Let me get one thing straight: The last thing that the world needs is another minimalist weather app. Honestly, take a quick look at the App Store and tell me the Weather category isn’t a little overcrowded. It used to be that weather apps were made for pretentious snobs who wanted to be able to tell their friends that the wind wasn’t just a little strong — “in fact, it’s blowing 55.3 km/hr northeast and it’s coming from the coast!” But maybe that’s overkill. Maybe minimalist weather apps have their place, because there’s something to be said for getting only the information that you need.
With that in mind, the most recent minimalist weather app to really trend the charts is Conditions. The basic idea is that Conditions only gives you the information that you need to get through your day: Temperature and, of course, current weather conditions. Can an elegant design outshine apps with more information? And more importantly, should it?
Tracking the Weather
Conditions gets a lot right, first of all. It should. It doesn’t do a lot, so there isn’t much to mess up. The weather information seems to be accurate. A few months ago, my review for Check The Weather suggested that it was insanely accurate. Conditions and CTW never varied from each other while I used the app. I tested it during an unpredictable week weather wise in my part of the world and used it exclusively, and saw its weekly forecast update about as quickly as the Weather Network’s.
Beyond that though, there are other elements of the app that are just great. The first smart design choice that really sticks out to me is the ability to change from Celsius to Fahrenheit (or back) based on location. You can turn this option off, but it makes a lot of sense to speak the same Imperial or Metric “language” as the country you happen to be visiting. I’m from Canada, and friends in the States have no idea what I’m talking about when I tell them how cold it is up here right now. That’s a nice option for visiting.
The app’s background also automatically changes depending on time of day. It’s white during the day and black at night. I’ve talked about respecting a user’s time before, and this is the definition of that. Instead of making the user select a different background colour in a menu, it happens automatically and without any thought. Again, this can be changed, but I can’t think of too many reasons you’d want to.
The bottom line is that, unlike most weather apps (including Check The Weather, despite my glowing praise), Conditions comes “out of the box” with everything you’d want to set up as your defaults in a weather app. If you really hate the defaults, you can change them, but most people won’t want or need to. That’s elegant and very iOS-like. Apple must be envious.
Conditions really only comes with one option: do you want to see the five-day forecast or don’t you? Tapping the screen makes it appear along the bottom and tapping it again makes it go away, bringing current weather conditions to the forefront. That’s the only option you have at your fingertips throughout the app. And for the record, after a couple days of getting used to wandering around with “very little” information, I stopped looking at five-day forecasts. I stopped caring.
When I was a child, I remember mocking my parents for watching weather updates on TV. My father has a slight obsession with it, and I remember my twelve-year-old self insisting that what he really needed to do was look out the window and check the temperature on the thermostat. For me, that was enough, and for him, it likely would have been too. Conditions restores me back to that childish state where I don’t need to know anything beyond “Is it snowing?” and “Does that mean I need a heavy coat or also a heavy scarf?”
Of course, aesthetics have a huge hand to play in this too. Conditions is beautifully designed. The iconography is incredible. Simply put, it blows Check The Weather out of the water, and I raved about that app’s design. Typography choices are excellent. In particular, this app shines on the iPhone 5’s 4-inch Retina display, where there’s ample white space.
I remember taking a couple of design courses and learning about the value of white space. Clearly, so did Conditions’ developers. The white space here (or dark space at night, as it were) really adds an element of simplicity and elegance that simply doesn’t exist in any other weather app.
Finally, the one last thing that has to be mentioned is the lovely Refresh animation. When you pull down from the top of the screen to refresh the current weather conditions, you’ll see a thermometer and it will quickly fill up as the app fetches new information. Simply genius. It perfectly epitomizes how clever and simple the app is.
Is Conditions for You?
I’ll be frank: there is no one-size-fits-all weather app. Everybody has very specific needs. When it comes to my own personal tastes, I like weather apps that deliver only the information that I most need. For the most part, Conditions fits the bill. A part of me wishes I could see what the chances of precipitation were, but at the same time, I could just look up at the sky to see if it looks rainy. At what point do I stop trusting my phone to provide me this information and start trusting the natural signs of the world around me?
Conditions carefully considers how much information is enough information, and I think for many people, it hits the sweet spot. It’s a beautiful and very well-designed. If its aesthetic appeals to you and you don’t need advanced features such as satellite imagery of weather patterns, consider Conditions a must-have app.