Saturday, February 21, 2015

Dear Ancestry: I Have A Simple Yet Elegant Suggestion For Your Website Makeover. (February 21, 2015)

The recent news that is embarking on a complete makeover of its website to "make it easier to discover, share, and preserve your family history" reminded me of a suggestion I made to Ancestry perhaps two years ago. The announcement of the makeover -- based on substantial research done in order for Ancestry "to see new and innovative ways to reinvent  the way [Ancestry helps us] do family history" -- provides me with this opportunity to once again make a suggestion to the Ancestry development folks about a simple, but very helpful change they could make while the makeover is still only in beta testing mode.  If you agree that my suggestion would improve your enjoyment and use of Ancestry, perhaps you can add your voice via an email to Dan Lawyer, Senior Director of Product at Ancestry. 

I know many Ancestry users feel the same way I do about the "Public Ancestry Member Trees" usually listed first in the priority listing of the "Review Hints" when one clicks on the little shaking green leaves that indicate the presence of "Ancestry Hints" for a given person entered into one's tree.

The public trees can be interesting and sometimes even amusing. The public trees can occasionally provide "clues" to pursue or ask about.  BUT, the public trees are also notoriously inaccurate and often sparse or even devoid of source citations for basic factual assertions. For these reasons, public trees are the least (or in my case and that of many others), the last place I tend to look for family history and supporting sources for factual information. It is not that I never look at public trees, it is just that I rarely do and when I do I try to look with a very critical eye. 

Since my view and use of public trees is a rare and very cautious occurrence, it has always annoyed me that -- once I have reviewed and used or eliminated what I consider the substantive hints announced by the little shaking leaves (the Census documents, Find-A-Grave, City Directories, etc.) -- the little green hint leaf remains in place even if the only hints left to review are to public trees

What I suggested to Ancestry some time ago -- and which resulted in crickets -- was the simple idea that once the only hints left were public member trees, why not have the little leaf change color from green to say, orange? This would let me -- and many, many others like me -- know instantly that there are only public tree hints for a particular person . . . and until the leaf turns green again we could go about looking at more substantive hints elsewhere. To me the suggestion seemed simple enough and hugely beneficial, but it apparently fell on deaf ears.  

If you think my idea might "hold water," [as Vincent ("Vinny") LaGuardia Gambini of My Cousin Vinny fame would have asked], why not communicate with Ancestry and see if we can help them improve the website in this simple yet elegant way before the current beta testing moves to a final done-deal version. Dan Lawyer at Ancestry "loves working on his own family history and inventing ways to make doing family history easier." Let's see if we can help Dan and Ancestry help us in this simple yet elegant way! 

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ is a registered trademark of Inc. The image used above was taken from and is used merely to illustrate this post.
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Copyright 2015, John D. Tew
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  1. John,

    Actually, provides us with an option. For the reasons you state, I turn the Public Tree hints OFF.

    IF, I need that clue, as you also suggested, I can turn it right back on.


    1. Hi Russ!

      Thank you for your comment. I actually was not aware of that option and will consider using it -- but I still like the idea of turning the leaf another color than green once all the non-public tree hints have been reviewed and decided upon. It would let me know at a quick glance that there are public trees to consult if and when I might want to or need to, and, more importantly, it would also let me know quickly that I have dealt with all non-public tree hints for the individual concerned.

      BTW, I enjoy your FTM User blog!

  2. I think that should pick up on your suggestion. It is important that the browsing of a page be made faster and more instant, and in the case of genealogy sites, more efficient. It pays to be able to distinguish those public tree hints, so that user's searches would be more narrowed. A simple shift in leaves can do the trick.

    Kendra Scott @ Business Online Presence