Did you learn WordPerfect and then make the grueling switch to Word? Are you a "classic" Family Tree Maker (FTM) user drowned by the undertow of the new FTM user interface? Were you one of the Ancestry users irked back in July 2006 when Ancestry split its Search form into four tabs?
If you fall into the latter category, hold on to your hats 'cause Ancestry's at it again. Although judging from his blog article, Ancestry's Search Product Manager, Kendall Hulet, has learned his lessons.
Back in 2006, subscribers woke up one day to find the old search interface gone and the new one thrust upon them. This time select subscribers asked to try out the new search interface have the ability to switch back and forth between the old and new interfaces.
And this time the change is rolling out gradually, user feedback is being solicited and the UI (user interface) is being tweaked weekly according to the feedback.
In some ways the new search interface is a return to the beloved old one that went away back in 2006. The separation into four tabs has gone away; once again one search searches all databases. The 2006 changes moved the advanced search from the main search form onto a page of its own. Advanced search has now migrated back into the main search form.
However, if you hate change, you will hate this. In many, many ways the new search interface bears little resemblance to its pre-2006 ancestor. The Search team seems to have had the same epiphany that I experienced Christmas shopping online. The excellent techniques used by online resellers to refine and narrow your gift searches can also be employed to finding ancestors.
Ancestry has also made it much easier to evaluate search results by including Hover-Previews, photograph thumbnails and newspaper image snippets.
My initial experiences with the new Search?
Being the suspicious type, any search that resulted in zero results was suspect. I spent a lot of time switching back to the old interface and re-trying failed searches, each time finding that the old search couldn't find any results either.
I wouldn't be long in the old interface before I longed for features of the new. I always found myself switching back to the new search UI.
Ancestry still gives lots of ridiculous results. I wish Ancestry would allow use of date and geographic filters in record searches as they do in the new card catalog. That would go a long way in clearing out the flotsam.
Searching databases with OCR indexes still stinks and search is still matching on initials. This makes it impossible to find newspaper articles about people with given names starting with A or I. But the image snippets make it possible to avoid most of these rat holes. Too bad they don't have them for family and local history books also.
Al-in-all, I think Ancestry has a winner on its hands. To see for yourself, click here to see screen shots and a detailed description of the new Search UI.