Thanks to an alert reader, I’ve found out that last month Ancestry.com sent out a survey to a few of its users soliciting feedback about its search system:
If you have a few spare minutes, we would love to get your feedback on your experiences with search on Ancestry.com. Our goal for search is to make it easy for you to find all the records about your ancestor as easily as possible. Your responses to this short survey will let us know how well we are meeting this goal, and will help us to prioritize areas for improvement.
The survey was indeed brief. Ancestry asked about search usage, satisfaction, accuracy of results, and relevancy of results.
I’ve had many discussions with colleagues, both while at Ancestry and while at FamilySearch about Ancestry’s “New Search.” In these colleagiate discussions, the number of search results often came up. People who had no indigestion when Google returned 43,000 results experienced consternation when New Search returned 4,300. (Ancestry doesn’t expect you to review all 4,300, folks.)
In the survey Ancestry asked about the number of search results. Were there too many? Just about right? Too few?
(BTW, what’s up using the word “new,” as in “New Search” or “New FamilySearch?”Do these people think they will never replace the “new” system? How confusing was it when the new FamilySearch.org came out, making new.FamilySearch.org no longer new?
I’ve got an idea. Let’s start calling FamilySearch Family Tree “Newer FamilySearch.”
But I digress…)
A premise behind New Search is that it is good to return results that only partially match the search criteria. These results are valuable, according to the premise, because they contain unexpected, but relevant records. The search is also more resilient against mistakes in records, such as indexing errors or mistakes by record creators. A name can be misspelled. A birthplace can be misreported. New Search could often find these records.
Ancestry asked outright if users “prefer for Ancestry.com to suggest potential record matches, even when they do not exactly match [the] search query.” They asked how well they are doing at finding records that don’t exactly match the search query and if Ancestry.com makes it hard to find intended records.
Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but it sounds to me like Ancestry is reexamining the premise behind New Search. It will be interesting to see how Ancestry proceeds. Stay tuned…
What’s your experience? Do they return too many results? Is the long list of results a price you’re willing to pay to find records with errors? How often does Ancestry find—correctly find—records you weren’t expecting?