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Weather App Development: Tricks & Tips

Want to know the weather forecast for tonight?

It’s dark

Ok, I didn’t need an app to figure that out. But it’s still one of the most frequently accessed apps on my iPhone. Suppose that’s your case too.

So in this guide, I’ve decided to mix the two things I talk about a lot – weather and app development.

For startups, the idea of building a weather app might not sound too exciting (though there are some really successful projects out there) But for more established businesses like online media publishers, this could be a nice addition to your existing assets to retain and entertain readers.

So, what are the essentials of weather app development? Attractive UI and UX design, some cool features and accurate weather forecasts.

Where To Get Weather Forecast Data For Your App?

shutterstock_308681702

Unless you have a magical gift to predict the weather yourself, you’ll have to find a provider for that kind of data. Here’s a list of tested weather providers’ APIs, which offer accurate-ish enough forecasts (it’s weather, after all, you can never be 100%)

OpenWeatherMap

OpenWeatherMap API allows you to obtain current weather data for some 200,000 cities sourced from over 400,000 weather stations around the globe. Apart from the 5 to 16-day weather forecasts, you can also obtain the following information:

  • Historical weather data ranging from one month to five years.
  • UV index aka the risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure (with historical data available as well)
  • Weather map layers including clouds, wind, temperature and more – handy if you plan to create weather visualizations within your app.
  • Data on air pollution with historical records included. If you plan to build a climate app – that may interest you too.

All the data is available in JSON, XML, or HTML format.

OpenWeatherMap has different prices depending on the type/amount of data you need. Their free account is limited to 60 API calls per minute and includes only 5-day forecasts and weather maps APIs. More advanced plants start at $40/month.

Also, here’s a quick tip if you plan to make a weather app for Android using OWM API: there are two ways to search the city for obtaining weather forecast in this case:

  • Using name pattern.
  • Using geographic coordinates via Android Location API.

The first option is slightly less convenient from the UI standpoint as the user will have to manually search for their city (and save it afterwards as a default). The second means asking for user’s permission to share location data and may require a bit more coding, hence a slightly higher overall weather app development cost.

Weather Underground

Weather Underground API powered by the Weather Channel accurate weather forecasts in 80 languages for the vast majority of global locations, including hyper-local weather data. Additionally, you can retrieve historical data, satellite thumbnails and dynamic radar images (again, for those into building a visual weather app), astronomical data, severe weather alerts and more.

The data is available in JSON or XML formats.

Pricing:

  • Free account includes 3-day forecast summaries and limited to 500 calls per day (10 per minute). If you just need to test your weather app, that’s enough. But you’ll have to switch to a premium plan if you plan to launch it to the world.
  • Premium plans start at $150 with additional weather data available and 5000+ calls per day allowed.

DarkSky

DarkSky API (former Forecast.io) allows you to get hyperlocal weather forecasts with precise accuracy, weekly forecasts by hour/day, severe weather alerts, access to historical data and multi-language support.

Their pricing model is pretty straightforward – the first 1,000 forecasts per day are free. Then you pay $0.0001 per forecast.

Some other accurate weather forecast API providers are:

  • WeatherBugstarts at $20/month
  • AccuWeather – free 6-month demo limited to 500 calls per day
  • Apixu – free for 5,000 monthly calls. Premium plans start at $6.95 per month.
  • WeatherSource – free weather data for US and Canada only.

Now you get the idea why the majority of weather apps are either paid or stuffed with loads of ads. Free weather forecast APIs don’t grow on trees, sigh.

But, let’s move on to the good part – your weather app look.

Weather App Design Ideas and Examples

While designing a weather app may seem quite straightforward – after all, it’s an app that just says what’s the weather like today – there’s more than one way to deliver that information. Here are a few examples:

Opt for a Clean, Minimalistic Look

4-weather-mobile-apps

by Svilen spovv

3-weather-mobile-apps

by Dmitriy Haraberush

Give Your Weather App a Distinctive Character

authentic-weather-on-behance

by Tobias van Schneider

By the way, you can share these forecasts on social media in one tap.

You Can Go Graphic and Add Delightful Custom Elements and Transitions

40-weather-mobile-apps

by Ilya Kulikov

22-weather-mobile-apps

by Simon Hoang

Or Give Appropriate Dressing Advice To The Users

54-weather-mobile-apps

by Mary McElveen

37-weather-mobile-apps

by Alex Martinov

More Cool Features for a Weather App

Send smart notifications based on the weather forecast: you can create witty notifications or push messages that will remind users to grab an umbrella if it’s raining; or wear some sunscreen because the UV rates are high today.

If you plan to develop a weather app for iOS and need to implement in-app notifications (e.g. that geo-data is switched off), you can use TSMessages. This library allows creating attractive overlay alerts and notifications.

Go hyper-local. DarkSky app, for instance, predicts rain/storm and other weather changes with a per minute accuracy based on the user’s current location. You can use their API to gain access to the same data.

screen-shot-2014-01-27-at-5-22-25-pm

You can offer beautiful weather visualizations. Again, you can get that data though OpenWeatherMap API. NOAA Weather Radar App made one step forward and pinpoints the weather and specific locations pinned by the user e.g.

sc1024x768

If you want to expand this idea further and wondering how to build a climate app that would interest the general public (not just professional synoptic), here are a few cool ideas:

  • Include historical temperature trends and changes in different areas. That could be pair with witty comments saying that today is 20 degrees higher than in 1938.
  • Drought monitoring and forecast tab can win you fans from the agriculture industry.
  • You can also include a map of global climate changes and update it regularly. Here’s how Earth Now does it.

36_earth-now-v2

The cost to make a climate app with such cool features will be higher compared to the cost to build a simpler weather app. Additionally, the app development price will vary depending on a number of devices you plan to support – iPhone only or iPad as well? Android phones or the endless tablets range as well?

Yet, in general, you can build an attractive, unique looking weather app for under $8,000. And Alty team will be happy to help you with such project!

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