Thursday, February 28, 2008

Ancestry's New Look and Search Capabilities

Kendall Hulet on the Blog has provided some insights in "Something exciting is in the works" into potential changes coming to the user interface and search capabilities. There is a link in his article to a quick tour of the potential changes and some example screens at This page notes

"We'll soon be bringing you several enhancements that will make searching on Ancestry a whole lot easier - and more efficient. That means fewer clicks between you and your ancestors. It also means better search results."

They are highlighting Type-ahead tools, Image snapshots, Site-wide search and Contextual research tips. There is also a list of future ideas, including

* Combined record page and image viewer, allowing you to see all of the information at once
* The capability to submit corrections on transcription errors of dates, locations and more
* Search engine enhancements that will return more relevant results and reduce inaccuracies
* Results about the locations and time periods you are searching
* Results that indicate which content you’ve already viewed or saved to your tree

I was invited to have the opportunity to preview these potential changes, test them and to provide feedback about the changes. I'm still doing evaluations based on my own search style and interests. I don't want to comment here about my observations to date, but I am actively sharing them with Kendall Hulet via email and their feedback form.

I applaud Ancestry's effort to obtain feedback from users on improvements and/or enhancements to the web site, data presentation and search capabilities.
I encourage all researchers to take their quick tour (two screens with an example for Abraham Lincoln) and see the changes being considered.

I really like and am very familiar with the search box options, data presentation, layout, search efficiency and speed of the current web site. It appeals to my "engineer's critical eye" for ease of use, minimal mouse clicks, and ordered searching. I usually use the "Exact Search" options rather than "Ranked Searches." I prefer having all matches from each database in one list - I don't like having results mixed together - a census record followed by a military record followed by a birth record, for instance. That's just my search style and preference.

Change is difficult to adapt to for some people. I welcome changes that measurably improve search accuracy, easy-to-understand data presentation, search speed, and that enhance my effectiveness in using a web site.

It may be that will utilize more than one user-interface for searches in order to accommodate users that are comfortable with and appreciate the current web site layout and presentation.

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