As a subscriber to Findmypast’s worldwide package and it being a site I use regularly, I have a pretty vested interest in how the site works, I pay them money every year to access their ever expanding sets of records, but how good is it when they change the layout and the search facility? I know Ancestry recently got rid of their old style of searching, much to some users frustration, but FMP has differed in the fact there is no option to use the old style for a period of transition. There was an option to try out the new style before it became the new way forward but I didn’t get round to checking it out until it had gone live.
About a year ago I did a survey for them to help them with feedback and to highlight any possible areas for improvement and I was asked again to do one this week after they had a question from someone about the new layout.
Previously it was pretty straightforward, you navigated to the general area of records you were after and could then narrow down your search from there if you wanted to be fairly specific, or you could just type in a name on the homepage and see what results it brought up from all their records and could then drill down further.
The new layout I have to say initially I was a bit frustrated with, I went to look up someone on the census and found that it was all quite different. It took me a while to get to grips with it and the results, but I can see the benefit. Previously if you wanted to look someone up on the censuses you had to go between record sets, which was a fair amount of clicks and back and forth. Now you can search all the censuses together if you want, or specify a year you want to search from or go down to the individual record set.
What I don’t like is how when you bring up the transcription of that record you are only shown that person, the other household members are listed underneath and you have to click on their details to see their information, whereas before you would get a page showing the householders and their details together. So while you may be seeing the information laid out a little clearer, it is still a pain to gather that information as it takes several clicks – especially if you have a large family.
As for the births, marriages and deaths – again it is good that you can search them all together, however not so great if you want to separate the baptism records from the birth registration records. Yes you can select record sets, however you can select the specific parishes, but for example if I was to filter the record set results in order to select what I wanted by typing in ‘parish’ into the filter by record set search box, it only brings up five record sets. I would rather there be an overall collection termed as ‘parish records’ to be able to have more of a catch-all.
I haven’t as yet had much time to try out all the areas of the site with the new layout but I will certainly be feeding this back to Brightsolid – the owners of Findmypast. They do have a guide to using the new style search so I will be checking this out!
Other news from the site is their 100 record sets in 100 days pledge. They plan to release 100 record sets over the coming 100 days and have started this with the release of some records relating to Pals Battalions – further details can be found here – 100 in 100.
So what do you think? Do you use Findmypast regularly? How have you been finding the changes?
EDIT – added 14th April: As a bit of an update to this – I have seen a lot of users are really not happy with these changes. Some people have experienced inconsistencies with search results, sometimes bringing back 0 results on a search that had been done before using the old version of the site. I used it today for checking some parish register entries and I was annoyed that even when specifying a date range to within a couple of years it still brought up results that were outside of those specified years, meaning my search terms were pretty much useless and I still had to filter the results.
I have noticed there is a ‘Churches & Religion’ section – I was expecting this to perhaps be somewhere the parish record sets might have been put into in order to separate it out from the birth, marriage and death indexes. It seems not – checking out the ‘Browse Record Collection’ just brings up a choice of one thing – ‘Religious Ceremonies’. Then checking out the ‘Browse Record Set’ brings up two entries – Wrightington Confirmations 1813-1876 and Wrightington First Communicants 1851-1889. While I’m sure this is great for some people interested in that area, it is just strange to not put parish registers under that collection.
In short, I am finding it pretty horrid. I think there are good points that are time saving, but that time I am saving is then being wasted in grappling around the new format, the weirdness of the searches and extra clicks for certain bits of information. I hope that they will be responding to users feedback and making some changes over the coming weeks and months. I have heard a lot of grumblings about people not wanting to renew their subscriptions and rating the new site with just 2 stars. It is a shame, the records they have available are phenomenal, and I am interested in what new things will be added over this 100 in 100 pledge, but what use is it all if the new layout is giving users more headaches than happiness?