One of the country's most popular websites received more than just a face-lift this week in a "top to bottom refresh" project spanning two years.
The Metservice.com website redevelopment was originally expected to cost $1.17 million, but ended up costing $1.7 million to incorporate significant back end changes and to manage technological dependencies.
Metservice.com receives more than one million page views a day, providing vital national weather and marine forecasts and critical safety information.
There is a lot more going on in the new beta site, revealed this week, than just a cleaner interface.
Metservice’s general manager product and partnerships Mat Pearce told Reseller News the initial 2017/2018 scope for the website refresh was for a front-end rebuild.
Following further analysis of technology dependencies this scope was adjusted to incorporate significant back-end changes.
"This scope change has resulted in the new website having a more flexible web platform, which allows us to be more adaptable to future advances in technology and forecasting," Pearce said.
The design and front-end build was delivered by Wellington-based Alphero while the complex weather data integration work was done Metservice's internal development team.
In contrast with the front end upgrade the Metservice site received in 2012, the new site is "a complete top to bottom refresh", Metservice said.
A key requirement was making it easier for users to get the information they need.
The refreshed site will run concurrently to the original website over the coming months as feedback is received.
“We’re always looking at how we can enhance the vital information we provide New Zealanders," said Peter Lennox, MetService’s chief executive officer.
"We’ve listened to the feedback of our audiences which has helped us shape the new site.
“This upgrade provides us with a more flexible web platform which allows us to be more adaptable as the future of forecasting evolves."
According to MetService’s digital product manager Stephanie Raill the site refresh makes it easier for people to find the right forecast for their needs, with better visualisation of available forecasts and the ability to search and customise their experience.
“Broadly speaking, the layout of the pages has changed but no content has been removed," Raill said.
"We’ve just made it easier to find the most relevant forecast, in a variety of ways for the very broad range of people who use the website.”
The site has been designed to be more flexible, so Metservice can better communicate urgent and critical information such as severe weather warnings and to be more adaptable, Raill said.
Research for the project involved a survey of 1,000 people and smaller focus groups, which drilled down into how people use and interpret forecasts.
In recent months, stakeholder groups have been invited to test and provide feedback on the new site design, helping to further shape the site.
"This told us that there is no one universal way to order or rank the info we have, so flexibility was key," Raill said.
“It’s been a big project. The website is complex, given the vast amount of data it holds, the frequency with which data updates and the multiple layers of information we present for a really diverse audience."
Metservice.com presents data from hundreds of weather stations across New Zealand, high resolution rain radar and satellite data, high resolution MetService and MetOcean weather and ocean modelling, as well as the best global weather models.
These observations are used by its team of 60 meteorologists to provide New Zealand’s forecasts and warnings.
Metservice said key features include easier navigation and the ability to favourite information they use regularly. This information is then visible from any page, whenever they visit the site.
A new search tool is included and all information relating to a location is now grouped - including the content previously found solely under the marine, rural and mountains and parks sections.
The site is also responsive, giving visitors access to the same information no matter which device they use.
Improved sections include interactive maps, filters, and the addition of forecasts for three new towns: Wairoa, Picton and Waikanae.
A two-tiered warning system has been introduced: orange for weather that exceeds warning criteria and red for the most extreme weather events expected to cause significant impact or disruption.