Case Study: Met Office

Designing an award-winning app through continuous improvement and collaboration

One of the primary roles of the Met Office is to provide weather warnings to the UK public in times of extreme weatherThe app plays an important role in the delivery of this information as well as the provision of forecast information.   

The true story behind winning two prestigious accolades at the 202WMO International Weather Awards actually dates back to when the Met Office and Nomensa formed a partnership in 2017 

At that time, the app was already popular but the Met Office wanted to put user research at the heart of design thinking. They believed this cultural shift could achieve much more for users and would encourage the organisation to be less introspective.    

The result has been a trusted relationship between agency and client and journey of transformation to a user-centred culture. Along the way the Met Office embraced an agile, multi-disciplinary way of working and developed conversation with its audience that is now fundamental to the app’s design roadmap  

Relied upon by millions and respected by international peers  

To date, the app serves over 2 million active users and enjoys and an approval rating of 4.7 on the app store and 4.5 on Google play.  

In the WMO International Weather Awards (Dec 2020) we were delighted to hear that app had been voted the Winner in the following categories;-  

  • Forecasts and information (an award for information content – usefulness, reliability, quantity and quality of information) 
  • Weather warnings (specialised apps) 

Understanding almost every kind of user 

Everyone is affected by the weather in some way. Designing an app that would cater to such a wide range of users while also serving those occupying more niche interest areas was a challenge. 

To achieve this, we conducted UK-wide lab and field research with users and created innovative ‘contextual’ personas that focused on behavioural patterns rather than just demographics. When it comes to weather it’s not your demographic but your situation that counts the most.

Personas really helped the Met office begin that cultural shift from ‘us’ to ‘them’ and worked alongside user stories/epics, technical considerations and accessibility guidelines to ensure the user came first.

Meanwhile, our journey maps turned pain points and information barriers into user stories, forming the project backlog and shaping future development work.

Installing research as part of business as usual included designing and testing conceptual prototypes with users and stakeholders. These were coupled with internal workshops and training to capture feedback and help shape features and functions going forward. We then combined design with code functionality and data APIs to ensure updates could be built within proposed timescales.

As a result, we’ve worked with the Met office to employ a mixture of laboratory, guerrilla and remote testing methods to gather qualitative data, carefully selecting the right tools to meet each research objective.

Following a successful social media campaign, a research database now has over 10,000 volunteers to recruit from. It means the Met office can get instant feedback from both users of Android and Apple beta platforms. The mix of qual and quant data provides a rich seam of information, often revealing some golden nuggets from specific user types or regional areas as well as a broader range of responses to enable informed decision making before rollout.

The Met Office are now better placed than ever to understand our relationship with the weather and how they need to continually respond to changing needs.

Better, Stronger, Faster  

The transformation journey and collaborative partnership extended to include new ways of working. Nomensa embedded key UX, Design, project management and technical experts into Met Office delivery teams, evolving agile ways of working to create a one team culture and the GDS service model. By collaborating with business stakeholders/subject matter experts the team groom backlog and delivery roadmap that’s owned by all parties.   

A Roadmap - driven by and refined by user research and collaboration 

The outcome is a series of key feature developments: 

Redesigned navigation

To make access to weather, maps and warning data more easily accessible to users. The navigation also included built in redundancy to cater for future navigation features and other types of content. Using natively built components that are part of the iOS and Android system allowing for a more efficient long term development process with the introduction of newer operating system updates.  

Light and Dark mode

Not only was this designed and implemented for personal theme preference, it offers better accessibility options for those that struggle with bright screens whether it’s due to visual impairments or those who work night shifts. 

This required a simplified adjustment to the brands colour design to make sure that light and dark mode theme implementation worked efficiently with iOS and Android. As well as the brand colours being simplified, the Met Office weather conditions symbols were all completely redesigned to work across both light and dark mode.   

Improved Notifications

To be able to provide users with more contextually relevant information through push notifications gives users more clarity around severe weather warnings, what the warnings are and when they are happening. As well as health related notifications like pollen warnings to help those who suffer during the pollen season by presenting more specific data around the times when pollen is particularly high.

Sometimes the very best design is invisible 

Importantly continuous research also leads to many smaller refinements and incremental changes that serve to subtly improve the experience and often with little user awareness. Following user feedbackloading time were improved by removing background images and adjusting the animationsThis led to a 50% reduction in load times and better experience for users.  

Embedding accessibility and championing inclusivity  

When we embarked this project WCAG had not yet released guidelines specifically for apps. So, our Director of Accessibility Alastair Campbell, a chair of WCAG and a key writer of digital inclusivity best practice, crafted bespoke guidance for native IOS and android apps. This guide is still used by the Met Office team today. We are currently exploring how voice and search can factor into our app and website interfaces, and we will continue to examine how we can better deliver relevant updates and national weather warnings to users.   

Our partnership with Nomensa has been fundamental to integrating a user-centred approach to the delivery of our critical public-facing weather warning services across our app and website.

It’s supported the maturation of our ways of working, particularly in regards to the Government Digital Services delivery principles and how they continue to provide key expertise to ensure we constantly strive to improve the experience of our users.

Chris Frost, Head of Consumer Digital at the Met Office

We’re delighted by the success of this award-winning app and will continue to refine our process to help Met Office stay in step with user needs and ahead of industry standards.  

If you'd like to learn more about how Nomensa transforms apps, websites and digital products with strategic UX measures, contact us on +44 (0)117 929 733 or drop us an email at hello@nomensa.com.