Thanks for your feedback on the new search interface at Ancestry.com. I assure you that we are reading through your feedback and thinking about how we can better meet your needs with the new search. I thought that one person in particular, Jerry Bryan, had some very insightful comments—I love getting specific examples—it really helps us be able to understand the issues more clearly and respond to them.
Allow me to clear up a misconception that the new home page on Ancestry.com and the new search interface are related—they are not. When we launched the new home page, there was a bug that inadvertently took many of the new home page visitors into the new search experience at the same time. We’re sorry about that—the bug has subsequently been fixed. So, if you find yourself in the new search experience and would like to switch back to the old search experience, you can do that on any of the search pages, just not from the home page itself. I hope that helps.
Let me summarize some of the key issues that people have brought up so I can respond to each one in turn:
1. The exact settings don’t seem to work the same way between the new and old search experiences
Thanks for the feedback on this issue. Specific examples have helped us identify a significant bug in the system that was indeed preventing the exact matches from returning appropriately in the new search. We’ve fixed that bug and things should be much, much better now. If you’re still seeing cases where you’ve marked exact on the search or on a specific field and it looks like it is being ignored somehow, please let us know. We want to make sure we get these issues resolved as soon as possible.
2. The “fuzzy” search returns too many results
We’re working on making the search engine stricter about what results it returns, even on “fuzzy” searches—this should dramatically reduce the number of matches that are returned. Additionally, you can always turn on the “Advanced” features on the new search and simply mark any field as “Exact” to ensure that results matching only the appropriate information are displayed. You can also check a single box to make the entire search “Exact” so only items matching all of your criteria exactly are returned. I think that using this filtering technique (some fields exact, others not) is the best way to get the most out of our search system.
3. Some activities in the new search take more clicks than they did in the old search
Although we’ve tried hard to make the new search experience stream-lined to save clicks in many ways, there are some activities that do indeed take more clicks to accomplish in the new search experience than they did in the old experience. We’re looking into what we can do to improve that. One idea we’re playing around with is allowing a keystroke that would bring up the “Refine Search” form up all at once for easier editing. What do you think? Also, what are the other areas where it is taking you more clicks? Specific examples are very helpful.Overall, however, we have developed a new search experience that ultimately should save you clicks as you search for ancestors.
4. The “fuzzy” search engine should return better matches and filter out blatantly wrong matches
Absolutely agree. We’re working on it—it just takes a long time to make the enhancements we’re hoping for. Stay tuned.
5. You should focus on making exact searching more powerful (example: get rid of the three-character limit on wildcard searching)
This is something that we’re looking at very closely—we want to make our advanced researchers happy with the tools we provide. As a result, I’d love to talk more with a few of you who consider yourselves to be advanced researchers to pick your brains on some ideas we’re thinking about in this regard. If you’re interested, please send me a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.
6. The new search is really designed for “fuzzy” searching
Although we did think a lot about “fuzzy” searching in the new search interface, we also considered exact search very carefully. We added the “View” option to the search results (look for a drop-down on the right-hand-side of the search results) that lets you see the search results Summarized by Category so you can easily see the list of matching databases—this is particularly useful for exact searching. Additionally, we made exact searching more powerful than it used to be because you can now specify whether you want a particular field exact or fuzzy on a particular database. For example, you can now say I want to see results only where the residence was “Spokane,
7. The location type-ahead feature doesn’t work well for counties and/or when searching a specific database
We’re reviewing the way that the location type-ahead feature works to improve it. Specifically, we’re adding in the county names into the type-ahead list to make it easier to see what county you’re searching on. When you’re searching on a specific database, we’re also looking into constraining the list of place matches to only matches that are available in the database. If you have other feedback on the place type-ahead, please let us know. We’d love to hear it. Finally, I want to reassure everyone that we’re taking your feedback very seriously and looking carefully at ways to improve the new search experience. Please continue to send constructive, specific examples and feedback to help us in that process.