Correct the paradigm created by the new interface
I believe that a great deal of the problems that people are having with the new interface could be solved by reversing the search return page layout. Here's why:
1) Massive web page redesigns are always going to have people who complain, and they complain because designers remove familiarities that act as visual cues for users. I worked for a company that changed the color of its logo and people had a fit. Why? People like consistency.
2) When search interfaces are changes, that removes more visual cues and stymies the end user because you have introduced a whole new learning paradigm.
3) "Cleaner design" which nests formerly shown commands behind buttons and graphics aggregates people who are used to entering fields with the fewest number of actions. So "clean design" may relieve the crowding of fields on a page, it forces your end-users to do more work by increasing the amount of hunt, search, and click functions.
4) Failure to provide a walk thought tutorial will doom the overhaul. And FamilySearch just dumped this unto the end-users laps without providing any rationale for the changes that were made.
Your BIGGEST PROBLEM, however, is the terrible layout on the new search return page by reversing the expected layout and adopting an inefficient design. What this is creating is tantamount to a crisis among end-users. The key is you are making people unlearn, relearn, and do more work because the new search return page is counterintuitive. People are upset and some angry because the design enforces an environment hostile to efficiencies without any rational.
a) The previous iteration was built on the premise of left to right organization. The left column held the areas where additional data could be input to drill down on the search results, while the results themselves were center to right column.
b) What Family Search has done with search results is to remove that left to right orientation. NOW, search results come up in the left-hand column, but the fine-tuning happens on the right-hand point in the screen. This is counterintuitive. Why? Because you are forcing people to shift, constantly from the left to a fuzzy point on the right to move between the upfront basic information. This makes their eyes travel to a rather undefined place in the right-hand part of the screen to fine-tune the search. In other words, this design removes the efficiency that left to right layout presents. Intellectually, this scrambles the working environment.
c) On top of this you then moved the narrowing of the collections space back on the left top. So while people are trying to narrow down their search down in the right side of the screen, they again have to move back to the left-hand side of the screen.
In other words, you have increased the workload, your design interrupts the logical thought process, and you force people's eyes to travel way too much.
Think of it this way. Farmer Brown has his daily routine set up so that he enters the barn, grabs a pail, picks up his stool and moves to where Old Bossy is to milk her. There is a natural flow, efficiency, and logic to his pattern. After years of that pattern, he goes into the barn to discover that someone has redesigned the process. Now he goes into the barn, walks past the cow, gets a pail, walks back the other direction past the cow again, to get the stool, and then walks back to the cow to milk her. This is what the new layout is like. It's cumbersome, less efficient, and illogical.
Now, this new web page made me doubt my own feelings and thinking. So I have shown it to about twenty people in our community via teleconferences. Everyone one of them was perplexed and frustrated by it. And every last one of them "asked why anyone they do this?"
And that's my question too because it doesn't make sense as a workflow paradigm.
SO on top of changing the way the search function operates - which could be wonderful - what you have created is a counterintuitive experience for end-users. And this is the thing that has to change. If you revert to a more logical layout, the majority of complaints are going to subside. But as long as you dig in your heels on this, you are going to hear complaints. And that blocks people from learning the new features on the search.
Having worked with programmers and web designers, I know that inside of an echo chamber, ideas that shouldn't hatch can be incubated. I think what has happened is a prime example of that. It is inefficient. It works against logic. It is counter-intuitive. It isn't better, it's different, and that is never a change for the better.
It's time to walk this one back.