28 June 2011

A Disappointing Day with BillionGraves.com

     Last week BillionGraves.com announced the availability of their app for Android phones. My mom had just gotten a Samsung Galaxy Epic G4, so I quickly downloaded the app (my phone is an un-supported generic smart phone). We planned to go out to my paternal grandparents graves today and try out the app - but we shouldn't have bothered.

     According to the email sent out by BillionGraves, the new Android app "has all the essentials." Their blog post boasted the same, as well as a list of phones the app would work on (mom's was included).

     Before going out to this cemetery, I checked the website to see if it was listed. It wasn't, but that's ok, because, according to the FAQs, I could add the cemetery from the app once I was there. Sounds great!

     Except it wasn't. We arrived at the cemetery with my mom's phone, ready to take some photos. I started by attempting to add the cemetery, but couldn't find the function. My mom and I spent at least 20 minutes trying to make the app work. I logged onto BillionGraves.com via my own phone, double checking the instructions for adding cemeteries. Well, there aren't actually any instructions, just a statement saying that it's possible to do so. At the same time, the FAQ also states that an Adroid app isn't available. Obviously, these haven't been updated in a while.

     I sent a tweet out about my problems and relatively quickly received this one in reply:
@ValerieC84 The functionality to add a new cemetery from an #Android device will be in the next update of the app. #genealogy
@ValerieC84 The Android can't add cemeteries yet, but you can take pics, then tell us where the cemetery is and we'll move them in manually.
     Um, what?! There had been no mention of this limitation in any of their online FAQs or announcements. Honestly at this point I was extremely angry.  I'd wasted a lot of time, as well as my mom's, trying to do something that it wasn't possible to do. Instead, they are recommending that I upload photos to the wrong cemetery, which they will adjust. How does that make sense?

     BillionGraves needs to immediately update their FAQs and possibly write a blog post announcing these restrictions. They should have included a notice in their app about the limitation as well. I'm just glad I only wasted an hour of my day and didn't decide to test out this new app on a road trip.

     UPDATE, 6/30/11 5PM: See a response from BillionGraves.com in the comments. They have now updated their FAQ to specify that cemeteries cannot be created via the Android app.


Kristy Stewart said...

I'm sorry I missed those updates on the FAQ. I added a user guide for the Android app (which is linked to the FAQ), but I didn't update the rest of the text. I've made the changes now, and they should be available on the live site as soon as we can run an update. Again, I apologize.

I also apologize that the app did not work the way you expected it to on the first run. We expect the update that includes adding cemeteries to be available very soon (hopefully in a matter of days). We released it without that function because demand was so high, and the app had the essentials so we released it as a free app.

We consider the "essential functions" to mean taking the photos with a GPS location attached. Everything else, like cemetery name and location, can quickly be adapted outside of the app, but those functions are essential to mobile photo-gathering. Our blog post that announces that it has the essentials also says, "it will find cemeteries that are close to you and you can collect and upload photos..." Those are what we listed as the essential functions. Perhaps it should have been more clear.

I'm sorry you and your mother weren't able to use your hour the way you intended. I'd be happy to let you know personally when the update is available, and I hope you'll consider trying out the app again at that time. If you'd like to use it in the meantime, as we said, we'd be happy to add cemeteries for you manually. We've been doing it since our launch for those who don't have smartphones but want their cemeteries listed, so we're quite used to it and I hope that, until the free Android app is updated, you'll use that option as well.

If you have any more questions or concerns, please email me at kristy.stewart (at) billiongraves.com.

Susan Clark said...

Thanks for the info, Valerie. This was on my list to try next week. Think I'll pass for a bit. You've saved me some time and frustration for which I am MOST grateful!!

Shelley Crawford said...

I had a very similar frustrating experience with it. I hope they get their act together, as I think the site and concept has so much potential.

Ruby Craft said...

I would like to say that while the app didn't work as we expected the support we received was excellent. There is an email function in the app and we were able to email directly from the app and find out fairly quickly that the add a cemetery function was not available on the Android app. Not only did we get a response to our email quickly it actually addressed our issue. They were also following and tweeting with us.

It is just the fact that if we had know in advance that we could not add a cemetery, we would not have made a trip to one we already knew was not available.

While I don't think we'll ask you to manually add any cemeteries at this time, I would like to know when the fully functioning app is ready so we can try it out again.

Kristy I appreciate the way you have worked with us offering solutions and showing concern. I can see that you really want us to give excellent customer service.

Kristy Stewart said...

Ruby - I'm glad the support team was able to respond quickly to your question.

To everyone: The Android app has been updated, and it now includes the Add a Cemetery function and some fixes to make it work better on a few quirky phone models.

If you run into any other issues, let our support team know (support@billiongraves.com). Tell them what type of phone you have and what the issue is and they'll do everything they can to help you. (As a side note, the support team is only in the office 8:00-5:00 Mountain Time, USA. Anything sent after hours will get a response once they're back in the office.)


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