Forecast Blog Developers Contact

By Adam Grossman on October 20, 2014.

Okay folks, we’re only a month late with the iOS 8 update — far better than last year!

Firstly, we’ve optimized the layout for the iPhone 6′s larger screens: The scaled-up, sort-of-blurry interface was frankly making it hard for me to sleep at night.

Secondly, we’ve added a Dark Sky Widget to the Notification Center.

Widgets are a bit tricky at this point; they’re so new that we as developers haven’t had the time to figure out proper design etiquette, or even determine what widgets are really for. The temptation is to make them big, gaudy affairs, and several weather apps have gone in that direction. Here’s the Yahoo weather widget:

yahoo-widget

I think this is a wee bit nuts. First of all, it takes up too much space, which is just downright disrespectful to the other widgets with which it needs to share limited screen real estate. And the background image doesn’t fit the Notification Center aesthetic at all, making it look out of place.

With our widget, we’ve gone back to the original purpose of Dark Sky: just the weather for the next hour. The idea is to allow you to quickly check whether or not it’s going to rain before heading out. That’s it. And to me that’s the type of thing widgets are for. And we do it with a short line of text — here’s what you’ll normally see:

widget-clear

Of course, most of the time its not raining and the widget takes up a gloriously small amount of space. When rain is predicted, however, you’ll see something like this:

widget-precip

The only change is the addition of the “Open in Dark Sky” button, and the italicized text. The button serves two roles: 1) Obviously it provides quick access to Dark Sky for more information. And 2) it serves as a visual clue (along with the italics) that something is up. This makes checking the widget fast and painless: Pull down the notification center, is there a button? Nope? You’re good to go.

We’ll also tell you if the sun is going to set (or rise) in the next hour, if applicable:

widget-sunset

A lot of users have asked for the next-hour graph, but we haven’t added that. I think it’s better left to the app itself, and ensures that the widget won’t become a nuisance. But lets see how it goes, and feel free to let me know what you think.

Map Overhaul

We’ve also done a bit of an overhaul to our maps: They’re more detailed, faster loading, and more stable. The fine folks over at Mapbox were kind enough to design an entirely new base map, complete with highways, roads, and shaded relief terrain. And it lets you zoom much farther into the map, down to individual neighborhoods. They’re absolutely gorgeous:

mapbox-basemap

A big thanks to Amy Lee and the rest of the Mapbox gang. I really hope we get to work with them more in the future.

Loading time has also been dramatically improved, thanks to the hard work of Steve Gifford over at WhirlyGlobe. He’s added progressive loading and other improvements that significantly lower load times and result in smoother animations. This is especially noticeable when zooming into the detailed radar view. I can’t stress enough how much of an improvement this is. You should check it out.

Miscellanea

I’ve updated the current weather condition graphics (which you can get by tapping the temperature circle), to be more clear. The humidity pie chart has been swapped out for a dial indicating a dry/muggy scale, and the pressure dial has changed to match. It’s a small update, but I think it makes a world of difference:

current-conditions

I’ve also added a little red line denoting “now” on both the daily timeline and the timeline in the maps:

now-line-day now-line-map

This update also brings a bunch of bug fixes and accuracy improvements. As always, if you see anything weird let me know! And if you like the update, don’t forget to rate the app. We live for those juicy sweet stars.