Today we went to the SoG (Society of Genealogists) headquarters to review the site with a selected group of expert users - a mixture of professional genealogists, academics and historians. The idea was to let them loose on the site to test the improvements we’ve already made since the usability testing but more importantly to gain insight into what professional genealogists need from the site. We were particularly keen to get their feedback on the untested part - the transcripts and original pages from the census.
Normally, the trip to the SoG is a brisk 5 minute walk from the findmypast.com offices - today it was a rain-drenched dash as the heavens opened and London took the full brunt of a day of torrential rain.
Testing with the experts is a completely different experience from testing with general users - because they’re professional genealogists they’re less fussed over the details of how the homepage looks and if the registration is easy. Instead they focus relentlessly on the quality of the search, the search results and the accuracy of the records.
After briefing them on the background and the “known issues” with the website, we took them into the SoG’s excellent library and simply left them to it, making sure that there were plenty of us around to look over shoulders, take notes and answer questions.
A very productive day for everybody, I think. We got some tremendous insights into what the professionals will be looking for (and another long list of features and improvements to add) and the experts got to see the data for the first time. Rather excitingly, lots of them also found some unexpected new twists in their family trees, which is the real pleasure of family history. And they loved the colour images.