Everyone was fine and healthy, but I was a bit surprised at how few options there are right now for getting the word out about dangerous weather. In areas that regularly experience bad weather, many own radios and alert devices to prepare them, but bad weather occurs everywhere and we don’t always have our cell phones with us. Then the simple idea emerged…
A Weather Widget with Purpose
Every weather website out there has weather widgets. You know, the silly sunshine motif with the next 5 days worth of temperatures and rain forecasts that provides no more value than what you can get ubiquitously on your phone, newspaper, television, internet, or by simply asking a neighbor. What none of these widgets do, though, is what they most ought to do – recognize where you are right now, determine whether there is an eminent threat, and present you with relevant information. I envision something like this:
- Look up the IP address in a geo-specific database
- Look up current NWS warnings
- If there is a match, present an overlay which points the user to more information
Of course, this widget can be unobtrusive, stuffed at the bottom of the page with a nice little copyright link allowing the creator and maintainer to get credit for the good service they are offering to users, but the page needn’t be sullied with redundant weather forecasting like most widgets currently do.
This is the type of widget I would install on all of my websites. It actually does a service for my users, it only intrudes when it is absolutely necessary, and doesn’t require a large amount of code. Hell, I wouldn’t even remove the attribution link.
What is out there now
Right now, there are only a handful of weather widgets doing a couple of things…
- Present forecast for a preset area
- Geo-locate user and present forecast
- List all weather warnings for everywhere
- List all weather warnings for a pre-set area defined in widget
But no one yet has created a widget that serve the sole purpose of providing your users with information only when it is extremely relevant. Subsequently, far more webmasters would be willing to install the widget because it doesn’t take up any valuable screen real-estate and provides a unique, targeted, valuable service. Who wouldn’t want to help notify their users of eminent threats to their well being?
Not only do I love this idea, I love how quickly you wrote the post! This type of thing is incredibly useful and provides tons of value. Great idea.. now who’s going to do it?
Good idea Russ, and I’m glad to hear you got out of that safely. The major obstacle I see is locating the user accurately, because it would need to be accurate to the county (NWS warnings are targeted by county), and without HTML5 permission we’d have to rely on IP geotargeting, which gives the wrong location half the time.
Having said that, instead of having “… has issued a Tornado warning in your area” we could set the location for a location based website (such as a county website) and say “… has issued a Tornado warning for X county”.