Thursday, April 18, 2013

Thoughts on FamilySearch Redesign

If the goal is to soften the approach to genealogy, then make a new website, just as did with the less formal I've heard several high-level FamilySearch engineers explain "There is only a small segment of potential users who are serious researchers, so the thrust is now to reach those who have photos and stories, but are not interested in becoming genealogists".

At the RootsTech 2013 Official Bloggers' dinner, I agreed with that concept, but I didn't think the new focus would be at the expense of the existing FamilySearch user base.

If the goal is to alienate the researchers in the genealogy space - you succeeded.

Family records? That doesn't mean archive and church records from throughout the world. It means the records one holds within a family. That is a pretty tried and true, well recognized definition of that term. So why place your digital record collection under "family records?"

It's obvious the FamilySearch engineers didn't consult a panel of genealogists when designing the site.

If less than 11% of the FamilySearch digital collection is indexed, then WHY persist in encouraging a search by name? This means a great number of searches will prove disappointing. The solution? A simple clickable image map for browsing record collections moved to a prominent  "above the fold" position. I can envision a table where search boxes are on the left, and the image map of the world is on the right, with text explaining that only X% of the images are indexed. Yes, include a link to encourage folks to participate in FamilySearch Indexing.

At least provide a site map.

How about "mouse roll overs" providing definitions to family history terms that may be unfamiliar.

How about white background and black text, instead of grey letters on a lighter grey background? This is difficult for people to read.

Russ Worthington, Randy Seaver and Laurie Haldeman-Lambe joined Ol' Myrt here on the panel for the Exploring the FamilySearch Redesign Hangout on Air last night. Here's the recording:


  • Doris Haskell "Just finished watching tonight's HOA about Family Search.  The impression is that there is plenty of room for improvement.  I think it may be because it is such a massive website.  The site has come a very long way, and I have faith that it will continue to improve.  Thank you for making this information available to us."
  • Sharon Atkins "Thank you for the HOA re: New FamilySearch site.  I really liked Russ's suggestion of a Home Page populated with links directly to the other sections of the site.  Generally speaking, what used to take us 1-2 clicks, appears to have doubled."
  • Hillary Gadsby "Watched some of this last night but had to leave when it got to midnight here in the UK. I have been building my tree but have not yet added any photos or stories and will probably not add any until I have checked with other family members who have sent me some of the photos that they are happy for me to add them.
    My main concern is with merging as I have noticed that sometimes other children get added with another spouse instead of the same couple as parents. I am not sure how this happens and whether the other children need to be added in a particular way.
    I think I will have a read before I try adding any more children to see what advice is on the website. 

    Maybe like many others I went in thinking I knew what to do before reading the instructions. Never a good idea." (FamilySearch, this means the site isn't intuitive!) 
  • Marilyn Poole "I'd like the button to take me back to the old FamilySearch place!"
  • Donna Wendy "After reading Randy's blog I tried adding to my Family Tree there.  Had to telephone FamilySearch help.  They were very nice.  I had to delete children before I could get rid of the family where the father had the same name as my ancestor."
  • Kathryn Smith "My one complaint about the new Family Search site is how deeply they buried the link for the Wiki.  I probably wouldn't have found it if I hadn't read Randy's blog.  (Thanks, Randy!)"
  • Betty-Lu Burton "I hope Family Search is listening and make it easier to find the Wiki."
  • Barry Kline "I am a bit concerned about this merging aspect.  Do you happen to know if someone can change information that I uploaded and know to be correct and documented through merge with something that is incorrect and not sourced?"
  • Kathryn Smith "Yes, there is lots of work that needs to be done cleaning up the tree.  It seems to have automatically added a child and both parents with EVERY state birth record.  Therefore, if a couple had three children, each parent is in F.S.F.T. THREE times before the merges are completed."
  • Virginia Kysh "I have 250 photos in Family tree. I love it."
  • Taneya Koonce "I cannot get enough of the new FamilySearch! I love absolutely everything about it. Yes, they have issues to iron out, but I am overall feeling very positively about the new features."

With change comes a learning curve. But this revision of is too far off base. Put all the fluffy stuff over on a new website. 

Lee Drew's New FamilySearch Site Design ~ A Left Turn?

  • Randy Seaver replied on G+ "I just use bookmarks... the one on my Chrome toolbar is for Record Collections since I tend to search by place."
  • Ol' Myrt replied on G+  "In this day and age, bookmarks on a specific computer should not be the mainstay for Internet researchers."
Randy Seaver's First Look at FamilySearch Family Tree Stories.

Randy Seaver's FamilySearch Unveils Their New Website Design.

Randy Seaver's FamilySearch Photos is Open.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt     :)
Your friend in genealogy.
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Twitter: @DearMYRTLE
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  1. I am a FamilySearch developer. I work on the record search section or (Family Records) of The Family Records is really the same as it was before except it has the new colors. So it shouldn't be any different for genealogist or people who are new to family history. A lot of other things have changed, true.

    1. HMMM,
      "Family Records" has been changed to "Search". Interesting.

      I understand the "inside" navigation in the digital records collection hasn't changed.

  2. I so agree with you, DearMYRTLE! I am usually the last person to long for 'the old' web, but this change is a problem. I also couldn't find my own way to the wiki and I'm a volunteer :-(

  3. Hi Myrt! Thanks for including my comment in the post. While I understand the frustrations raised during the HOA (I watched it later last night), as you could tell from my comment, I'm more enthusiastic. Yes, they need to make changes, but I disagree that they've alienated researchers in the genealogy space. Just my two cents. And, as for bookmarks -I use them extensively, but with services like Google Bookmarks, they are no longer tied to any one specific computer. I can access my bookmarks from any computer, phone, tablet, etc. I use and it's wonderful!

  4. I've been using the familysearch site for a number of years now. As to the new features and look, I like most of it but feel it does need to be easier to navigate.To me it looks like their marketing department went to town with the upgraded look, and didn't put that much thought into ease of use and functionality. I for one have always been confused as to the difference between the "help" section and the "learn" section. I do like the photos and stories capability, the familytree pedigree is easier to read and I like the fan chart. I will continue to use the site, but does the new marketing campaign really have to take up the whole front page now?

  5. My biggest concern is that the very new people they are trying to attract will never *find* the true research areas. Less a matter of number of clicks. More a matter of if you don't know things are there, you don't know to persist, and persist, to look for them!

  6. Wow, Myrt -- rarely have I seen you so far wrong.

    This is the best redesign of a major genealogy site that I have seen in a long time. I am tired of the Geocities approach that most sites seem to be shackled with simply because they won't evolve.

    The new FamilySearch site is clean, inviting and very well laid out. Kudos to the development team.

  7. I am a developer. I have posted on my blog a response to this blog post. This is good feedback that we can use to make the site better.

  8. The site does look pretty & inviting now. Hopefully FamilySearch will take all these comments to heart and make it even better. I'm sure how it is today won't stay that way forever.

  9. I rarely agree with you about FamilySearch, but since they started "improving" it, they have made it the worst scenario for occasional family historians. I can't find any new information on there, yet my cousins can. It is totally ridiculous the way they have everything set up, it's so hidden and the instructions aren't clear, either, for someone with just a little experience behind them. I believe that what they've done is taken it away from the occasional family history researcher and made it so that only professionals can understand what's going on. I've given up on using it....totally, unless they return to easier ways to find the information - and I'm not a novice to genealogy or website searching, spanning many years!.

  10. Hardly 'fluffy', Myrt. Too focused on new users,yes - but that is easily fixed with an icon for experienced users on the home page straight to the good stuff (The Myrtbutton??). I also found the old site very familiar but initially (way back when) it was downright intimidating.

    I don't think that, as family historians, we can on one hand embrace all the fabulous technology now available to us yet criticise FamilySearch for modernising their GUI.

  11. I found almost everything on the old site. These days I can't even find the right search page! Why do they have to have a family tree and all the "extras" that go with it? They have software and there is plenty of software "out there" both free and to purchase. Find something you do well and excell. As it's becoming now, with the links to the pay per view sites and all the other "improvements" it's not much different than, fold3, etc. When it was a records archive I used it all the time. Nowdays it's too much trouble to find the right place to search among the other extras. If there were a feature that needs improvemtne it would be the search function. Looking for Germans to America was a challenge because I had to scroll the whole list of people with the last name to find a birth and immigration year that matched what I was looking for. What if I hadn't found that information at ancestry already? Would I have found it at familysearch? Or would I have given up after the first two pages of returns? Given up, I guess.

    On another note, I will NEVER use the tree function where other people are free to screw up my tree. That has already been done many times in the past. It wouldn't have taken me so long to find my people if so much wrong information were't so readily available. Mothers married to sons, babies having babies at 3 years of age, dead spouse but more children born with his last name and no mention of second husband. All these things and more were hurdles I had to jump. Do you really think I would let anyone correct my tree?