Calm during the storm
Bringing weather analysis tools together for both professional and amateur storm chasers.

MOBILE APP DESIGN
STORM PREDICTION CENTER

Role:

Entrepreneurial Project
Project Lead

Team:
Ben Jones (Solo)
Duration:
May 2020 (Ongoing)
Overview
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Storm Prediction Center (SPC) provides past, present, and future US weather data products online from their Oklahoma University campus. This is the cornerstone of information used by storm chasers to successfully locate and capture tornados.
As a personal project, I have taken the role of UX/UI designer to identify the most important SPC data products used by Chasers and compile them together into a single app.
Disciplines
Product Designer
Product Strategy, User & Market Research, & MVP Definition
Background
The US Weather Service provides adverse weather online data products through its SPC website. A personal pain point of mine (when I chase) is the website is not responsive and is illegible on mobile devices. My immediate thoughts were to create a product converting the original web pages into a mobile-friendly format.
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After some thought, I feel there is value in drilling down into what tools storm chasers really need and what their own pain points are. From there I can design a very thorough and considered product to solve more than my own pain-point.
Understanding the Problem
Real-time weather data is extremely important for storm chasers both in a professional and amateur setting. This not only allows chasers to make a better judgment of where tornados might occur but also giving them the tools to remain in a safe position. Poor mobile legibility slows down information delivery providing a poor user-experience and draws attention away from storm monitoring or driving.
As seen below, the information is impossible to read without manually zooming in on these screenshots from an Apple iPhone XR.
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“The SPC product data pages are insufferable when on the road using mobile devices.”
Professional Storm Chaser
“It’s rare that we have to manual zoom on a website device nowadays, the SPC clearly do not intend this information to be tailored of ‘field use'”
Amateur Chaser
“These pages update every couple of minutes, so when you are set with zooming you have to read quickly otherwise it refreshes the page and you start over again”
Professional Storm Chaser
“Alerts, we need more tailored alerts from the SPC other than their Twitter account”
Amateur Chaser
“Chasers rely heavily on information from the SPC, so we’re forced to make do with a poor mobile interface”
Amateur Chaser
“If there was a way of alerting chasers of bite-sized real-time information, that would be perfect.”
Professional Storm Chaser
User Research Findings
I conducted interviews with a sample size of ten storm chasers, both professional and amateur. Below are the key data points gathered:
  • SPC website is the primary location for most storm chasing data.
  • Compatibility to mobile devices is very poor, but they have no alternatives.
  • Web pages update every couple of minutes forcing an involuntary refresh of each page.
  • Information on each page is very long-winded and difficult to collect bite-sized information.
  • SPC alerts are only achievable through Twitter, which leads to heavy irrelevant notifications.
  • The ability to tailor alerts while chasing, down to state, and county level would be ideal.
  • Notifications that give important information that does not require unlocking the mobile device.
  • The familiarity is great as it’s been the same design for a long time, but legibility is more important.

From the SPC website I was able to gather the main SPC products used. Also, there is a website commonly used by storm chasers (tessa.org) that consolidates products from the SPC and other external sources onto a splash page platform. This simply acts as a navigation pad.

Through my interviews I was able to determine the essential products used by chasers, separated into professional and amateur categories. This would determine the structure of the MVP.

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Competitor Analysis

I conducted research on existing apps available on the market which tailored to storm chasers, to see whether they had addressed any of the issues uncovered through user research. They mainly attempt to gather all the tools needed by a storm chaser into one product. The SPC data products, live streaming from other chasers, doppler radars, alerts from Twitter, and other community-based functionalities. The SPC data is simply importing the original webpage into the app. These are very much oriented around chasers pushing their own collected content in some form.

That being said there were some functionalities found that was very useful, such as the alert feature available from the Storm Hunters app. It gives the user the option to select different targeted areas for alerts, state, county, and city level, with a lot of different hazard alert options.

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User Personas
I created two user groups to better empathize with my target audience. These are based upon the qualitative research data I collected from interviewing active US storm chasers. As you can see they have slight variations in their detail but with two very different background objectives.
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User Mapping

Conducting product design best practice, I used all the data collected to be able to define what would be MVP and how the user’s flow through the product be mapped.

Consideration was taken into what products were being used by which group of storm chasers, and how often to determine their immediate overall value. I also determined when each product is (generally) used (in relation to each other) during the storm chasing process to also determine it’s hierarchal value.

Although not all the products used by storm chasers are provided by the SPC (ie. wind and rain radar and Satellite), some of these are not available via specific apps of mobile-friendly web pages. In these instances, these will be included in the MVP structure.

product-vision
This project is ongoing and will be updated periodically…
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