National Hurricane Center Project Summary

This project has made us all aware of how each day the weather can have an impact on our environment. By improving the NHC website, we are attempting to make it a better tool for more people.
This project has made us all aware of how each day the weather can have an impact on our environment. By improving the NHC website, we are attempting to make it a better tool for more people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UX Evaluation
The National Hurricane Center webpage was new as a source of information for me but I was aware of it being a native South Floridian. I found the website easy to navigate and saw that it was neatly organize in a very minimalist design.  While I was not the most technologically capable person in the group, I was able to help design personas that matched different potential visitors to the NHC website. 

 

Heuristic Review

Visibility of system status – It was very clear when arriving at the website that the red script above the map implies alerts. The interactive map also demonstrates where there are active storms.

Match between systems and the real world – Following that users understand the map, there are no immediate explanations for the more complex terms or aspects of storms.

User Control and Freedom – There is no immediate control feature other than the back button on the browser or scanning through the top menu bar. There is also a search option.

Consistency and standards – There is a lot of jargon when you begin to read the reports or look further into what may be crucial information about the storm in question. If there is an emergency, users may not have time to use the tools and given resources to learn what is being posted.

Error Prevention – Once a link is clicked it continues to target site. Unless a user goes back, there is no immediate threat to data being lost.

Recognition rather than recall – Users must be familiar with a map of the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific Ocean to spacially make themselves aware of where a storm is located. Once a user has clicked the same reports and map types, it becomes fairly simple to recall where to go for what is needed.

Flexibility and efficiency of use – The main page of the NHC website is manageable by non-experienced weather or storm trackers, however a little more understanding is needed. By clicking on the storm on the map and watching the predicted path and speed, a general understanding can begin to have users search further if inquiry is needed or wanted.

Aesthetics and minimalist design – The design is very simplistic but this is actually useful for pulling up information when there is low-bandwidth or information must be accessed quickly. Since it is a government funded site, there is a lack of advertisements which also helps with loading time and clutter.

Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors – There were no errors encountered when navigating the website.

Help and documentation – The tools and education portion of the website was very helpful when time is available. There is a lot of information that can not only help lay people but teachers and those that are interested in seafaring.

Competitive Audit
The most impressive features that we noticed from competing websites stem from funding. As the NHC website is the basic information that is needed, other sites had added features to draw in users. An informative one that can help the NHC is the Editor’s Choice article which can be found on The Weather Network, Canada’s main source for weather information. A Celsius and Farenheit slider is also used as this site is promoted among US and UK audiences. This is valuable as the NHC website will be visited by lay and expert alike which would need both if they are visiting the site from the US or anywhere in the world. Certain sites like Accuweather featured smaller maps and more space for articles for those interested in reading about weather news. There was also less room for user error on Accuweather as most links would return you to previous pages. Different language options are also important when looking at weather sites. NHC has a Spanish option which is very useful but as a governmental site for the United States, it should include other languages as the FEMA website does. 
Miami natives complain of the heat in the Summer but are thankful that they do not have to prepare for a hurricane most years.
Miami natives complain of the heat in the Summer but are thankful that they do not have to prepare for a hurricane most years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

User Research
The interviewees were chosen to find differences in needs for the NHC website. A homeowner and a hobbyist was chosen for the different perspectives. A snowball sample was created with the homeowner as her husband wanted to be part of the interview as well. As all three were present, the interview followed focus group protocols. The two homeowners are married college professors from Spain that have lived in Miami for almost 30 years and have had plenty of experience with hurricanes. They have also had serious damage done to their home and have spent massive amounts of money in repairs. The hobbyist was chosen as they are an avid Weather Channel watcher, weather.com visitor and checks global temperatures for entertainment. They have lived in Miami for over 20 years and are originally from the rural South. The homeowners seemed very grim when the topic was mentioned and the hobbyist seemed very excited. When asked where they get their hurricane information, the female homeowner quickly responded by pointing to her husband. The wife homeowner explained that she lets her husband check the weather every morning on Weather Channel. He responded that he does but seemed calmer about the situation. His face did change when damage to the property was mentioned. The wife saw herself as the plan executor and the husband as the informant. The focus group was asked what they would do if they had to evacuate. The female homeowner knowing that the hobbyist moved quickly points to him and declares that he must now be careful since he lives in a flood zone. When I asked her where she would go, she said she would find a shelter if it was bad or just leave and head North. She has more access to funds so she can afford to live in a hotel for a few weeks she mentioned. The hobbyist said that he would stay with his mother-in-law because she lives inland and has a townhouse that is very solid with two stories. It was interesting to note not only how these three get their information but their plan of action was what really came to light with the questions. What are the concerns that need to be taken when a hurricane is imminent. This perspective helped later on when creating user flows and empathy maps. This website is not just for information but to keep people safe and out of harms way.

 

Mary grew hair and an identity as we went through the process of asking, "Why would she need the National Hurricane Center website?" She also became Maria, localizing her as a Miami Telemundo news reporter.Mary grew hair and an identity as we went through the process of asking, “Why would she need the National Hurricane Center website?” She also became Maria, localizing her as a Miami Telemundo news reporter.

Trodd & Mary
My group used two different personality types that contrasted and demonstrated how the website can be used by lay people and professionals alike. Trodd Hipster was created to help create a “Green” persona that cared about the environment and domesticated animals. By making Fluffy his responsibility, he needs to be aware of the weather not just on a personal lay level but it removes him from an anthropocentric concern for safety. Safety here is thus highlighted as not just a selfish survival element but is an example of how precautions must be extended to pets, children and the elderly which many times are underrepresented. This is where the group wanted to make sure that our prototype idea be that there be an alert system for those that may be outside during certain times of the day or are not necessarily able to be alerted to the danger of approaching storms. By focusing on pet-owners we were able to grow the idea to children and the elderly. Mary De Los Rios was fabricated to reflect the local Miami flavor and highlight the rising demographic of Latin@s in the US. Also, Mary works for Telemundo and although not the meteorologist, her added interest in the weather has kept her at the forefront in weather newscasting, especially during hurricane season. Based on personalities that I have seen over the years on local news channels when hurricane season is occurring, natives are used for empathetic reasons with audience members. Mary is a more professional visitor to the NHC website but not necessarily the expert in the topic.

Mary De Los Rios was our second persona and a news anchor for Telemundo that needs semi-expert information from the NHC website and also access it in Spanish.Mary De Los Rios was our second persona and a news anchor for Telemundo that needs semi-expert information from the NHC website and also access it in Spanish.

 

User Scenarios
The alerts for outdoor pet-owners and newscasters alike is to take care of the community. This is why there is a focus on smaller scale storms and how that information can be used to help situations that may carry some severity. Hurricanes are few and far between although severe thunderstorms are related and sometimes can be side effects of these larger storms.  By having an alert system when there will be an increase in wind speed or potential downpours can be setup to alert those that visit the NHC website or if an app is developed for their institution. Examples: Fluffy is left at home outdoors while Trodd goes to market to grab some veggies for his special Green Juice. He notices an app alert at the top of his phone stating that wind-speeds are exceeding 15mph in his area in the next hour. He may feel uncomfortable having Fluffy outdoors with those wind-speeds which may be accompanied by rain. He would then know to get home and not pick up his laundry, saving that for another day. This way he can focus on the priority of Fluffy.

Mary just got an alert that there is a potential Category 1 brewing in the Atlantic and it seems that there is a 50% chance that it will head to South Florida. While she does not want to cause an alarm in the Latino community, she wants to let the public know that there is a slight potential that it may or may not hit the area. By her researching more on the educational portions of the website and teaching the public about what projection cones symbolize and mean, she can put minds at ease. There is a large proportion of elderly in South Florida that are Spanish dominant and Mary being their point of contact is important.

 

Severe Weather Alert App
Users should be able to enter the website and find the information they need which many times is basic wind speed and projected cone of the storm. NHC completes this task. However, the idea of an added feature to help those with no access to the website is more of a campaign. By focusing on education for the general public, the NHC would be able to draw more attention. Also, if there was more monetary investment as the NOAA website and more interactive or attractive maps, users would more likely return. The aestethics of the website are lacking which would have more traffic and therefore more information being spread. That this website is not overly controlled by any corporation or lobbyism is one of its strengths but it may also be why it is kept to be simplistic, in order for competition to flourish. Designing an alert system for pet-owners and those with special needs would be an important feature as this is a government funded website. By having an alert system or area for outside pet-owners, daycare and nursing homes will help keep those that may not be able to visit the website informed. By reviewing my focus group interview, I relate this to the wife that relies on her husband for her safety and intel on hurricanes. She feels too boggled down by work and feels that it is an added stress while he does not. With further investigation into this matter, I am sure that researchers will find that there are the informants and the informed. This can be seen today with Web 2.0 and how many find out their news online through social media. By focusing on how to get the informers to relay the message or be put into action to protect those that cannot, this project has made the group recommend are stronger approach to educate the public of the website and how in its simplicity can have benefits over other sites of a similar nature.  The creation of an app would let users know the severity of the storm and if there should be furniture or plants moved in for the duration. This idea may seem small at first by focusing on pets and family relatives but it can expanded to greater societal concerns. While the NHC demonstrates storms and their location, many times in Miami there are severe thunderstorms that can cause damage to property or put certain groups in danger. The homeless is another group that can be affected. This app can be used by local homeless shelters as well which would be able to help recruit or search for those needing refuge for an evening, leading to potential job application or permanent housing.
 Experimenting where to place a notification button and the possibility of sliders for lay versus researcher usage. Also, added Editor's Choice option .Experimenting where to place a notification button and the possibility of sliders for lay versus researcher usage. Also, added an Editor’s Choice option as it was an appealing idea .marymary2

 

flowchart-mary

NHC site map created by my team. We decided to place the home page on the left to easily navigate towards the right and be able to work in unison/plug-in portions of the website.
NHC site map created by my team. We decided to place the home page on the left to easily navigate towards the right and be able to work in unison/plug-in portions of the website.