The Declarer (Floyd McWilliams' Blog)

Sunday, June 26, 2005


What on Earth is wrong with the people who designed the weather.com website for the Weather Channel? I went there to check today's forecast for Santa Cruz, and to see what the temperature had been on Thursday when Google engineering visited the Boardwalk for an offsite.

The home page for weather.com has a toolbar on top of a main page. The right half of the main page consists of large ads (this column extends much further down than the left-hand side content). The left half has some search capability on top, and a weather map of the US on the bottom.

The top left portion of the main page says


Summer is Here

Check your boat and beach forecast


and on top of it is a tiny search box for general use. That makes sense, because there are 300 million people in America and maybe 1% of them are going to the beach or on a boat. The other 99% just want to know how hot it's going to be, and whether it will rain.

So I entered "Santa Cruz, CA" on that little search box. weather.com did indeed find a city yclept "Santa Cruz. CA". But which of those one cities did I mean?! The result page presented me with choice "1 of 1", which I had to click for some asinine reason. No temperature, no forecast, no nothing. And the link took me to the "Boat & Beach Forecast for Santa Cruz, CA" page. What would have happened if there were no boating or beaching nearby? Let's try El Paso, Texas:


Cities (1 of 1)

1. El Paso, Texas, United States Traveling to: El Paso?


I sense a pattern here. It's a stupid one. And when I clicked on the link, to narrow down my one result, I got to the same sort of page, which helpfully allowed me to get the marine forecast for El Paso. Which is about 500 miles from the ocean.

Anyway, can I get historical data for Santa Cruz? There is no explicit link to do so, but "Yesterday" gives me a bar chart for the previous week. In fact there's a fair amount of interesting data buried in the weather.com site; you just have to navigate through an amazing amount of useless gunk to get to it.

There is a special place in hell reserved for websites who think their primary function is boring and shameful. I have heard many reasons cited for why Google became the default web search site. One that should be mentioned more often is that Google actually behaves as if it enjoys doing simple web searches. Other sites, who shall remain nameless, are more like "You want to do a web search? How boring. Check out these nightmarish cartoons of IM smiley faces!"


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