How to make WikiTree more user friendly

+18 votes

WikiTree needs more lay people reading its how-to guides. I am really computer savvy and I find this system extremely difficult to navigate. Many genealogists are not as computer literate and I am sure to get put off and abandon WikiTree quickly.

Editing to add: I have 25 years of genealogy experience. Geneology via computer internet was not happening when I started. My first tree that was not handwritten I worked up on MS Powerpoint as part of a high school computer class presentation. I still have the 8 x 10 overhead film slides of that early rudimentary family tree

in WikiTree Tech by Jennifer Turner G2G6 Mach 2 (24.9k points)
edited by Jennifer Turner
You mean like the 1595 people (I counted) who have 250 points?

Are there specific aspects you find particularly difficult or confusing or off-putting?
I agree completely with Jennifer. WikiTree's design philosophy is NOT intuitive. In fact it seems counter intuitive in many cases making it as Jennifer stated "extremely difficult to navigate".
It is quite difficult to learn here - I agree and I am constantly learning new things here by finally discovering where the instructions for that thing are - it is kind of like a treasure hunt - does seem there should be weekly starter classes or continuing education in here of something - I have been here about nine months - and I do little time most days, and a lot on most weekends - for those busier I do not see how they could learn enough to get going and get their basic tree together very well - sorry to say - and I love it, but as a above average computer savvy person with some genealogy too it still has been a difficult thing to learn to use

I agree with you, Navarro. Still, this is a very complex site with much to learn even after being here a bit. If it wasn’t complex, it wouldn’t be near as great as it is! 

I have links on my Nav Home Page because I can’t ever remember how I got somewhere. That works for me. But finding stuff in the first place? Oh, my! And I hate to ask (even after telling new folks to do just that). But when I get it, I link it.

Yes! set up links, bookmark - add G2G favorites too - this is what I do when I am sourcing - been trying to get on the categories more now - and that is going to take some getting used to - the little button makes it easy to try them out I guess - each week I learn a few more tricks
I've learned a lot more WT on G2G than in Help.  When G2Gers kindly link to Help (as they often do), I sometimes still can't see where in the Help it actually says what the G2G answer says it says.
Ironically, I think that WikiTree comes closer than other genealogy sites to the "old way" of doing things. (But my notion of the "old way" may not be the same as yours, since I completed my formal education long before PowerPoint existed.) The heart of a WikiTree profile is the text section, in which we can use good old-fashioned text to document a person's life and the sources where we found our information. Formatted citations, templates, categories, pre-1700 certification, stickers, and other features of WikiTree are added "bells and whistles" that enhance our old-fashioned work.

Good point, Ellen!  Formatting text with a markup language is ancient tech.  I used something similar for footnotes, headings, and equations when I wrote my thesis in 1984.  laugh

Could be worse.  We could be using Wordstar formatting codes.  Am I dating myself? Is that what you were referring to, Herbert? :-)
Runoff, Jillaine!
The old tech I was remembering was the technology of typewriters and paper (what I had as a student). And of course advances like typewriters, carbon paper, offset printing, and photocopying made it far easier to conduct and disseminate research than back in the days when people had to rely on their own handwriting. We have amazing technology now, but that doesn't change the fact that written word is the single most effective way to preserve and disseminate our information and analysis.  A perfectly good Wikitree profile can consist of little more than the same kinds of words I could have typed on a manual typewriter (including source citations, which were always critically important, but so tricky to format on a typewriter).
Typewriters with three carbons and onion skin! Copys were a nickle and had that smell!  Looking things up meant the card catalog and reference librarian!

4 Answers

+8 votes
I agree in some respects but a big part of me thinks it shouldn't be too easy. While genuine newcomers to online genealogy shouldn't be scared off, there has to be an element of complexity to deter those with less genuine intentions?
by Lizzie Griffiths G2G6 Pilot (131k points)
I'm not computer literate by the way :-) still here after 2 years!
Gotta agree, Lizzie. I’m in the same boat (not computer literate... much). If it was too easy, it’ll all be crap, if you’ll pardon me for expressing it like that. It takes work to make good profiles, to know how to merge and connect. Otherwise, we could all just throw up gedcom and forget sources, and just copy Ancestry trees just because someone said so. (I’ve got a “grrr” story about that!)

So, yes, it can’t be too easy, or it wouldn’t be worth it.
And so the saying goes:    Your greatest strength  (the complexity and depth of WikiTree) can also be your greatest weakness  (the difficulty to learn everything)...

I always encourage people to start out slow and layer in new skills when you've developed a base line knowledge.   I personally didn't find WikiTree daunting at first because I didn't try to learn it all at once.   I still have a lot to learn,  but  I like the depth that's available.

Yes Pip, it can't be too easy or it wouldn't be worth it.
+4 votes
Well, it's certainly true that some find the site to be too daunting or intimidating and abandon this venture quickly.  I've been here for about 6-1/2 years now, and I'm still encountering many new features and capabilities and changes that require more learning.  But if you follow G2G regularly, hardly a day goes by that someone does not ask for some new feature or capability or improvement, some of which get implemented.  I think we all need to realize that more features and capabilities equates to more complexity and makes the site more intimidating, harder to learn, and less user friendly, especially for newcomers.  Is there some happy point where we all think it's good enough?
by Dennis Barton G2G6 Pilot (571k points)
WikiTree was a lot simpler when I joined up in 2014. Like Dennis, I've seen many new features (think "complexities") added since I joined.  And I agree that G2G is the best place to find out how things work here -- and find out about new features. I also recommend the edit pages of good profiles created by other WikiTree members -- copying other people's formatting is the best way I know to learn how to format/code on an unfamiliar website.
Probably not :-)

The beauty is that it is as complicated as you let it be?

I don't do gedcom or DNA (at present), I don't do free space pages, I don't really do categorisation either, I add my tree and I read g2g.... & I help where I can :-)

But if I want to do anything else, I can!
Agreed Ellen, I copy & paste all my formatting! The 'probably not' was a response to Dennis question
Lizzie, I was told early on that WikiTree doesn't want anyone  to use "cut and paste" for anything. It made no sense to me then or now.

One of my big problems is G2G itself. Once I post a question or in one case create a "free space" category, I can never find my post again. It's like a black hole swallows them up. Any advice on how to teach an old dog G2G? <GRIN>

The "cut and paste" that Wikitree discourages is copying content from other sites or directly from books. See this help page:

The copy-paste Ellen is referring to is finding a wikitree profile that looks really good and copy-pasting that so that you can learn the formatting "code" of a wiki.  I, too, used this as a way to learn here. 

Skip, I find the easiest way to track my g2g activity is to click on 'my feed' at the top of the page, scroll to the bottom and click on my favourites. The tabs at the top now show options to view all your questions, all you answers, your recent activity and your g2g profile.

Hope that helps :-)
+4 votes

I started out on computers when I had to use punch cards Jennifer, so things have changed a little.  When I started on WIkiTree I had to reset my mind back to the good old days of computing where I had to actually type in my commands and not just point and click.  WYSIWYG had made me complacent.  LOL

Just about everyone who joins WikiTree thinks of Wikipedia that invented Wiki...not so.  I suggest all new members should be sent to this site to understand what a Wiki site is. What is Wiki

And for those of us who find formatting the Biography section of a Profile a bit exasperating at times, these pages are great.

Help Formatting Wikitext

Cheatsheet for Wikitext

Some may find these easier to understand than the Help Pages here on WIkiTree and some may not.  I find most of the Help Pages on WikiTree to be a little too cute.  This one for example: Help:How to Edit a Profile

The object of a Help Page is to pass specific information so the reader understand what the page is trying to explain.  Not to try to be their BFF. And yes, humor does help people to remember, we all remember funny commercials better than plain ones, but they have just a few seconds to pass along their information.  A Help Page is there anytime someone needs it.  Format like its 1999...too cute.

Not even going to go into how to find a Help Page you need.  LOL

by LJ Russell G2G6 Pilot (221k points)
LJ, Thanks for the links.

You made me remember loading the Fortran compiler into our college's IBM 1620 by reading in a stack of punch cards. LOL My first computer class was in machine language.

WikiTree's single collaborative family tree is a great idea. I started a similar project in 2002 hosted on Ancestry's now defunct MyFamily website. At the end of 10 years we had over 1600 members, tens of thousands of articles, photos, obits, etc all supporting those researching ancestors from a single county here in Ohio. It was great fun and the database ended up with over 240,000 people  (profiles if you will) supporting questions posted on the site.

I'm just saying that WikiTree could be a lot more user-friendly but there doesn't seem to be any movement in that direction or a desire towards that end. I'm sure with all the talented members here that we could come up with a list of recommendations as to how to make WikiTree much easier to navigate.

There is some overly "cute"-ness on that page but to be fair-- that's a tutorial page and not a typical help page. (I'd never seen that one... when I started here, I don't think wikitree had tutorial pages.)

Concur that finding help pages is a challenge.  I have never understood why under the Help menu there is Help Category and Help Index. And you can't always find something on both. For example, in a comment above, I added a link to Copying Text. I had to go find that page to copy the link to it.  I went to Help Index (because it's bold in the Help menu) and "Copying Text" isn't listed there. But it is listed in Help Category.  That drives me nuts.  Why not just one place to find help? And make sure all help pages are there?

LOL Skip.  Did you ever remove a card from someone's stack and stick it back in randomly.  Now that was great fun! 

I was lucky, my high school had an IBM 360 for programming classes in the early 70's so when I got to college, I had a jump on everyone else.  My first personal computer was a Trash-80 that I had to load a program using cassette tapes.  I cried when I saw my first floppy disk. wink

Your right Jillaine, I stand corrected on that as being a tutorial.  But it is still the first thing a new member sees about editing.  I took one look at that and laughed my butt off.  Yeah, really made me think this was a professional site.  Since it says Help as the first word in the title it can throw you off.  It should be Introduction:How to Edit a Profile to differentiate it from an actual help page as well as the other pages there should have Introduction too..  I wonder how many folks think that's it like I did for the first few months I was here.  Here is a good place to have a link to real Help with something like  To learn more about Editing and other WikiTree tips see [[:Category: WikiTree Help]]  or the Help Index.  Never too early to get folks started on how and where to find help.  Now I don't know if this covered in the new member welcome to WikiTree video.  Not a big video watcher and I really don't remember if it was around when I started.

Also, while perusing some of the Help Pages, I noticed many have been updated this year and seem to be following a cleaner more precise format.  I just looked at the page on Editing and it is nice.  Maybe I'll start looking at the Help Pages again....LOL

This post of yours LJ Russell is a perfect example of something EVERY wikiTree new member should receive and that should be quarterly sent out to the rest of us as reminders in the "Whats New Email". 

+6 votes

There is probably more here than you will ever use. It seems like each day, something else is added to one of the many menus at the top. I use probably 10% or what's available here. I recommend that you learn just what you need to accomplish what you want here. Get some profiles under your belt. Learn wiki markup by finding profiles you think look great (or asking here) and as Ellen wrote elsewhere here, copying (from Edit mode) and pasting to a profile you've created to see how it's done.

Then as you have time, start exploring those drop down menus  to see what else is here.

I also echo others' recommendation to ask questions here in g2g. There are a lot of us here who are happy to help.
by Jillaine Smith G2G6 Pilot (926k points)

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