In response to my article about Ancestry.com’s new probate records, you, my readers, jumped on the chance to provide feedback about the New Ancestry website design. Good for you. I’m especially proud of those that mentioned specific dislikes. Those are actionable. The “I just don’t like it ” comments are largely ineffective.
Ancestry continues to give regular updates on what they’ve done to fix or improve things. Here are some recent updates:
- The New Ancestry: September 11th Feature Update
- The New Ancestry: September 4th Feature Update
- The New Ancestry: August 29th Feature Update
Most of the items mentioned revolve around missing features, so I’m not certain they are going to fix things like color schemes. They are not likely to fix that unless they hire a color expert that tells them that light and airy designs sell 20% more subscriptions than dark and dreary ones.
Some of the responses to these posts make me wonder if the commenters know that there is both a LifeStory view (below, left) and a Facts view (below, center) The facts view with alternate facts, family events, and historical insights turned off most nearly mirrors the timeline view of the old Ancestry (below, right).
They are very similar. There are still differences, to be sure, so there are still specific changes that users can report they dislike. But the facts view configured this way eliminates many of the problems that users are complaining about.
I think the much disliked circular portraits are another example of designers and decision makers who haven’t done a lot of their own genealogy. You don’t have to go terribly far back before you reach ancestors who lived before the ubiquitous use of photography. At that point, many people make use of a grave marker or document image as a substitute they associate with an ancestor. While the human face is oval, these objects are rectangular. Imposing circular portraits causes clipping or unsightly juxtaposition of circles over rectangles.
Ancestry is planning to implement clipping and scaling of portraits. Perhaps at the same time they could allow users to opt for rectangular display. While you’re at it, use face recognition software to default to circles for faces and rectangles otherwise.
Here are a couple of other suggestion for clipping and scaling. The Ancestry mockup imposes a circular shape. Since the human face is oval, allow ovals if desired. Also, FamilySearch Family Tree doesn’t allow the circle control points to be outside the bounds of the photograph. When a face is close to a photograph edge, it’s impossible to get the circle centered on the face. This is especially true for group photographs. Hopefully, Ancestry and FamilySearch will both allow control points off the edge of a photograph.
You know the drill, people. Ancestry is going to retire the old Ancestry whether you like it or not. That’s the reality of aging technology infrastructure. While they are making the transition, they will respond—more or less—to user feedback. After the transition, there is very little chance they will pull an engineer off another project to respond to you. Make your voice heard now. Make it actionable, such as “The old timeline had a link in each event that…, and the new site does not. You could fix this by…” I’m thinking that leaving your feedback on one of the weekly updates might get the most notice.
Now’s the time. Let your voice be heard.