Thursday, June 27, 2013

Ancestry.com to Retire "Old Search" Capability

I received this email from Ancestry.com today:

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"Ancestry.com is continuing our efforts to improve the search experience across Ancestry.com and will be making changes to our search functionality in the upcoming months. Some features will be added and some will be discontinued. As part of the 2% of our subscribers that use the old search function on the site, we know that you are passionate about the search experience on Ancestry.com and we are reaching out to you to get input on potential improvements. We hope you will take the opportunity to share your insights and feedback on our plans.

"To identify which areas of the experience we should focus on this year, we have drawn on customer input, usage data, usage patterns and our old search function for inspiration. From all of that, we are looking at making your time on Ancestry.com more productive by improving these areas of the search experience in 2013:
  • More relevant search results with the best results at the top
  • Easier refining and control of your search results
  • Keeping a better history of the work you have done
  • Publishing more new content and more corrections to existing content
  • Performance improvements to return results faster
"As we begin to make these improvements, we will no longer maintain two separate search systems for the site. Maintaining two systems limits the resources we can use to make improvements and increases the complexity of every improvement we try to make. Additionally, continuing to maintain the two systems limits our ability to direct more investment into other areas like adding more record collections and correcting existing collections.

"Based on that, as a part of the work this year we will be bringing together the two search experiences into a single search experience on Ancestry.com. We hope to bring forward the best features of both the old and new search systems into the consolidated experience to facilitate the transition for our users and to improve the overall search experience. We expect to discontinue the old search function as a separate experience within the next 6 months.

"As a user of the old search feature, we wanted to give you advance notice and let you influence the changes we are making in search. Please take this survey to share your feedback and ideas on key features to improve.

"Best regards,
The Ancestry.com Product Team"

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I filled out the survey and gave my opinions about "Old Search" and "New Search."

I currently use "Old Search" infrequently - I like the "New Search" name and location filtering, and can almost always find what I'm searching for.  

They provided no certain date for retiring "Old Search" - my guess is that they will retire it when they incorporate new features into "New Search."

When I give my "Searching Ancestry.com Effectively" presentation, a significant number of attendees raise their hand saying they prefer "Old Search."  Some of them are not aware that there is a "New Search," and will be greatly surprised when the change is made.  My impression is that many of these people are very casual users of Ancestry.com and not every-day users.  

My view is that while only 2% of all searches are using "Old Search," it may be that much more than 2% of the subscribers are still using it.  

I do wish that "New Search:"

*  Had an "Exact match" box on the Home page.  I work around it by going to the "Search" page or picking a specific collection or database on the home page.  Each click adds up on my carpal tunnel.

*  Consistently worked with wild cards for names on the Home page.  I've written about this before, and talked to them at RootsTech.  They're aware of my issues and said it would be fixed soon.  

*  Permitted a wild card in first and last characters (FamilySearch does...).

My opinion is that "New Search" works very well for my research needs, and is the most sophisticated and complex search algorithm set in genealogy.  It will probably get better in future months as Ancestry.com adds new features that capture the "best of Old Search features" and adds more bells and whistles.  


Copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver

Disclosure:  I am a fully paid subscriber to Ancestry.com, but have received complimentary goods and services in past years from Ancestry.  I witnessed a confidential presentation in early June 2013 about the changes to be made on Ancestry.com, including this information about retiring "Old Search."

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

I know for a fact there are more than 2% that use the old search, myself included. I am more than a casual user. I use ancestry.com everyday. I do not like the new search at all. Now that old search is being retried i think it's about time I cancelled by subscription.

Lisa Suzanne Gorrell said...

My problem isn't about the search. I've been using new search for awhile. I don't like the new viewer! I used to save the image by right-clicking and "save as" right to the folder where I want it saved. Now it seems I have to click save, then save to my computer. Once that is saved, it opens into some windows viewer where I have to open in another program such as photoshop elements to save finally in the folder where I want it. That's way too many clicks!! Is it because I use Chrome as my browser? Any help on shortening these steps!

Drew Smith said...

Randy, instead of having to do an extra click to get to the Advanced Search (to set the Exact Search), why not just bookmark the Advanced Search page directly? http://search.ancestry.com/?msav=1

Anonymous said...

Changing to New Search won't cause me to abandon Ancestry, but I do prefer the old search. For me, it's just annoying, mainly because of the hits that have nothing to do with my search criteria. Plus there's a lot of wasted space, the records could be more tightly packed. Seems like they don't want you to find things quickly.

Geolover said...

OldSearch users have access to single-page scrollable database lists by category (such as 'Military') and the full database-list "Card Catalog" as a browsable and nicely searchable list.

These are not accessible to NewSearch users.

Since the NewSearch engine does not search all databases, access to database lists is very useful. One area this applies to particularly is a group of church records transcripts from the Mohawk Valley which were poorly produced and OCR-indexed. A third to a half of the entries are not indexed at all.

One persistent problem with NewSearch is when searching from a tree the search results consistently do not fit the person's vital dates, so for a person born 1869 there are going to be various Civil War and World War I database listings.

Another is searching in US Census entries for Counties presently in West Virginia. They are not in the drop-down place lists, but are readily findable using OldSearch's type-in fields.