“Fifteen years ago Apple was a beleaguered tech company. Today, it is a transformative leader across multiple industries (computers, smart phones, music, movies, wearable technology),” said Robert Kehrer, senior product manager forFamilySearch.org’s search experience. He believes that FamilySearch, a nonprofit and a world leader in the growing and expanding family history industry, is also undergoing a fundamental transformation. He knows because as a former manager at Apple for most of the last decade, he participated in the change there and clearly sees the similarities. I recently had the opportunity to talk with Kehrer following an industry presentation he made to hundreds of family history enthusiasts.
Kehrer explained that FamilySearch is seeking to change the very landscape of genealogy. “[FamilySearch] is a different organization today—focused on the customer and quickly delivering value,” said Kehrer. “Companies that change the fastest to meet customer needs today are the most effective.”
He compared FamilySearch.org’s transformation to a house that has undergone extensive renovation from its roof to its foundation. “The only thing that has changed with FamilySearch.org is, quite frankly, everything. It has been completely reinvented over the last few years,” Kehrer said. “It boggles your mind to think that it’s a free service.”
He believes FamilySearch.org has one of the best search-engine experiences anywhere, hands down, including a robust and very accurate hinting feature that pulls information from six billion records on the site and matches it to a patron’s personal data. The collaboration-based FamilySearch Family Tree, he believes, is the largest and best-sourced family tree of its kind on the Internet. Users add 250,000 new sources and 25,000 new names a day.
Kehrer explained there are two integrated mobile apps, a Memories feature (a simple tool for attaching sources to ancestor profiles), incredible help systems, a phenomenal torrent of new records daily, emerging partnerships, and a totally new indexing experience. And that’s just getting him started.
He explained the current focus of much of the product development is focused on the following customer needs:
- More records—faster
- The ability to preserve and share personal family records online
- More mobile-focused resources (ability to do more on cell phones and tablets)
- More accurate and full-featured search experiences
- Online sources gathered easily and completely at a patron’s fingertips
- A genealogically sound FamilySearch Family Tree
- Integrated resources with FamilySearch partners and industry leaders