Friday, 4 July 2008

Ancestry should check out iGoogle

Ancestry.com have a new home page. There's an Ancestry blog posting explaining what's new along with some forthright comments from users.

With the massive amount of content Ancestry offers it's almost a fool's task to try and produce a home page that satisfies everyone. For quite a while I've used a bookmarked search page which, fortunately, doesn't seem to have been "improved" rather than Ancestry's home page as my entry point.

What's on the new home page? The single largest item is a search box. That's good. I suspect it's what most people are looking for. Almost as big is a box for a user submitted family tree. I don't use online trees but sent an owner some information a couple of weeks ago and was added to their contributor list. Now for my kindness I have a substantial part of home page real estate hijacked. I don't want it. It's as if Ancestry were being guided by Clare Boothe Luce's well known aphorism "No good deed goes unpunished."

Another thing I don't need is advertising irrelevant to my interests.

My Quick Links is given a prominent place in the right hand column and provides a way to link to web pages important to you. I added a direct link to Ancestry's English censuses, FamilySearch and FindMyPast. One benefit is that the more links you add the further down on the page the ads beneath it get pushed.

That's important as its the above the fold, the items that are immediately visible without scrolling down, that count.

Additional elements My To-do List, What's Happening At Ancestry, Recent Activity, and My Shoebox fall below the fold so are less intrusive.

Given the wide variety of users Ancestry aims to serve I don't know why they don't borrow a leaf from Google's book and make the page a lot more customizable. Google's iGoogle home page has a search box at the top but allows you to customize the rest of the page by adding gadgets, customized content elements, in three columns below. My iGoogle home page includes the local weather, Gmail, calendar, to-do list, news from two sources and quotes of the day which all appear above the fold. Also a Bush countdown showing only 200 days left to go -- happy 4th of July!

Note: As I was finishing this posting I came across a further Ancestry blog posting acknowledging several of the points mentioned here.

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