Top 10 tips for a great family history website


19 April 2013
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The Geoff Riggs Award, jointly sponsored by the Federation of Family History Societies (FFHS) and Family Tree, was awarded to the

The Geoff Riggs Award, jointly sponsored by the Federation of Family History Societies (FFHS) and Family Tree, was awarded to the best FFHS members family history society websites on 23 March. For full coverage see the May issue of Family Tree. But if you’re inspired to improve your own family history website, you may find the award’s judges general comments and advice helpful. They are included, in brief,  below:

1. Navigation – Make sure your site is easy to navigate, with a suitable menu structure, and an easy way to jump from one content page to another without using the back button on the browser.

2. Searching – Provide a site search capability or a site map for good website usability.

3. Typography – Using a consistent font family across the whole site and avoid too many font variations in size and colour.

4. Readability – Ensure that the text reads out clearly from the background.

5. Content – Sites generally have content of importance to the local community, but some of the material in the member’s only areas (MOA) should be publicly available, if it is readily available on any number of other public websites, such as guides to research, charts, and details of local repositories.

6. Home pages – Watch out that you don’t use large files on the home page, which can make your site slow to load. In addition try to make the home page easy to use, so that it doesn’t require excessive scrolling.

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7. Content Management System – If your site does not already use one, it it worth adopting the use of a Content Management System (CMS), which will moderise the appearance of your site and make it quicker and easier to manage.

8. Browser friendly – Your site should be able to be viewed across at least the major browsers, Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Safari, and Opera.

9. Links – External web links, and links to PDF files, should open in a new window or tab, so that the visitor can easily click back to the page they were on.

10. Metrics –Webmasters are encouraged to do their own metrics assessments to see how their sites rate, both in comparison to the wider internet community and when compared to other family history sites. The tools and measures that the judges used this year were Google Page Rank, Alexa Rank, as well as three different SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) measuring tools (YSlow, mozRank and iwebCheck). These tools are free and readily available online.

The judges of the Geoff Riggs’ Award were Susan Davis representing the British Isles FHS of Greater Ottawa; Chris Loudon, Western Australian Genealogical Society Inc; and Roger Shearer, New Zealand Society of Genealogists.

The detailed judging criteria are currently being reviewed with revised criterion being made available on the FFHS website later in 2013.

You can download our latest issue and read this article in full right now! Family Tree is available as a digital edition – visit, the App StoreGoogle Play or Amazon Appstore. Single issues, back issues and subscriptions are available for PC, Mac, eReaders, smartphones and tablets. A free sample is also available for all devices.

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