We helped the MetOffice increase the perceived accuracy of their social media content.
What we did
- Diary study
- Accessibility audit
- Content testing
The Met Office’s purpose is ‘helping you make better decisions to stay safe and thrive’. They want to do this by improving how they communicate their forecast to improve perceptions of accuracy by talking about what the weather feels like, how unusual it is, context of the weather and uncertainty.
This project sought to understand more about how people use social media to understand the weather forecast and tested what the Met Office could do to improve their content within these networks, focusing on audiences that own a business where the impacts their work, or have pre-planned leisure activities outdoors.
This project was delivered in partnership with Claremont, a behaviour change communications agency.
The role of social media in making decisions about weather
The role of social media in shaping decisions about the weather is intriguing, as revealed by a recent diary study that was carried out to understand daily habits.
The study also highlighted the tendency of users to cross-check information from a myriad of sources to grasp a comprehensive understanding of the weather situation.
Interestingly, content related to weather events draws attention from a broad spectrum of the social media populace, shared by an equally wide array of content providers.
These providers range from highly credible meteorological institutions to everyday users with minimal expertise in the field, creating an important role for people like the Met Office to provide verified information.
Building trust by helping people with their day
The Met Office is eager to ensure they are delivering weather forecast information which helps people plan their day effectively, increases their confidence in the forecast, and increases their trust in the Met Office. Through our research, we developed a range of hypotheses of how the content could be improved for these audiences, coming up with a series of social posts to test with. We employed a system of accuracy and confidence ratings, providing a clear indication of how certain we are about our forecasts.
“Accuracy tends to be OK. I get frustrated if I wear a big coat and umbrella and end up not needing it.”
A significant number of people already have a deep understanding of weather patterns, especially outdoor workers who’ve been in rain and shine for decades. They require very specific information and want to gauge the Met Office’s confidence in the predictions to effectively plan their day. Most of them already have contingency plans in place and alternate tasks lined up should the weather change unexpectedly.
The goal is to provide what people need, in a language they understand, despite the complexities and constant shifts in weather patterns. For many, hyper-local and personalised information is crucial. It’s not just about presenting information; it’s about fostering trust by helping people make informed decisions about their day, come rain or shine.
Knowing the heaviness of the predicted rain allows me to decide what work can be carried out on a given day. Light rain is less problematic than medium and heavy rains. The area covered also allows me to plan ahead on jobs, allowing me to shift things around to better suit what I can do to help clients.
Making complex information accessible to all
The Met Office aims to make complex weather information accessible to all by implementing several best practices. Instead of assuming a prior understanding of weather-related terms, they’re simplifying content to reach a broader audience, moving away from just catering to “Countryfile viewers”.
This includes providing clear explanations of meteorological terms and ensuring radar maps and other visual aids are clearly labelled.
“Using the colour yellow is confusing as it looks like it’s going to be warm”
“A lot of information being presented well makes me more confident in the forecast – information is clear and easy to digest”
Emojis are a great tool for conveying ideas succinctly, but they need to be used sparingly to maintain the professional and accessible tone of content. Video content will be accompanied by transcripts, and where possible, will offer audio and text alternatives to ensure inclusivity.
When it comes to visual presentation, the Met Office will pay particular attention to the contrast and size of text in their graphics. This is especially vital for mobile users, who may be viewing this information on smaller screens while on the move.
Finally, they will continue to test more conversational language to help people connect the weather forecasts with their day-to-day lives. We believe these best practices will enhance accessibility, aiding the Met Office in its mission to help everyone understand the weather better.
“Seeing the detail behind the forecasts – even if space is limited on something like an app – helps me trust the forecast more.”
“It helped me understand why it’s uncertain, but I don’t understand the models so my confidence decreases. Feels like the confusion around Covid.”