project between the institute and NRK, The Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation. As a result, they had copious amounts of data and an enormous challenge. Nobody had ever before drawn up such detailed weather forecasts for so many people, but they were convinced that it could be done.
“We were always aware that we would have many different types of user" - Erik Bolstad, Managing Editor at NRK
It was clear from the beginning that the new weather forecast service would have many different types of user, and in order to come up with a design that would include the majority, without discriminating against anyone, the designers chose strong contrasts for the visually impaired, large and clear fonts, clear page divisions and a navigable menu.
From experience, The Norwegian Meteorological Institute knew that very few understood the contents of the meteograms with weather forecast. Therefore, the project group started to simplify and expand on the existing graphics and put together hand-drawn sketches, which were then used for simple research with users. The sketches were tested on a random sample of people at train stations, on the street and other places. The advantage of using hand-drawn sketches is that they were very quick to draw, and took far less time to adjust than digital renderings, or those uploaded to internet sites.
Yr.no had a soft launch in June 2007 to allow the project team to debug and iron out the issues that could be expected in creating such a complex service. On the top of the page, there was a large red box informing that there were possible errors in the data and requesting feedback from users. As word of the new website spread, thousands of emails poured in, many containing suggestions for changes. These really helped to make improvements and bring the site to where it is today.
After being on the internet for two years, the first professional user test was conducted in a lab setting, where a large number of people were closely observed navigating their way across the website.
To optimally challenge the solution, it was primarily tested on people with no tertiary education or special computer skills. From this test, they concluded that very few of these users looked at the graphs, but used the tables instead. They could also see that people with reading and writing difficulties naturally opted to navigate via the menu, instead of typing the name of the places in the search field.
“There are too many user tests that focus on what the users think of the actual solution instead of testing pure understanding of the content.” - Erik Bolstad, Managing Editor at NRK
Erik Bolstad maintains that yr.no offers Norwegians a far better weather forecast service than most others in Europe. After the launch of yr.no, a number of new Norwegian websites have followed suit aiming to provide good weather forecasts. This gives Norwegians more sources of weather information than most other countries and has made Norway a leader in Europe regarding web-based weather forecasts.
Yr.no is a huge success and is used by a growing number of people. Currently, around half the users are Norwegian, the other half is divided across users in Sweden and the rest of the world. Through a sophisticated hierarchy, the site can satisfy people requiring different levels of knowledge about the weather, from the casual checker to those needing detailed or specific information.
The content-rich pages were the first in the world to provide large-scale detailed hourly forecasts, and they are still world leaders in presentation and communication of weather forecasts.
“The development of yr.no will never be entirely complete, and we hope that our users will continue to give us feedback and tell us what they want." - Erik Bolstad, Managing Editor at NRK
Simple hand-drawn sketches were used when testing the ideas on people
On yr.no you can easily find the most basic information about the weather, such as the temperature, but you can also find more complex information and statistics
The frontpage of yr.no shows you the weather for the next three days in the biggest cities in Norway