Moving toward a 'responsive' National Weather Service

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Monday, 5 January 2015: 4:15 PM
132AB (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Dennis Cain, NOAA/NWS, Fort Worth, TX; and C. Pieper

It was not too long ago when designing a webpage consisted of a structured HTML table layout with fixed widths. For example in 2001, The National Weather Service's (NWS) original Forecast at a Glance webpage was set at a fixed width of 640 pixels, with the idea that the page might be printed onto a standard 8.5x11 inch paper.

Although the background image page was full screen, one of the original 'standardized' NWS webpages had the displayed data confined to a fixed width of 800 pixels. Over the following decade, the development of smartphones lead to the introduction of mobile webpages requiring the webpage developers to create and maintain two separate webpages to serve the growing diversity of available devices. In addition, the increased number of available web browsers each supported different HTML features to differing degrees.

Today, with the advent of HTML5, browser compatibility is much improved. Combined with Cascading Style Sheets, webmasters are now able to create webpages that respond to the resolution of the user's device and present the information formatted for the detected device's screen resolution. Using these new coding tools eliminates the need for developing and maintaining of at least two separate webpages for desktops and mobile devices.

The National Weather Service Southern Region Headquarters has developed several prototype responsive webpages. Called 'webapps', these webpages respond to the user's device, by showing and/or hiding information, based upon the device screen resolution regardless of whether viewed on a desktop, laptop, tablet, phablet or smartphone.