I’ve been reading about recent visual design changes occurring at the Ancestry website and that the changes were being rolled out gradually to groups of users. Yesterday, I experienced it firsthand.
Why is Ancestry making changes? Ancestry said they wanted a new look and feel and to improve standardization across the site and across all ancestry sites around the world.
Colors, fonts, icons, avatars, buttons, and their landing page have changed, but the underlying functionality, for the most part, has not. You can read more about Ancestry’s new look and feel, here.
A week or two ago, I received changes to my tree. I thought all of the changes were rolled out at once, but yesterday, I discovered that wasn’t the case.
When I signed in yesterday morning, I discovered an entirely new look and feel.
Here’s what greeted me.
This looks nothing like the previous night. I had to sit there for a minute to reorient myself. Wow.
Next, a tour popped up. I was glad to see that, but don’t click away because you can’t get the guided tour back again. It looks like there are only three little dots, so maybe I didn’t miss much.
I generally don’t mind the pain of change if there is something good or new to go along with it. For the most part, Ancestry’s changes are cosmetic, meaning they rearranged the furniture, although there are some cool new features, but nothing DNA-related. Let’s see what they did, section by section, and how it affects users.
Ancestry shows you what you were doing when you were last signed in and gives you the option to resume where you left off. That’s pretty cool, because if you’re like me, you probably don’t remember, and you might not be done. Are genealogists ever finished?
Ancestry has also customized your hints, discoveries, and photos based on what you were doing.
I quickly discovered that if something is showing that you want to see, click on it, because if you get distracted and do something else, that “hint” won’t be waiting when you return because Ancestry customizes what is offered to you based on what you did last. They display the last three people you worked on at the top, but sometimes the hints aren’t for those people.
If you have multiple trees, selecting a different tree under the “Make discoveries” dropdown box changes what is shown in the “Family photos” section to the selected tree.
The name on the front of the “Family Photos” item displays the name of the person it’s connected to in someone else’s tree.
Normal caveats here:
- This may not be your ancestor.
- It may be someone else by the same or a similar name.
- The item may be incorrectly saved to someone who is supposed to be your ancestor.
If you click on an image, you’re taken to the familiar “Save” screen, with a few modifications.
I like this new feature generally, although I think it makes it more difficult to verify that the item is actually for your ancestor – which means it’s more likely that people will save the wrong thing to the wrong person. This means more errors in trees, especially for new genealogists or people new to the Ancestry interface.
What I’d like to see added is more information displayed from my tree for people Ancestry is suggesting I save an item to. As you can see, Ancestry does not display the birth and death dates of the person in my tree that they are suggesting I save this image to. I may have multiple people in my tree by that name, and often do.
You can see the birth and death dates in the tree of the person the item is currently saved to by mousing over the green bar at right, and you can see their profile by clicking on that green bar.
Clicking on “View all Photos” takes you to an “All Hints” page where you can filter the results any number of ways. I like this feature too.
Keep in mind that these documents aren’t just for your direct ancestors, but for anyone in your tree. I wish “direct ancestors” was a filter option, but it isn’t.
The next section shows my newest DNA matches, my Ethnicity estimate, and Traits.
Clicking on your matches or ethnicity takes you to the normal locations, respectively.
Don’t expect to have Traits unless you’ve purchased that upgrade, and no, I haven’t.
The good news is that having DNA displayed on the main dashboard page encourages people to check their results and work with their DNA matches. You can still access your results from the DNA tab at the top – like always.
The bad news is that there are no new DNA features☹.
Don’t neglect to check your DNA matches, ThruLines and Communities periodically to see if anything has changed or hints might have developed that could be useful to you.
The Search box location now resides on the right side of the page or you can click on the search tab at the top of the dashboard.
I was unhappy to discover that the box for the US census years is now gone. I used it a lot.
The “Advanced search” link is still there, but that function has changed a bit too. Mostly, it’s just a matter of getting used to the rearranged furniture and experimenting a bit.
There is a US census link on the advanced page which in another click or two allows you to select specific census years.
Unfortunately, “Quick Links” are going away. You can’t save new ones. Ancestry says the existing ones are remaining, but I don’t know for how long.
Ancestry has been improving searches gradually over the past few weeks, which I do find helpful. Specifically, that already-saved items returned in searches for a specific ancestor are now grouped together as a result of having “Smart filtering” turned on.
What I would really like is for Ancestry to compare photos with items already in my gallery for each person and NOT show me the same photo if I’ve either saved or dismissed it for that individual.
I would love to be able to see if a particular document or image has already been saved to my ancestor’s profile when I’m seeing search results. Not only do I not want to save or dismiss it again, I don’t want to see it again, even if it has been saved to another user’s tree by a different name. If Apple Macs can do image recognition, so can Ancestry.
Why is this important? You can see my ancestor’s photo being offered again, above – 6 times to be exact if you scroll down. Here’s another example.
Yea, I don’t want all of those DNA match icons people save to their trees offered over and over again. Also, those immigrant ships, especially for ancestors who weren’t immigrants. Nor do I want 20 copies of the exact same picture of their tombstone. A picture by any other name is still a thorn!
One of the beneficial updates, especially for new researchers, is that Ancestry Academy is a link under tools and resources. You can check out Ancestry Academy videos here.
I’ve saved the new trees for last.
I must admit, I’m not fond of the changes, but mostly because they are irritating, although less so now that Ancestry removed their new green text. The actual functionality hasn’t changed.
However, I’ve devised a strategy to deal with the single most irritating change.
Ancestry introduced new avatars. Unfortunately, they look overbalanced to me, or more specifically, like young people that all have dowager’s hump. They look like they are weighted down, struggling to move forward. Now that I’ve seen these, I can’t unsee them and I can’t NOT think of that when I do see them. (You’re welcome.)
What I can do is to save any photo or image to each ancestor’s profile. That’s where those Discovery Photos will come in handy, right?
Ancestry also gave several ancestors angel wings. Hmmm….
Then I realized those weren’t angels at all, but the new ThruLines emblem that indicates that this ancestor has ThruLines. Silly me, I thought maybe something like Find-A-Grave😊.
Ancestry also redesigned the leaf hint to be more stylized, but the hint works just the same as always. That leaf has evolved a lot over time.
I might tongue-in-cheek suggest that Ancestry’s cosmetic development efforts might have been better spent investing in something like, say, a chromosome browser. But hey, that’s just me.
One “improvement” Ancestry rolled out and has already removed, thankfully, is light green text pretty much every place. Trust me, it was worse than light grey, given what we need is black or a dark color on a white background for the highest contrast. I’m glad that green is mostly gone. I realize that green is Ancestry’s corporate color, but it made working with the website difficult. Ancestry does listen to feedback sometimes, in this case, great wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Ancestry initially provided a feedback button in the lower right corner, but they’ve since removed that easy communications method. If you want to provide feedback, positive or negative, you can call Ancestry support or provide feedback by scrolling to the bottom of any Ancestry page and click on “Support Center.”
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