Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Digging into Google

Google is a deceptively simple program or group of programs with a wide range of applications that can be invaluable for use in genealogical research. I will be writing about the topic over the next few weeks on the TechTips website, so you can go there for additional detailed information. But here I would like to make some comments about Google and other websites.

Current website design falls into to extremes; a minimalist approach such as that taken by and a "cram-it-all-into-one-page" type design such as The minimalist approach is more architectural, trying to build a structure from the minimal number of elements. For examples, go to's 20 Inspiring Minimalist Web Designs. For my part, I would not consider some of their examples as minimalist, but it is really a matter of personal opinion.

Obviously, my blog tends more towards the "cram-it-all-into-one-page" design but I think to some extent, the content of the webpage determines the design.

Minimalism is associated with various different art and design movements where the work is set out to expose the essence, essentials or identity of a subject through eliminating all non-essential forms, features or concepts. See Wikipedia:Minimalism. If you are familiar with art history, you will at once recognize that minimalism has been influenced by traditional Japanese art and architecture. In architecture, the movement is best represented by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

Genealogy in its eclecticism and emphasis on documentation seems to be stylistically at the opposite pole of the design world from minimalism. The epitome of the "cram-it-all-into-one-page" type approach in genealogy is the Cyndi's List genealogy site.

Mind you, I am not making a judgment about which approach is "better" or "worse" in an evaluative sense, I am merely commenting on the two opposite poles. If you want to delve into Genealogy (with a capital "G") Cyndi's List has over 300,000 links. Interestingly, as an aside, my own blog is not linked from Cyndi's List. Perhaps I am not considered a genealogical resource?

I do happen to have a personal opinion about minimalist websites (Oh! What a surprise!). They can be utterly frustrating for finding content. Google falls well into this category. Unless you just happen to know where something is found, you will have a beast of a time finding it. Even if you have seen a wonderful Google site once, you may never be able to find it again. Google is sort-of like Brigadoon, it only appears when it wants to and is gone the rest of the time.

Here is what I mean. Where would you go to do a search of all of the German (or French, or Spanish, or whatever language) websites concerning genealogy by using English and have your search of German websites in German and all the results instantly translated into English? Did you even know you could do that with Google? (If you did, please pat yourself on the back for me). Apparently, minimalists who design websites, don't count the number of clicks you have to go through to do something. Because unless you happen to know where this amazingly helpful program resides, it is going to take you a while to find it.

OK, give up? Here is where it is. Do a regular, ordinary Google search on anything. Try the word "genealogy" for example. Then when the search results come up, ignore them all, and look over on the left-hand side of the page at the bottom of the list for the link "More search tools." When you click on this link, you will immediately get another list of links that include "Translate foreign pages." Clicking on this link immediately translates your search terms into various languages and does a search in the foreign language sites, but translates all of them immediately into English. Interesting? Yes. Easy to find or even know about? No. Would it have been nice if someone at Google had figured out to tell you that you could do this? Yes.

Here is the conclusion. Minimalism is great for architecture (whether you like it or not) but it is a pain for the Internet. If you are going to have a website, don't get all caught up in trying to be artsy, just get the information across as fast and as completely as possible. If you like art, try my other website, Walking Arizona.

1 comment:

  1. I've always preferred a site that is a workhorse to one that is a show pony.