Which wins, beauty or brawn? What’s more important, form or function? As a person who places the value of good design very high on the importance scale, it pains me to say that sometimes function just outweighs form. Like when you want to know the weather forecast for example.
I recently downloaded the Yahoo! Weather app from the iTunes Store and I was immediately smitten with its wonderful design. Clean, simple, east to read, beautiful typography, wonderful iconography, impressive animation — all packaged up in a delightful user experience. The home page for each location you choose pulls photos from Flickr. As you scroll down to get the forecast, the background photo blurs into a pleasant softness that provides an uncluttered background to the elegant typography of the detailed weather information. My immediate reaction was, “Wow, that’s the last time I have to look at that ugly Weather Channel app.”
Truth is that I didn’t really realize how ugly the Weather Channel app was until I had something really nice to compare it to. By contrast the Weather Channel app is cluttered, awkwardly designed, hard to read and not nearly as easy to use from a UX standpoint.
So I was feeling great about the switch to the Yahoo! app until I started trying to actually use it to plan my activities around the weather forecast. I soon discovered two significant differences on the functional side of the equation. When displaying hourly details, the Yahoo! app goes forward only 12 hours while the Weather Channel app shows the upcoming 24 hours. Likewise the Yahoo! app provides daily forecasts for only the upcoming 5 days while the Weather Channel app shows a full 10 days into the future. Turns out that the lack of that forecast information soon started to sour my former infatuation with Yahoo! Weather. Call me fickle I guess. But the fact is I started using the Weather Channel app more often. As much as I tried to love Yahoo! more, the function advantages of the Weather Channel trumped the Yahoo! app’s beauty.
My hope is that Yahoo! will hear from others that they feel as I do — that we love the look and the user experience, but we need the longer-range forecast to help us plan our lives.
The lesson for all of us in the UXD business is there is no reason to ever get into a form verses function dilemma. The answer is that the best UX comes from doing both to the greatest extent of our abilities. Giving people what they need in a beautifully designed package should always be our goal!
Yahoo’s Weather app (above) is clean, simple, east to read, has beautiful typography, wonderful iconography, impressive animation — all packaged up in a delightful user experience. The Weather Channel app (below) is no match when it comes to beauty, but its brawn when it comes to needed forecast information is another story.