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You May Not Want to Display ‘Weather’ Widgets

   |  25 Oct, 2015  #

After spending time in Southeast Asia, I came across many clients and companies involved in the tourism industry. One of the most common “issues” I saw was the peculiar attraction to embedding “weather” widgets into their homepage.

Since the early years of web design, “weather” widgets have existed. When the first generations of personal homepages and blogs went online, companies like Yahoo were already offering ways to embed local weather forecasts into your website, and the trend still survives to this day. However, unless you are a news agency or local news source for a specific region, the truth is that including weather widgets in your site is probably a bad idea.

Firstly, there is the issue of performance. Anytime you are embedding a 3rd party script or resource into your homepage then it is slowing down your loading speed, not to mention potentially causing issues such as javascript (JS) conflicts, etc. In the case of old-school weather widgets they could also still be using outdated, insecure technologies like Adobe Flash as well. In any regard, whether its old janky code or not, the fact is that the script must load on your visitors’ computers from a web server other than your own, meaning that instead of loading “one” website, in a sense your visitors now must load “two” (or more) websites/resources when they view your homepage.

Take it a step further: if you are a tourist from, say, Sweden, and you are browsing the website of an island resort in Thailand whose web host is located in Bangkok, there is already going to be a bit of a delay in loading speed most likely. Add into the mix a weather widget that is loading from a 3rd party server in let’s say Dallas or perhaps Amsterdam, and now your potential customer in Sweden must wait for the DNS and performance issues of your Bangkok server AS WELL as whatever performance issues might exist with the weather widget’s server. This situation can escalate quickly into the ridiculously slow category once you also pour into the mix additional resources such as Facebook widgets, Google Fonts, advertising scripts, tracking analytics, or otherwise, each of which could be loading from a completely different physical location in the world.

But unlike some decently-designed 3rd party resources such as Google Fonts, for example, weather widgets (in my experience) tend to be one of the most commonly “slow” loading of all. Not only do 3rd party weather scripts need to be loaded, but also LIVE, UPDATED weather data must be scanned from yet ANOTHER 3rd party database server and often geo-located to your specific region all at the same time, which is more than likely not being “cached” very well.

Secondly, there is the issue of marketing. If you stop and think about it, what is the reason why you want to embed a weather widget into your site? Most webmasters don’t really have a specific reason, other than they think it looks kinda cool.

But’s lets return to our tourist from Sweden: stuck in Stockholm during an especially cold winter, they are looking for a nice, warm, tropical island resort to spent a few weeks at in Thailand, and they wind up at your homepage. The name is romantic, the photos look dreamy… but suddenly, their eye is caught by that pesky weather widget which alerts them to a giant typhoon currently passing over the island, bringing pouring rain and (temporarily) cold weather. Oh no, what have you done?!

REMEMBER: weather is unpredictable, but marketing should NEVER be out of your control.

In our case, that typhoon will blow over by tomorrow afternoon, and actually that geolocation API was a bit inaccurate because the rain was only coming down 100 kilometres to the SOUTH. But by this time, our Swedish visitors have already had second thoughts about visiting Thailand and decided to just return to their favorite hotel in Miami instead.

In conclusion, the only time you should EVER be embedding live weather updates into your site is if doing so will never, ever, potentially cost you in terms of revenue, brand reputation, or customers!

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