Thursday, September 15, 2011

Some background on new Masslandrecords

On October 1, 2011, the "new" version of will be the default page that appears when you visit that site.  Users will be able to click into the "old" masslandrecords but that will only be available until January 1, 2012.  For the next few weeks, we'll periodically write about the new version.  Today's topic is why there is a new version in the first place.

This registry was the first in the Commonwealth to utilize the ACS 20/20 Land Records system.  It was deployed here in the summer of 2002 and sequentially rolled out to many other registries after that.  The ACS website, which quickly became known as, arrived in 2003.  Our users, who had become quite comfortable with the in-the-registry Public Access version of the 20/20 system, expressed widespread dissatisfaction with the web version.  The single biggest complaint was that the web version did not have the functionality of the in-house version.  The request was that we make the website more like the in-house search system. 

While I found the web version to be both useful and functional, I also agreed that it would be even better if it could work more like the in-house search system.  Also, after fielding hundreds of calls and emails from infrequent users of the website, it was clear to me that a major obstacle for novice users was the number of data fields presented on the initial search screen.  To many novice users, blank data fields impliedly required data and so they tended to overpopulate their search queries which often eliminated the entries they sought. 

In early 2007, registry representatives met with ACS to discuss a new version of masslandrecords, we asked for two things: (1) to make the web version work more like the in-house 20/20 search system; and (2) to make the initial screen confronting users with a very limited number of fields - just first and last name for instance - in a kind of "basic search" function that would not lead astray novice users, but to provide easily accessible "advance search" features for regular users.

Unfortunately, it took more than two years for the "new" version of masslandrecords to be made available to us and when it finally did become available, its speed of performance was horrendous.  The speed problem took a while to sort out but it was solved and based on months of regular use by me and the other registry employees who have been using it, the speed of the "new" version matches or exceeds the "old" version.

The long delay in fielding the new version had another consequence: the same registry users who had so vehemently complained about the old system when it first came out had, through long usage of it, grown quite fond of it and forgot why they had asked for it to be changed in the first place.

I anxiously await January 1, 2012, the date the "old" version of the system goes away for good.  In my sixteen years here at the registry I have learned that when our customers are given a choice between the familiar and the new the familiar always wins.  But I've also learned that as soon as the "new" becomes the only option, it rapidly becomes familiar as well and the angst and anxiety fade away.  In the meantime, we'll do our best to ease the transition by offering explanations of how the new version works and answering specific questions that arise. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The speed and performance issues have not been solved. It was horrendous before. Not it is just poor. As much as you look forward to the January 1 date, I dread it. I just can't afford the dramitic loss of productivity.