Tuesday, April 9, 2013

FindMyPast: .com versus .co.uk

When brightsolid, the parent company of the British genealogy site FindMyPast.co.uk (and brightsolid is itself owned by publishing group DC Thomson), decided to break into the U.S. genealogy market, it made a big marketing push for people to subscribe by offering discounts on subscriptions to the American counterpart of the site, FindMyPast.com.  The price was good, and it is convenient to be able to use subscription sites at home at 2:00 in the morning (and FindMyPast has several useful databases), so I splurged and paid for a year.  But because I spend so much time at the Oakland FamilySearch Library (there have been jokes about setting up a bed in the corner for me), and the fact that all Family History Library satellite libraries have subscriptions to FindMyPast.co.uk, I hadn't actually used my personal subscription.  Then one day while I was at the library our subscription to FindMyPast.co.uk wasn't working, so I tried using my personal subscription instead to do my research in the outbound passenger lists.

That was not as successful as I had hoped.

On .co.uk, when I want to search in only the migration records, I mouse over the search button:

click on "Migration Records", and then I get this screen, which allows me to choose which database I want to search in:

If I want to search in the outbound passenger lists, I click on the link and get a search form:

Here's I'm searching for Harris Doctors.  I get my search results:

When I click on a result (in this case the second one on the list), I get the page the person appears on:

The information at the top tells me what page of this ship's manifest I'm looking at (3 of 19), and there's a convenient link to the first page of the manifest, which has the ship's name, departure port and date, and destination port, which are not included on the subsequent pages:

This all works very nicely.  On .com, however, when I do the same mouse-over:

I also click on "Migration Records", but this is what I get:

Really?  30 million + results?  What happened to the the nicely laid-out list of databases and the search form?  They do allow you to restrict your searches at this point, but only in stages.  When you click on one of the filters (in the lower left of the above image), it automatically updates, for which you have to wait.

Then you can use the second filter.

And so on.  When I search for Harris Doctors via this interface:

I get a similar list of results:

When I click on the same person as I did on the .co.uk site, I get the same page of the manifest, but no header with helpful information.  I don't know how many pages are in this manifest or what page I'm on.

And on another search, when I did go back page by page to find the header (I think it was about 40 pages), I tried to download it -- but the page that downloaded was the one I had clicked through to from the search results.  No matter what page I viewed and tried to download, the interface was set up to download only the page that I clicked through to.  To download the header page, I had to look at the names on that page, search for and find one through the (horrible) search interface, and then click on that result.

The census interface is also different between the two sites.  Here's the British site, .co.uk:

and here's the American site, .com:

I didn't check every section, but I'm guessing that it's the same across the board.

The first thing that is confusing about this is why anyone would create the poor interface that is on .com.  Beyond that, however, is the question of why FindMyPast/brightsolid would hire programmers to create the second interface when there was already a good, working interface:  the one on .co.uk.  Maybe there's a logical reason that interface couldn't be used on the U.S. site, but I haven't been able to think of one.

My first thought when this happened was, "Well, so much for ever renewing that subscription."  I don't need to do my research at 2:00 a.m. badly enough to put up with this interface.


  1. I want a magic wand that can change all badly written code into usable, elegant code. Ah well, we can dream.

    And happy birthday! :)

    1. I want one of those magic wands also!

      And thank you!


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