After my article last week on the new FamilySearch catalog, I was pleased to see a new feature that addresses one of my concerns. I’ve complained several times about FamilySearch’s use of inline expansion. I’m happy to report that the engineers on the FamilySearch.org records search team have addressed one of the problems. Let me illustrate the problem with an example from the help system.
Start on the record search main page. Click on “Get Help” at the top-right corner of the page. The FamilySearch help system displays a menu. (See Image 1 to the right). FamilySearch has improved their help system. It now displays context sensitive help. In other words, the menu changes depending on what page you are on.
Unfortunately, I think the help system has big problems. They haven’t separated the links between “Help about this page” and “Help in general.” And in some menus (like the one in Image 1), there is no link to the Help Center. That’s necessary in case you aren’t on the page associated with your question. There’s also no menu option for infrequently asked questions. What if my question is “How do I change a person’s portrait in Family Tree?” That won’t be in the FAQs (frequently asked questions). Nor does it warrant an answer among the Tips and Tricks. FamilySearch has hidden the place to get such questions answered. (You must click on FAQs and use a search box above the list of frequently asked questions.)
But I digress…
All the links in the Self Help section go to the same Help page. The difference is that a different section of the Help page is expanded inline. Using inline expansion has several problems. The expanded page often can’t be bookmarked, the URL can’t be shared, the expanded section can’t be separately printed, and the browser’s Find function sometimes malfunctions.
As an example, go to the historical records search page on FamilySearch.org and click the Get Help link in the upper-right corner. FamilySearch displays the drop-down menu shown in Image 1. Click on FAQs and the FamilySearch help system opens the help page and opens up the FAQs section as shown in Image 2, below-left. Click on the Learning Center Video Courses section title and the page opens up that section as shown in Image 3, below-right.
Now bookmark the page. If you try the bookmark, you will find it fails. Instead of the page view in Image 3, you get the page view in Image 2. Likewise, if you wish to share the list of video courses with a friend by copying the URL (which is https://familysearch.org/ask/#/search/faq), your friend may be lost and confused. Type Control-F and search for “browse” and you too may be lost and confused when your browser indicates it has found a match, but the word is nowhere to be found. (It occurs in one of the unexpanded sections.)
Click on Tips and Tricks and then click FamilySearch Tips and Tricks. This popup view is impossible to bookmark or share.
And that is what the search system engineers have fixed in the new FamilySearch Catalog. If I expand a subject to show the titles, and I bookmark the page or send a URL to a friend, they will see the same thing I see—the subject titles expanded inline. Click this link to see an example with the Archives and Libraries section expanded inline. Maybe the search system engineers can teach the help system engineers how to implement this in the help system.
The good news is that FamilySearch has fixed the FAQs, which previously revealed answers via inline expansion. Now each question and answer opens a new page.
As long as I’ve ragged a bit on FamilySearch help, let me rag a bit more.
- FamilySearch still hides the Family Tree manual amidst the Learning Center Video Courses.
- If you do find it, it is two years out of date.
- The search box in the FAQs section is inconsistent with the rest of FamilySearch.org. It uses red highlighting to indicate the box is selected and the red changes to blue once the user begins typing.
- The search doesn’t always work. For example, there is an article that explains how to change the preferred portrait in Family Tree. However, the search function can not find it.
Hat’s off to the Record Search engineers for fixing one of the problems I had with the new catalog. Time is ticking. Get your suggestions in before it is too late.