Friday, July 10, 2015

Dear Randy: I Hate the new LifeStory

I received a reader email the other day essentially saying (I edited it a bit):

"Dear Randy, Ancestry has really messed up their service now.  I hate the new LifeStory and the new look.  I have lost faith in Ancestry, and feel my hard-earned money has been wasted."

 I've seen several similar comments like that on Facebook and on the Ancestry blog posts about the new "improved" website.

For the record, I don't "hate"  I actually love it because of everything it offers for a relatively low cost.  I pay $199 a year for a U.S. subscription, that's only 54 cents a day (I waste, or lose, more than 54 cents a day!).

I use it almost every day to do research.  I can do more research in one day on than I could do in one year in 2005, and before, using repositories with books, periodicals, manuscripts, microfilm, microfiche, etc., not to mention the costs involved.  Nobody has "every" record digitized, and a researcher shouldn't rely solely on

Here are some of the features I like about

*  I love the FREE to build and maintain an Ancestry Member Tree,  Could it be better?  Sure, and it will continue to be improved over time.  I would like to see better charts that can be printed.

*  I love the green leaf "Hints" that push records at me for my ancestral families.  I also love the Suggested Records for specific persons, which are based on what other researchers have attached to the same person profile in their own family tree.

*  I love the complex and sophisticated Search Engine, especially the sliders and wild cards, that help me search for records in their databases.  Search features continue to be improved over time.

*  I love that they continually add content every week, although it has been relatively slow the last month.  There are over 32,000 databases, and they are very helpful.  

*  I like the concept of the LifeStory, and wish it included all of my events, and my attached document images.  I also wish that it showed me at least some Historical Insights on each profile depending on where the person lived.  

*  I like the AncestryDNA test and matches, but wish that the ethnicity estimates were more accurate and that they had a chromosome browser.  I appreciate that they provide relationship charts for DNA matches based on comparisons of family trees.  

*  I love the mobile app that lets me see what I have in my tree so I don't have to carry reams of paper with me to the library or courthouse.

*  I appreciate that offers a source citation for every record they have.  I wish the citations were in Evidence Explained format, but at least they provide one.  

So, if I were a grade school teacher, I would say that Ancestry rates a B+ for overall content, technology and ease of use.  In my opinion, only FamilySearch comes close to a B+, but it doesn't offer everything that Ancestry has (e.g., DNA).

I think the reason for my reader's comment, and other comments I've read online, is that "Change is difficult for some persons."  I consider myself an "early adopter" - I like to try new things, and learn how to effectively use features.  I understand that perhaps 80% of Ancestry's subscribers don't like change and struggle to adapt.  We saw it with "old search vs. new search" where some persons refused to even try the "new search" features because they were comfortable with "old search."  It took me some time to accept "new search" and I did it when the search results became more consistent and reliable.

My understanding is that rolled out the new website design on 1 June 2015 in an effort to update their "look and feel" - the graphical interface - to be more modern, and to make the website look and work like the mobile app.  They also introduced the LifeStory then (there actually was a "Story View" on the now "Classic" site which attempted the same thing), and modified the "Facts" page to bring sources into the mix with links between sources and events.

Form ore information about the "new Ancestry" see and watch the short video. is so much more than the new look and feel in the Member Tree.  It is a full featured company that is a leader in the genealogy industry.  If you don't like a particular feature, then provide feedback to them.  Suggest what you would like to see.  I know that values their customers and will respond to constructive feedback.

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Copyright (c) 2015, Randall J. Seaver

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Rosemary said...

And you don't have to use "Life Story". I just use the tab for "Facts" and hide the Alternate Facts. It's pretty much the same then.

Brandy Heineman said...

Good thoughts. I consider myself a "late adopter" most of the time. (Quick aside: once when my husband and I let our phones get *really* out of date, we walked into a phone retailer and I said to the salesperson, "Hi, we're time travelers from 1988, and we'd like to know what these things are." It was funny.)

Anyway, the point I was going to make was that any tech company is prepared for the mob of angry townspeople when they make a significant change. People threaten to abandon Facebook every time they change something, but there it is, still at/near the top of most popular websites in the world...

Even though I'm a late adopter, I realize that companies have to innovate and refresh their product from time to time. As long as they don't actually break it in the process, I usually learn to get along eventually. I don't use the online family tree function in Ancestry anyway, so my whole experience with LifeStory so far is in looking at others' trees. It seems... fine. :)

Susan said...

I, too, have read the many negative comments about the 'new' Ancestry and how things don't work like the old version. I chalk most of the negative feedback to people just don't like change, no matter what improvements it might bring. There is even someone who has a petition to sign to get Ancestry to at least keep both interfaces. I keep reminding these people that the 'new' interface is still considered beta software and is being improved and added to almost daily. I find myself switching back and forth from classic to new and back again. Each time I leave the new version and go back to classic Ancestry asks me to provide feedback, and I do. At one point a few weeks ago, I was looking for the web links on the profile page and couldn't find them in the new version because they hadn't been added yet. When going back to classic I provided that feedback and a couple days later I was notified that web links were now added to new version. May have been a coincidence but then again, maybe not! Embrace change!

Lynn David said...

I don't mind the "new look" - although every time some place creates a new look they go pastel and that's more like shades of grey thus no hard delineation. Also, they got rid of the most useful ways to navigate around a tree - the family group sheet view (unless I just cannot find the link to it). I somewhat loathe the profile view in favor of the family group sheet view. But I gues that is gone now. If you ask me Ancestry really messed up when they lost that bit of functionality.

T said...

Put me in the haters column. The new Look sucks. And changing from the ability to edit in one or two clicks to the new way of 6 or 8 is not an improvement. Drop downs to find everything? Why? Does it save space or does it frustrate people?

Gharvey said...

Reserving judgement til the life story come to the Australian instance of Ancestry.
Heck we've only recently got access to AncestryDNA, which I've yet to take up yet, monetary constraints rather than resistance.