FamilySearch's Updates to the Search Page
Thank you all for the extensive feedback we have been getting on the results page. We know this is a beloved page at FamilySearch, and we are working very hard to make a good experience for all of our users. We are reading your feedback, and trying to further improve upon what we have created. I want to address a few of the changes we've made, and why we've made them, as well as share some insight as to the extensive testing that has gone into these new pages.
First, we went to a lot of lengths to make sure all of the features you enjoyed on the old page are still there on the new page, but many of them have changed. Here's a quick overview of where you can find some of those features:
- Selecting one (or more) collections as a filter: Previously while on the search results page, there was a tab that said "Collections" from there you could check which collections you wanted to search in and apply the filter. This feature has been moved to the section labeled "Filter Results", there is a small button called "Collections". When selected a side panel will pop out with all the same features as the previous version. We have added new features to help you in your research here as well. Now you can search for a specific collection and select it quickly by using the search bar at the top of the side panel. This change was made to make the collections filter work right alongside all of our other filters. Now all of our filters are together in one place.
- Search for records in a specific place: Previously on our search page, you could enter a country and state/province to restrict your results to only show records from those places. On the new search page, this is still available under the "More Options" button. When the panel comes out the location search option is in the same place as the old version, except it's not open by default, so you can find the button that says "Location" under more options and the text fields of Country and State/Province will allow you to enter that same information. Similarly, the "Type" button right next to "Location", will allow you to choose what kind of records you'd like to see, for example, Birth Records. This change was made because our data shows that this search was used less often than other features, and often brought back too few results for our users.
- Exact Searching: Previously on our search page, there was a little check box next to most search fields on our form. They were unlabeled but were used to search exactly on that field. On the new page you can access this feature by clicking "More Options", and at the bottom of the side panel, enabling the toggle labeled "Show Exact Search". When enabled, you will see the checkboxes next to each field. We know this is an extra step from how the old version works, but we made this change intentionally because the exact searching checkboxes greatly reduce the number of results our user gets, and commonly creates a bad experience. You can often miss out on relevant records if this feature isn't used prudently. It is a helpful feature if you are familiar with how it works, but it can be detrimental if you do not. So to prevent our non-expert level users from having a bad experience, we added the extra step.
A few other features have moved as well, but if you have any trouble doing something in the new page that was in the old one, reply to this thread, and I'll try to let you know how it works in the new page. We want our expert users to also have all the power they need in doing complex searches, and we introduced a number of new features we think you'll love.
- Filter by Race (find it under the "Filter Results" buttons)
- Filter by Sex (find it under the "Filter Results" buttons)
- Finding a collection to filter by typing the collection title's name (Select the "Collections" button under "Filter Results", there's a search box at the top of the side panel to type the collection title)
- User Preference (Under more options, click the "Preferences" tab)
• Data Sheet Layout - This is an entirely new way to view your search results. Each piece of information is shown in its own column in the table of results, you can also customize the datasheet layout and select which columns you are most interested in seeing.
• Display Information - You can choose how much information you would like to see about each search result in the table. Default is similar to what we've always had, but you can select "All Information" and you will see additional information on the record like Sex, Race, Residences, and Age. Or choose Minimal where you will see less information per row, but you will be able to see more results on the page at a given moment because the rows are condensed.
• Translation Options - Choose between whether you would like to see what was on the original record, in the original language the record was written in, or see the record information as FamilySearch has interpreted and translated it to your preferred language.
There are also several other new features that will help you find the record you are looking for more efficiently.
I hear a lot of feedback asking to go back to the old search page, and I want to be straightforward in why that is unlikely at this point. We have done extensive testing of this new page from a lot of different types of users, as well as gathering feedback to best understand the needs of our users. Some users are experts, others it will be their first time doing family history work, and we want to make sure each of you has a good experience. The new page has shown that it provides a better experience in these tests. While the page was in Beta we have also been measuring how successful users are at going from the first page to the results page, to attaching a record to the tree. Our data tells us that our users are doing better and are being more successful on this new page despite having to deal with the learning curve. As listed above we have built-in new features and kept all of our old features with this new page. It has also represented many many hours of our expert development team creating these new pages. For these reasons, it is unlikely that we will simply go back to the way that it was, BUT with that said, we will be looking to improve this new page further and listening to feedback from our users as we do so.
In regards to the simple search that just has the 4 fields at the top, vs the "More Options" search, again we have found that our newer users are less intimidated by all the options of our old page, and prefer the simpler search. Those 4 fields (First Name, Last Name, Place, and Year) have been found to be the least likely fields to bring back a "No Results" page, while still providing some level of detail to narrow down your results. Again all the additional options you have come to love on the old page will be found under the "More Options" button.
In regards to performance, we have also done extensive performance testing on this page, and it should have load times that are ~30% faster than the old page.
I know it's a big change, but it's an important one that we currently believe is in the right direction that allows our expert users to still have all the tools they need to be effective (and adding some new ones) while making the page simpler and less intimidating as we invite new users to learn more about their family.
One last request, I'm happy to respond to comments (As my time allows, this isn't my primary responsibility), but please be Specific, Constructive, and Kind on any feedback you have. Happy Searching
I was not amused with the new search screen I woke up to this morning. The screen which now appears in response to “search records” is confusing and nonspecific. The results, although voluminous, are also nonspecific and waste of my time. One wonders if this marvel was developed by IT specialists who have no experience with genealogical research. In addition, when selecting a view of the record transcription one is thrown into a tangled morass. The toy wasn’t broken, so why fix it.
It may seem like the toy wasn't broken for some users like yourself, but it was in fact underserving other types of users. (locations, experience levels, etc.) You will be getting identical results from the old page if you are searching using the same fields. All of your features will be available in the more options menu or in the search filters.
I assure you, while we have professional developers that spent a lot of time working on this, we did months of testing with professional genealogist and new users alike. Like always we will be looking for additional opportunities to improve the page further though.1
I bet you spent lot's of money for this new format, didn't you. Why? Different is not always better. And, this proves it. It's terrible! It's not user friendly at all, and it's extremely hard to navigate. Either switch it back, or provide a way to use the old format which was very user friendly. The next time you want to waste money, just send me a check.15
Hey, Casey Robinson OO1. You have a "Like" button for your comments. Why don't you have a "Dislike" button, as well. I guess I can't complain too much since this is a free site. Sadly, I won't be using Family Search as much because there's not way too many steps to get to where you want to be. Thankfully, I have an Ancestry.com account.9
The new format for searching has really slowed me down. Besides the need of becoming more familiar with the format of searching, the new mechanics of searching along with attaching records or reviewing the record have changed significantly. For instance, using the old format, attaching a record to an individual allowed the option of opening a new window to review more fully, make corrections if needed (to names or whether a person was a spouse, mother, etc.) and when initiating an attach of the source it automatically opened a new window which you just had to close after finishing the attachment to return to the search page. This process no longer functions in the same manner and unfortunately, without realizing it I closed the window after attaching and had to open another window and redo the search.
Another issue I've run into is the ability to quickly edit the search either to expand the years or change the location. The prior format allowed for quick changes such as this without having to open advanced search to do so. I didn't notice but there wasn't really a button to allow quick edit of the search. The search options were on the left and the results on the right in the old format which is what everyone is used to. Having this flipped in the new method is also a hinderance and requires relearning.
I haven't really checked out the filter yet but I hope it acts the same way so that I can easily narrow a search to a particular record source such as the SSDI or a military or border crossing search.
The last issue I'm having with the new system is the review of the record source to be sure before I attach that it matches and should be attached. The new window for this is graphics intensive and is not the simple presentation it used to be making it harder to tell whether a particular record relates or not. I've been directed to this window before and whenever I've tried use it, I've been frustrated. I can't reach an obit on GenalogyBank.com from here to check and see if this is for the same person I'm working with. The bottom right of the window shows people but I can't always tell if it's already attached or the person is just being recommended as the one to attach to or is for potential other record sources. Getting back to the original search is also difficult.
I used to be in IT but I've always been a user and I can see where the frustrations of the users are coming from. I'm also hoping that you won't change the way the trees are done. I love community effort involved in the building the trees and would hate to see that change. I'm not a fan of how Ancestry.com does it.12
You need to fire your UI team if this was the best they could do. Please let us use the old layout. It worked very well.14
CONGRATULATIONS!!! You've managed to make the GUI to the FS search feature to be as bad, if not worse, than the My Reservations system!
Have you ever heard of the KISS principal?
Do you understand why we like Ancestry better? At least when they started the practice of opening a new tab every time you clicked on a source, they listened to their users and stopped that practice!
Please fix the problems and bugs....don't create more!13
Dear FamilySearch...you are not listening! The new search form is atrocious. It's unusable. It makes search tedious and time consuming and doesn't give the results in a manner that is usable for a person doing a search,. In the old search, one could see much detail on each line and immediately USE and immediately access a line immediately or immediately pass over a line that was not relevant. Now each result has to be opened to see if anyone is in the line that meets your search. TERRIBLE TERRIBLE waste of time.
It was a bad idea...admit it and go back to the old search. You are pushing many of us off your site with this change because...and we say this again...IT IS TERRIBLE!
You simply won't give up this change 'cuz you own it...admit its bad and go back to the old methodology or else give every one the option to use which they like!
This is terribly useless!17
We shouldn't have to read a book to relearn your website.
Your results AREN'T the same. because you don't have the same SEARCH boxes. Oh maybe you do.. somewhere. But they are not right where we can see them.
And why move the search box to the RIGHT??? Most of the world reads left to right. I have never been on a website where a search function was on the right. The top, the left side. NEVER the right.
Family Search is dead to me. That stinks because it used to be a great site. I will never use it again.10
I'm done with family search. You've ruined it. Thank goodness I can get Ancestry through my library. What's funny is I always liked Family Search better than Ancestry. I'd rather use Ancestry now. I will never use Family Search again.7
Well I for one found this post helpful. Thanks for the post caseyrob0012
I read somewhere in the comments that the new interface had been tested by both professional genealogists and new users alike. My question is did you put these people in a room by themselves to figure it out on their own or was someone sitting next to them showing them the new features and how to use them?
I realize that family search (and ancestry.com) are trying to make things as easy as possible for the new user or those with limited experience. However, both sites seem to forget about us seasoned researchers.
I agree with the commenter who said that looking at the new format gave her a headache.12
we will be looking to improve this new page further and listening to feedback from our users as we do so.
Ok... here's some suggestions:
- Put the more options/advanced search back on the left with an option to hide or pin it. It's pretty standard on the majority of websites out there for menus/navigation/filter/searches to be on the left or at the top.
- When a specific country is chosen, can you please filter all the collections that are only available for that country in the collection list. That used to be done in the old format, but now if I select England and go to filter by collection it includes every collection from around the world and the way the list scrolls is awkward and squished up against another scrollbar.
- In the old format you used to be able to click through the search results in a popup window which was awesome for quickly looking through to see if the result was relevant without opening the whole record. Having it squished on the left hand side means we have to scroll to view all the info - either make it a popup again or make the frame bigger so we can see more info at a quick glance.
- The large colour block in the search results page for the name is unnecessarily taking up space. More info could fit on the screen if you reduced it's size or kept it basic (since you're trying to improve the speed of the site also).
- Can you please put a "back to search results" link on the record pages so that we don't have to click back page for every person that we've looked at. If we have multiple people on a census record we want to look at, we have to click the back page for every single one of them until we get back to the search results. This is 2012 not 1991.
- Please just give us the option to view in the old format if we choose to. Surely you can understand that some people have been using your site for many years. They may also be at an age where having to learn new things is time consuming and frustrating (I'm not being ageist - this can start anytime from the age of 30). We can understand that your concern for the newer users' ability to navigate your website is a priority for you because they will be the ones using it in the future. But in making these changes you have alienated your loyal long term users and going by the comments, it sounds like you're going to lose more users than attract them. Providing an option to view in the old format will most likely stop the negative feedback and keep the peace. Ask your developers if they can track the number of visits on the old format vs the new format and you might be able to see how your "real time" users utilise your site and make better decisions about improvements in the future.
- At the very least, make it look like the old format graphically and maybe some of the long term users might be able to adjust slowly and ease some of their frustrations.
One thing to remember, in the real world an angry customer will cost you more in the long run than it costs to attract a new one - basic customer service principals - keep the loyal customers happy their word of mouth skills can make or break you. Good luck with it.18
Your research was wrong. It's honestly easier now to page through a whole volume image by image than it is to actually do a search. What does that say about your research? Asking our opinion is irrelevant if you're going to respond to it by saying any changes are unlikely. Thanks for nothing. It's time to find a new search option, I think. I'd rather pay for ease of service than be frustrated for free.13
After using the new page for a little while, I have two main complaints:
- I do not like having to click "more options" every time I need the advanced panel open, and I need it open for most of the searches I perform. Please add a way for this panel to be permanently open. "Just one more click" to get access to the same form fields as before adds up quickly.
- I would like to be able to see more search results at once - and yes I have tried the "Minimal Information" view. I think there should be an option for a compact view so we can scan over results quickly with less scrolling. For now, zooming the page out works okay but it's not a preferable solution for me.
This change is terrible. Not being able to see the list of records, choosing between, 20, 50 or 100 was a very helpful way to search! Now it's all white space. I can't click on a set of records as easily either. Before I would find someone then look for others and it was VERY easy to click to go to those same records, now, I have to go back and 'find' the record set. This 'new' search is not at all better. Saying it can't be changed back is very unacceptable. Whomever did the research never used your site. I can't imagine how hard it would be to index records. This is as big of a mistake as when someone there merged the IGI records years ago!!!
PLEASE give us the ability to have the old search!9
I totally agree with everything Andrew VK said! Plus as others complained, the search box on the right side is very poor design choice. It’s not logical.6
In your efforts to make the page "less intimidating" for newbies, what you have achieved is a page that looks and behaves like it is permanently crippled. The conclusion that most users -- both newbie and expert -- will draw is that FS's search cannot do what they want it to do. They will go away dissatisfied, having never found the hidden bin inside the closed drawer behind the latched cabinet doors.
This new interface solves problems by creating new ones, and creates new problems without cause.
Take "exact" searching, for example. One of the major faults of the previous interface is the mystery meat: the exact boxes are there, but unlabeled, with no indication of what they do. I'm certain that 99.9999% of newbies checked them because they thought it was how to include that field in their search. The solution to this is not to hide away the boxes, but to label them, for heaven's sake. Hiding the exact search behind three clicks plus scrolling (more options, scroll down, enable, scroll up, check the boxes) has the effect of making most people unaware of its availability. This includes expert users of the previous interface.
Another example: exporting the search results into a spreadsheet used to be a single click, right there above the results. You didn't need to already know about the possibility in order to find it. Now, it's so well-hidden that everyone who used to use it has come to the conclusion that it has gone away. Everyone. (It's well-buried: more options, preferences tab [of all things!], scroll down, choose file type, choose number of results, click button.)
And finally, a difference I only noticed today, now that the old interface appears to have been taken away entirely: the tree-stublet icon no longer brings up the person summary pane, but a huge but mostly-empty box containing nothing besides the name and PID. I cannot fathom the reasoning behind this disimprovement.
As people keep pointing out with varying levels of vehemence, hiding all content and functionality behind extra levels of clicking is not an improvement, for anyone. It's frustrating for experts, and forces newbies into a subpar search experience, with no indication that it could be improved.15
"In regards to the simple search that just has the 4 fields at the top, vs the "More Options" search, again we have found that our newer users are less intimidated by all the options of our old page, and prefer the simpler search. Those 4 fields (First Name, Last Name, Place, and Year) have been found to be the least likely fields to bring back a "No Results" page, while still providing some level of detail to narrow down your results. Again all the additional options you have come to love on the old page will be found under the "More Options" button.
In regards to performance, we have also done extensive performance testing on this page, and it should have load times that are ~30% faster than the old page."
You sound like the Ancestry commercial where mom tells the two boys "oh look you're related to the Wright brothers." Newbies are all well and good and I urge everybody to discover where they've come from BUT genealogy isn't suppose to be based on our society's idea of instant gratification.
You are also wrong about all the options being available. Where's the collections option? The first search I did I got results in 5 different collections on the first page, NONE of which I was looking for. You may be proud of the results but we are spending wasted time clicking to get to what we want.11
I'm debating starting a new thread for this: there's a bug in the new interface. If I click the tree-stublet on a search result, and then click the name, I get yet another popup/flyout with some more details -- including a row of gray boxes labeled "Temple". They blink a little, going from lighter to darker gray.
I'm not LDS.
Please make those boxes go away.2
I think this must be a new change to the new interface: WHY have you broken every web convention ever and made visited links RED???????2
Please proofread the copy you post in response to our feedback. Your statement above that "we have found that our newer users are less intimidated by all the options of our old page" says exactly the opposite of what you seem to want to say.
Yes, it can be frustrating to get a "no results" search return, but it is worse to get a search return full of thousands of results that are irrelevant and therefore meaningless. An illusion of productivity is not the same thing as true productivity, and this valorization of instant gratification will likely backfire.
The bane of genealogical rigor is the tendency of beginners to think that anyone with the same name is the same person. Your development time would be better spent in leading new users into the thrill of doing reliable and meaningful research, not just the gee-whiz reaction of "look at all these names!"
Many of the features of the old interface made it easy to move back and forth between the search results list and individual entries, always keeping one's place. The ability to change search parameters quickly was incredibly efficient. The new need to constantly ask for "more options" makes the new interface inefficient and time consuming, and makes it difficult for the researcher to be sure that they are even doing the search that they want.11
I am reading your feedback and taking the pieces that are constructive, specific, and kind back to the team. I know this change is frustrating, and we will continue to respond the best we can to serve all of our users. With that said, I would continue to ask for you to respond in kindness and understanding despite the frustration you're feeling.
One quick thing I thought I'd address that a few users brought up in this thread is when you click the tree icon, it shows multiple boxes with information on the person in Family Tree. This is in fact more of a bug, and is being addressed where you will only get the one pop up with all the information of the family tree person on it. There is a technical constraint that pushed this fix back a bit, but it will be addressed in a later release (probably a few weeks from now when we finish working through the technical constraint).0
Please take back those that are "unkind", too. Users are not making these comments to be nasty, just out of pure exasperation at what they consider totally unnecessary and retrograde changes.17
Casey, my suggestion to you would be to stop trying to sell something to your customers (users) that they do not like nor want and instead, try something novel, like LISTENING to your customers. Why is it that software people always think they can take something that works great and change it to their own whims and it will be better. It is not. The search functions are horrible. I tried searching for a person in a given county in a given year that I knew was there and it came up empty. When I opened up the image itself (not using the search) sure enough, it was there and not and guessing as to the spelling. Another attempted search for a person within Lancaster County, SC would not even give me the option to search within Lancaster County...did not exist in the search options. Sorry Casey, but you'll need to go back to the drawing board and in the meantime, reinstall the old FamilySearch.17
Telling us what you have done after you have done it is not going to help. Asking us what we think about what you intend to do would have been the better approach. Over the last 25years or more I have watched repeated retrograde steps forced onto users without consultaton. I cannot use the new search with any degree of success, I have posted a long technical assessment of why it is substantially more difficult to use. Instead of working to discover, build, and and repair relationships, I have resorted to posting comments.6
I hear your frustration, and I'm sorry you are struggling with the new experience. We'll continue to make improvements from feedback from our users where it makes sense. I know it may not seem like it, but as the original post talks about, we did reach out to many of our users to preview the new experience. These users come from a variety of backgrounds, locations, and experience levels. Beyond that, this experience has been live in our beta product for several months, and I did in fact post it here in the community for users to test out. (In the Ideas, Records & Searching Section) From both groups of users, we took and incorporated specific feedback items. We aren't able to take an implement all ideas and suggestions, but we are trying our best to listen and do what's best for a broad group of people trying to learn more about their family history.0
Casey, Thanks for your reply recognising our frustration.
I did find your post of 15th July. A few minutes ago. I made comment that the middle of summer in the northern hemishpere is not the time of year when most people are doing family history research. Your beta testing might not have received the attention that it needed.3
You politely asked for constructive and kind comments, and I completely agree with you that constructive and kind comments work best. Sadly, I haven't been able to find constructive things to say about the new UI. I know the development team has been working hard on this. I'm sure it's incredibly frustrating to find that a small number of experienced users like me do not find your hard work to be an improvement. Given that I can fully understand why you don't want to hear my comments when I'm unable to find anything constructive to say, I wish you and your team the best of luck as you implement the new UI. I'm glad you've found many users who appreciate your work -- since I'm not one of them, since I'm actually not able to find constructive things to say, I've done the kind thing and found two new online genealogy sites where I can do my research with the efficiency and precision that I need. Good luck to you!7