Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The New Ancestry Home Page

A post this morning on the blog alerted many of us to the fact that has changed the Home Page content and format for subscribers. Read the comments on the blog post for "fan reactions."

The screen shots below illustrate the new start page:

1) The top half of the Home page shows the following for my subscription:

* Top left - the last three screens I looked at in my own search in family tree databases.
* Bottom left - the Basic Search box for searching Ancestry databases. I used the old Search box so this shot shows the tabs for Historical Records, Family Trees, Stories and Publications, and Places and Maps. If the user is using the New Search box, then the tabs don't appear. You can select Advanced Search and enter more information.
* Top right - Add a Quick Link: plus 3 pre-designed quick links that take you right to the BMD, Census and Immigration database collections. You can add any number of other web links, including non-Ancestry sites.
* Bottom right - an advertisement.

2) The bottom half of the Home page shows the following for my subscription (using the old Search box:

* Top left - What's Happening at Ancestry: an advertisement for an Ancestry service, plus a list of the latest databases, and a link to the list of the most recently added new or updated databases.
* Bottom left - My Shoebox, which is where a user can put images of records for later use.
* Top right - My To-Do List, where a user can write out tasks to be done, presumably on Ancestry.
* bottom right - Recent Activity - in historical records, recent searches, and Ancestry Press Projects.

There is also a link to a summary of the changes to the new Ancestry Home page, as shown below:

I like the addition of the Add a Quick Link, the To-Do List, the Shoebox, and the link to the recently added databases. Users can add links to the mailing lists, message boards, FamilySearch, or any other web site that they desire so that they have one click access. I'm not enthusiastic about the top left links to recent Family Tree activity - since I don't really use Family Trees that often. I would rather have the Search Box right at the top of my screen.

What was eliminated from the Ancestry Home screen? The complete list of the US Federal census years and the major collections were below the Search Box on the Home page (at least on my home page). The BMD, Census and Immigration database collections are listed at the top right of the Home Page, but not all of them. They should add Military, Newspapers, Family Trees, etc. More clicks...

I'm sure that I'll find more to like and probably some things to not like also ... change is hard for many people, and Ancestry has been changing their look and feel and search a lot in the past few months. I'm living with it, but I still feel like I am clicking more and having a harder time finding results.

One of my favorite sayings is "Progress requires Change, but not all Change is Progress."

The only way to convince Ancestry to improve their Home page is to comment constructively about it. Just complaining about it doesn't help much - tell them what you want to see. They have a link at the top of their Home Page that allows you to do just that.

UPDATED: 4 p.m. - deleted a paragraph that I found was wrong about Exact Searches. Funny, it wasn't there when I looked an hour ago!

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