Ancestry.com Changes Search Functionality and Removes Old Search

ancestry ends old search

That’s right! More changes in genealogy technology! This time changes to various search functions at Ancestry.com and the end of Old Search. Despite what the cover above looks like, there is no reason to panic and there are good reasons for change . . .

What The Changes at Ancestry.com Will Mean

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to sit in on a conference call with Ancestry.com product managers and saw a demo of the changes to search.  Not only was I impressed, but I was actually blown away by some of the new ways in which search results can be displayed.  For me, the most important features were those where you could customize what you did or didn’t want to see.  With any site that relies on Big Data and ways to display it,  I appreciate it when I site doesn’t “assume” what I want right away but allows me to select the data fields I want.

As noted in the email from Ancestry.com to its users (see full email below), here are the anticipated changes:

  • More relevant search results with the best results at the top
  • Easier refining and control of your search results
  • Keeping a better history of the work you have done
  • Publishing more new content and more corrections to existing content
  • Performance improvements to return results faster

The Death of Old Search on Ancestry.com

One change, which some might see as radical, is the removal of Old Search. I have to confess that I am still among the 2% of Ancestry subscribers who still rely upon Old Search.  I know that things changes, that platforms have to change in order to improve performance.  PAF is going away (understandable), Google Reader is going away (still blows my mind), and now Old Search.  I’m actually surprised it took so long; I know it isn’t easy to support two different search mechanisms and then continue to make changes to each.

During the conference call, I and other genealogy bloggers on the call urged Ancestry.com to “manage expectations” when it came to announcing the removal of Old Search and to get input from the community.  From the email below you’ll see that and I urge those users passionate about Old Search to click the survey link and send your feedback.

Technology Changes – Get Used To It

I’ll admit it isn’t easy even for a tech guy like me to keep up with changes in technology, and yes I get frustrated too.  But I’ve come to realize that I need to evolve and “change with the changes.” I also think about how my ancestors reacted to technology changes: the automobile, the telephone, etc.  Yes the changes seem to come more rapidly nowadays, but we use way more technology than our ancestors.

I look forward to the changes in search at Ancestry.com and I’m keeping an open mind, especially knowing that they want feedback and want search mechanisms that best serves its user community.

* * *

Here is the text of the Ancestry.com email to its users:

Ancestry.com is continuing our efforts to improve the search experience across Ancestry.com and will be making changes to our search functionality in the upcoming months. Some features will be added and some will be discontinued. As part of the 2% of our subscribers that use the old search function on the site, we know that you are passionate about the search experience on Ancestry.com and we are reaching out to you to get input on potential improvements. We hope you will take the opportunity to share your insights and feedback on our plans.

To identify which areas of the experience we should focus on this year, we have drawn on customer input, usage data, usage patterns and our old search function for inspiration. From all of that, we are looking at making your time on Ancestry.com more productive by improving these areas of the search experience in 2013:

  • More relevant search results with the best results at the top
  • Easier refining and control of your search results
  • Keeping a better history of the work you have done
  • Publishing more new content and more corrections to existing content
  • Performance improvements to return results faster

As we begin to make these improvements, we will no longer maintain two separate search systems for the site. Maintaining two systems limits the resources we can use to make improvements and increases the complexity of every improvement we try to make. Additionally, continuing to maintain the two systems limits our ability to direct more investment into other areas like adding more record collections and correcting existing collections.

Based on that, as a part of the work this year we will be bringing together the two search experiences into a single search experience on Ancestry.com. We hope to bring forward the best features of both the old and new search systems into the consolidated experience to facilitate the transition for our users and to improve the overall search experience. We expect to discontinue the old search function as a separate experience within the next 6 months.

As a user of the old search feature, we wanted to give you advance notice and let you influence the changes we are making in search. Please take this survey to share your feedback and ideas on key features to improve.

Best regards,
The Ancestry.com Product Team

©2013, copyright Thomas MacEntee

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