NGS 2013—Feedback on FamilySearch

While attending the 2013 National Genealogical Society (NGS) conference in Las Vegas, one of the things I get to do is work in the FamilySearch booth. I get to help conference attendees learn how to use FamilySearch. With the recent changes made to the FamilySearch program, I got to talk with a lot of users and hear their comments.

By far, the majority of those who came by the booth were folks who already knew how to use the previous version of FamilySearch and were interested in seeing how the new release was different. With only one exception, they all came with an open mind and sincerely wanted to see how it was different.

Of course, the biggest changes include the new look and feel of the entire FamilySearch website (a new layout, new vibrant colors and more youthful and inviting use of imagery), the ability to upload photographs and stories, and ability to view one’s pedigree in an easier to use pedigree (Family Tree) format or as a fan chart.

As I mentioned before, only one person wanted me to let my boss know that he wanted the old FamilySearch back. He was firm but pleasant enough about his feelings. Everyone else I worked with was pleased with the new look and feel and liked the new features. When I pulled up the old FamilySearch and showed it side by side to the latest release of FamilySearch, the feedback was dramatic. Hand down users liked the way the images on the new site seemed so much more inviting. I heard comments like, “the old webpage seemed so old and institutional” or “the previous FamilySearch wasn’t very interesting.” These are real comments from older, serious users of the previous FamilySearch website.

It was fun to watch the faces of each person as I demonstrated how to use each new feature. As I showed them how easy it was to add a photograph, tag each person in the picture and tie them to their name on the pedigree, they loved it!  One elderly lady laughed out loud and said she had no idea it was so easy. She had heard about this new feature but didn’t try it because she thought it was going to be so hard to do.  What she thought was going to be a many step process was really very simple. She was so happy. The same was true with uploading stories. A few visitors commented that they wished they could just upload a word file and not have to cut and paste but that bump was not a show stopper for any of them.

I have to say that I was surprised at how excited people were when they saw firsthand how easy it was to use these new features. I know that change is hard for some folks and I was expecting to hear a lot more folks ask us to please stop making so many changes. But I didn’t hear these comments at this conference. People loved seeing how easy it is to add photos and stories to their pedigrees. The fan chart was very well received as well. They like all the colors and how nicely it’s all laid out. One man said that he’s going to print them out on a big printer and give framed fan charts to his kids as Christmas gifts.

I’ve worked at the FamilySearch booth before and I’ve heard the comments from frustrated users who came to plead that we make FamilySearch easier to use. But what I saw on my first day of working the booth at the NGS Conference surprised me. Yes, there are still a few layout issues and a few bugs that still need to be resolved. Visitors were not at all reluctant to share their opinions about those fixes with me. But I am pleased to see how well this newest release of FamilySearch is being received.

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