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TOPIC: webtrees usability issues from a wannabe convert

webtrees usability issues from a wannabe convert 7 years 7 months ago #1

  • hab
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I'm testing converting my relatively new PGV site from PGV 4.3.0 svn to webtrees 1.1.1 and have run into a couple of roadblocks.

Overall, I like the webtrees tech philosophy - streamlining the technology and jettisoning a lot of out-of-date baggage. I'm therefore optimistic it will continue to improve at a far faster pace than PGV, so would prefer to switch to it early.

I'm glad to say the transfer was incredibly easy. I really like a lot of what I see - especially the much improved speed!

However, there are some usability issues - I'm wondering if I may not have configured the site properly or perhaps have some file permission problems. There are a few bugs or feature omissions that seem quite surprising - enough to be a show-stopper for me - and I'm surprised I haven't read about them in this forum (so maybe it's just me!).

Does anyone else experience the same behavior with their installation? I've listed the show-stopper bugs (features?) below. In addition, I've listed a bunch of usability issues that I've observed. I don't know if any of these are changeable in the configuration - but I sure don't see where.

Again, I really like most of what I see in webtrees. I'm only listing the problems here - the good things would be a much longer list :-)

Thanks in advance for your help.

Bugs (features?)
I'm pretty sure I do have emails working correctly. However, some key mails are not being issued:
  1. in PGV, a user receives an e-mail after the administrator approves the account. That doesn't seem to be the case with webtrees. Is there something in the configuration that I need to change?

  2. in PGV, the admin receives an e-mail alert when a member makes an edit to some information. I (the admin) don't seem to be getting an e-mail alert in webtrees. Again, is there some configuration setting I'm missing? The only thing I've seen in these forums - that I should put "Recent changes" block on my home page - is not a good enough answer imo. webtrees shouldn't only be for site addicts ;-) Why remove this very handy feature from it's PGV heritage? It's not as though it speeds anything up or streamlines the software. Pretty simple to trigger an email alert.

Usability issues (no show-stoppers, but each one incrementally lowers the quality of the experience)
  1. why is there a limit to the number of characters in the welcome message of 255? It certainly gives me less flexibility for choice of welcome message. I'm sure there's a reason; I would be interested in knowing what it is.

  2. when someone signs up, why send two e-mails to that individual? To me, it seems unnecessarily confusing. I realize that the two e-mails are different - that one is for registration and the other is an alert that tells the new user what was sent to the administrator. Nevertheless, they're close enough that I think my largely middle-aged and older cousins will be confused by this. Besides, the new user would already have been alerted to the e-mail sent to the administrator by the Browser message that shows on the website when registering. Is there any way to turn off the unnecessary email? Or at least change the copy?

  3. similarly, once the new member has verified his e-mail address, the new member not only gets a message on screen that the administrator has been alerted but he also gets an e-mail saying essentially the same thing. Can I turn this e-mail off?

  4. when approving a new user, PGV "punches through" to a particular user after the administrator clicks on the hyperlink in the e-mail and then signs in. In webtrees, the site merely opens to the user admin page - I then need to do a search for that user. Is there a way to immediately "punch through" to that user? Alternatively, is there a way to set the number of names showing on the page to a different default than 10? 50 would be a good start.

  5. in PGV, when connecting a new member to their individual record in the User Admin page, it's easy to do a search right on that page. That doesn't seem to be the case for webtrees. In fact, webtrees even seems to accept nonsensical information in the "individual record" field. Is there an easy way to link the user with their individual record that I'm missing? This one's almost a show-stopper.

  6. When setting up webtrees to use my Google Apps SMTP server, some (or all?) of the e-mails were sent with the name "1" for the Admin. I use the same setting that works successfully in PGV. Has anyone else come across this? This problem disappears when I use PHP Mailer. In both cases, all emails do get sent - the only issue is that with SMTP, it comes from an odd person named "1" ;-)
Last Edit: 6 years 6 months ago by kiwi.
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Re: webtrees usability issues from a wannabe convert 7 years 7 months ago #2

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hab?
You are laboring under some misconfigurations and misunderstandings. I'll try to address each, but briefly so as I think you need to play with the software a bit more. There are NO 'show-stoppers' in webtrees as the entire development team and nearly every new admin/user are previous PGV-devotees.
in PGV, a user receives an e-mail after the administrator approves the account. That doesn't seem to be the case with webtrees. Is there something in the configuration that I need to change?
Yes, they should. There is no change (other than better formatting) in the registration process.
in PGV, the admin receives an e-mail alert when a member makes an edit to some information. I (the admin) don't seem to be getting an e-mail alert in webtrees.
There is no change in the operations of this function. To be notified that there are changes needing approval, the pending changes block should be added to the home page. Then, every 24 hours, you'll be notified when someone 'hits' the page.
why is there a limit to the number of characters in the welcome message of 255? It certainly gives me less flexibility for choice of welcome message.
Greg established this limit when setting up webtrees. I, like you, used a much longer format, but as suggested elsewhere, a link to the FAQ pages (where this information really belongs) and/or to an HTML/PHP page with more explanations is accommodated and suggested, should you need more customization. I no longer find it to be the annoyance I did when I first converted and I'm confident that you will find the other solutions equally acceptable.
when someone signs up, why send two e-mails to that individual?
Two emails? They should receive only a confirmation that their registration has been successfully completed, and requests that they perform a verification of their email. This IS necessary to avoid bots or whimsical applicants. As the admin, you receive two emails, one advising you that someone has registered, and then a second when the user verifies their registration (and email address). This is by design and they do not contain the same content, nor serve the same purpose.
when approving a new user, PGV "punches through" to a particular user after the administrator clicks on the hyperlink in the e-mail and then signs in
if this was a 'feature', I am surprised and never noticed. However, it is not relevant. The entire administration process, including user management, has been substantially redesigned with many terrific improvements. Finding a new user is easy-peasy (shown on another recent thread with "how do I approve"). Not only is there a find (filter) option, but each column is sortable with a click of the heading. Click the DATE REGISTERED column (maybe a 2nd click to reverse the date order) and your new user will likely be the first listed.
in PGV, when connecting a new member to their individual record in the User Admin page, it's easy to do a search right on that page.
See our post from earlier today on this issue. It is something we're working on.

I can't speak on your email setup as I don't understand how you have it configured. We use the php mail function.
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Re: webtrees usability issues from a wannabe convert 7 years 7 months ago #3

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Thanks ToyGuy. I guess beauty and show-stoppers are in the eye of the beholder ;-)

As I mentioned, this post was merely a focus on the negatives, not the great many positives of webtrees. So here's my blanket advance apology for stepping on any toes, but I really do like what you all have done :-) FWIW, I've "played" with the software a ton. These questions follow days of play and testing (and I'm pretty experienced in tech). Also, I don't post questions without first doing a search of a forum. Looks like I may have missed one entry but as you know, a lot depends on how a search is worded.

The big issue for me is the email flow. Perhaps someone might have an idea where the problem might be coming from? For clarity, here's the flow:

User signs up for an account
  • OK: email 1 from Admin to user: Hello test ...A request was received at ..... to create an account.....
  • Not OK: email 2 from Admin to user: You sent the following message to a webtrees user: HAB. Hello Administrator ...This one's an unnecessary email, imo, and can/will confuse people. Not horrible since it's not actionable, but a bit, ummmm, bizarre. Sorry if I'm stepping on avid developers toes.
  • OK: email 1 to Admin from User: The following message has been sent to your webtrees user account from test. Hello Administrator ...

User confirms his account
  • Not OK: email 3 from Admin to User: You sent the following message to a webtrees user: HAB. Hello Administrator ...User test has confirmed their request for an account. ... This one's unnecessary since the user will already have seen a message on screen seconds earlier essentially saying the same thing. Again, it's not horrible since it's not actionable, but a bit bizarre.
  • OK: email 2 to admin: The following message has been sent to your webtrees user account from test. Hello Administrator ...User test has confirmed their request for an account..
Admin authorizes User
  • Not OK: no email to user. This one just doesn't make sense and is the biggest issue. I must have something misconfigured.
User submits an edit
  • Not great: No immediate email to Admin. You've answered this one but I'm still a little puzzled by the technical choice (but I don't think PGV was any better). I haven't waited 24 hours to see if an email pops out so I can't tell, but why would webtrees not trigger an email immediately? Is there a technical reason? A usability reason?
Last Edit: 7 years 7 months ago by hab.
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Re: webtrees usability issues from a wannabe convert 7 years 7 months ago #4

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HAB

Don't worry too much about treading on any toes. We'll soon tell you if it hurts. :-)) Its actually really refreshing to have some one do such a thorough review from their own perspective. At least you've taken the trouble to get to know the product first, which is a real bonus for us.

The two "Not OK" emails you mention are both: "You sent the following message to a webtrees user: HAB....". That is generated in the file /includes/authentication.php. As I recall it was added after a number of people specifically asked to be sent copies of mails that the system was sending on their behalf. I'm not saying it was necessarily a good idea, or that its correctly implemented, but that's where it came from.
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Re: webtrees usability issues from a wannabe convert 7 years 7 months ago #5

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I haven't waited 24 hours to see if an email pops out so I can't tell, but why would webtrees not trigger an email immediately? Is there a technical reason? A usability reason?
Yes, the reason webtrees doesn't send an immediate email is that often a user will make many edit/add/delete actions. We don't want, I'm sure you would agree, dozens of consecutive emails. I'm not 100% sure Stephen is right about 24 hours though. I think its more frequent than that, and triggered by visits to the Home page, rather than any specific time - but I might be wrong on this.
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Re: webtrees usability issues from a wannabe convert 7 years 7 months ago #6

  • hab
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@kiwi
As I recall it was added after a number of people specifically asked to be sent copies of mails that the system was sending on their behalf.
Ahhh...the law of unintended consequences. Here's a vote for eliminating them in case you're keeping tabs. These emails would only make sense if you weren't already refreshing to a screen that essentially said the same thing in the user's browser. As it stands, they're more confusing than helpful, imo.

I would personally delete the relevant code in /includes/authentication.php for my installation, but I would probably forget that I did that on the next upgrade and overwrite it. Then I would undoubtedly take someone's name in vain ;-)

The bigger issue is still the lack of an email to the user that should be triggered by the admin's approval. Is it also just a temporary growing pain with in-line editing?
Last Edit: 7 years 7 months ago by hab.
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Re: webtrees usability issues from a wannabe convert 7 years 7 months ago #7

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@kiwi
often a user will make many edit/add/delete actions. We don't want, I'm sure you would agree, dozens of consecutive emails.
Ahhhh....now I see. Makes sense :)
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Re: webtrees usability issues from a wannabe convert 7 years 7 months ago #8

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Is it also just a temporary growing pain with in-line editing?
No, nothing to do with it. Can't give you an immediate answer though I'm afraid. I actually thought they did get such a message.
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Re: webtrees usability issues from a wannabe convert 7 years 7 months ago #9

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The more I think about, the more I recall....

I'm not sure quite when (it might even have been a long time ago on PGV) but it was decided that the final confirmation was best left for the admin to do manually. That allows a couple of important things to happen (this is certainly what I've always done):

1 - Personalise the welcome into the 'membership of the site".

2 - Explain exactly what level of access has been given (visitor, editor, moderator, manager, etc) and why; and whether "auto-accept changes has been allowed, and how to proceed if it hasn't.

3 - Point to any FAQs that admin has on the site, and any guidelines there might be for best-practice in data entry (site specific).
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Re: webtrees usability issues from a wannabe convert 7 years 7 months ago #10

  • hab
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That may have been true in the old days (pre last month), but PGV currently has a different flow (better imo).
  • It includes the ones I call "OK" up above.
  • It doesn't include the ones I call "Not OK".
  • After the Admin approves the user, an automated email is immediately triggered to the user as follows:
The following message has been sent to your XXXX user account from HAB: The administrator at the PhpGedView site XXX.com/family-tree has approved your application for an account. You may now login by accessing the following link: XXX.com/family-tree
Last Edit: 7 years 7 months ago by hab.
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Re: webtrees usability issues from a wannabe convert 7 years 7 months ago #11

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Hi,

I am not an expert but two days ago I requested an account on Louis' webtrees website. I must say the emails confused me a little. Not very long but at first, yes, it was confusing.

I received the first one to confirm my demand and click on the link. That one was ok with me.

The two following others did surprised me. I thought "Why do I receive those emails ?" Just telling me that Louis received an email about my request for new account, and second, that Louis received an email telling him that I clicked on the link to confirm.

Then I waited ... nothing else. Never received any confirmation that my account was approuved or anything else. I had to ask Louis on the forum to confirm my account. He answered me on the forum that he did.

So, I am sorry to say but I agree with hab.
Last Edit: 7 years 7 months ago by Jackie.
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Re: webtrees usability issues from a wannabe convert 7 years 7 months ago #12

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So I take that you both think my points:
1 - Personalise the welcome into the 'membership of the site".

2 - Explain exactly what level of access has been given (visitor, editor, moderator, manager, etc) and why; and whether "auto-accept changes has been allowed, and how to proceed if it hasn't.

3 - Point to any FAQs that admin has on the site, and any guidelines there might be for best-practice in data entry (site specific).
are not important for an admin to do? To me they are vital, and I will not allow any user access to the site until they understand these things. No automated response can adequately cover these.

In my view Jackie, the problem you describe is not a system one, it is an administrator who failed to communicate with his new user.
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Re: webtrees usability issues from a wannabe convert 7 years 7 months ago #13

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Hi Nigel,

I agree with you.

Perhaps I am "too" used to PGV email automatic system. Actually, I did not know as admin I have to send an email to my new user. :-(

I will talk about this on the French forum tomorrow.

Good night.
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Re: webtrees usability issues from a wannabe convert 7 years 7 months ago #14

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Perhaps there has been a change in the email procedure. As I understand it (and worked with Łukasz to refine), this is the defined procedure for webtrees.

1) A visitor decides to apply for an account (of course this only applies to accounts that allow users to apply > some do not).
2) This potential user (visitor) completes the registration form with mandatory fields filled.
3) The system sends an email to the new, potential user to confirm that they had made application. Within this email it should include the verification procedure. One email only to new user. A duplicate version is sent to the site admin to advise you that someone has begun the registration procedure and that you are waiting for email verification.
4) The new, potential user returns to your site via the information contained within the verification email. They LOG IN via the special information provided in that email.
5) The system sends an email to the admin that the new, potential user has completed the entire registration process by verifying their email within the system. A copy is sent to the new, potential user advising them that the site admin has been notified that a new registration is awaiting review and approval or decline. It further advises them that they will next hear from the sys admin about their account.

If the first five steps are not working in this fashion, we'll have to review how it varies from our original design and intentions. I definitely wish to be advised when someone registers as I can assist them with providing information they may not have included within their registration (since few do, despite our specific request). Then, I wait for their verification to confirm that they are serious about attempting to join and I then know its time to visit the admin user management to take some action.
The bigger issue is still the lack of an email to the user that should be triggered by the admin's approval. Is it also just a temporary growing pain with in-line editing?
Definitely not a growing pain issue. However, the action of approval has changed as a result and the approval email mail not be triggered by this as a result of no 'page refresh'. I do not recall a discussion to which Nigel refers as a decision to remove, but personally I have no issue with that idea since I never used it anyway. At this point, I decide to review their application and take action upon it, either declining, requesting additional information or approving the account. Any additional communications should be made by the sys/gedcom admin to either welcome the new user to your site, request additional information (perhaps you need more information about their relationship or lineage to be able to enter them into your site's data) or you decide to advise them that, based on the information provided, you have decided to decline the application.

It is this last admin activity to which Nigel refers. I too think it essential to help build user relationships, reinforce site conventions and policies and to establish communications with the new relate.
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Re: webtrees usability issues from a wannabe convert 7 years 7 months ago #15

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@ToyGuy and @Kiwi

You seem to be saying "if you want to do it right as an admin, do it right". I agree with that. But we have different versions of what's right. For me, it's a balance of effort and benefit.

I'm thrilled that you're all zealots and that you've created this terrific product that I can benefit from. But I'm not a family tree zealot - I'm more of a dabbler, and nowhere near zealot on the continuum. I am, however, a zealot on some other things - let me know if you want wine advice ;-)

So I don't want to quit my day job or lose my other interests to administer my family tree site, once I've completed the setup. If I can merely get my extended family members signing up efficiently without confusing them, that would be a fantastic achievement. A simple "You're approved" would be perfect. I could then encourage them to enhance their information over time if I choose. I want easy and simple, at least until I sip some of the Koolaid you all seem to drink. Or find another relative sufficiently technical and motivated to do the job. Maybe then, I/we could optionally send an additional message to some of the new users after the automated "You're approved" message.

As an aside, if you think that an initial email from the Admin truly makes that much of a difference, or will even be remembered by many, good luck with that! You don't know my cousins (who, last I checked, were part of the tribe of "normal people"). They wouldn't remember what they read in an intro email by the time of their next login. Nor do they read manuals - they're not techies.

If the site's not intuitive to use, they will use it badly - regardless of any detailed "You've been approved" email I might send them or detailed FAQ section I might create.

I wonder how other users of webtrees feel, or if most were even aware that no automated "you're approved" message is sent. It would be interesting to hear - especially since your current users are probably pretty skewed towards zealots than dabblers (since they're early adopters).
Last Edit: 7 years 7 months ago by hab.
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Re: webtrees usability issues from a wannabe convert 7 years 7 months ago #16

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@ToyGuy

You may want to test the process - it's not quite what you describe, at least with my setup.
1) A visitor decides to apply for an account (of course this only applies to accounts that allow users to apply > some do not).
2) This potential user (visitor) completes the registration form with mandatory fields filled.
3) The system sends an email to the new, potential user to confirm that they had made application. Within this email it should include the verification procedure. One email only to new user. A duplicate version is sent to the site admin to advise you that someone has begun the registration procedure and that you are waiting for email verification.
Correct. In addition, a 2nd email is also sent to the visitor. It's a copy of the email that was sent to the admin. This is the one that's confusing and should be eliminated, imo
4) The new, potential user returns to your site via the information contained within the verification email. They LOG IN via the special information provided in that email.
5) The system sends an email to the admin that the new, potential user has completed the entire registration process by verifying their email within the system.
Yep - makes sense so far
A copy is sent to the new, potential user advising them that the site admin has been notified that a new registration is awaiting review and approval or decline. It further advises them that they will next hear from the sys admin about their account.
This is the unnecessary one. The visitor will, only moments before, have seen the same message in their browser - that the Admin has been notified and will look at it soon.

Automated Approval step
And of course, we've talked at length here about the final stage in the process - the absence of the automated email after the Admin's approval (as is done in the current version of PGV).

I hope you choose to make the software useful to users at both ends of the "Dabbler --> Zealot" continuum :-)
Last Edit: 7 years 7 months ago by hab.
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Re: webtrees usability issues from a wannabe convert 7 years 7 months ago #17

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hab wrote:
And of course, we've talked at length here about the absence of the automated email after the Admin's approval. I hope you choose to make the software useful to users at both ends of the "Dabbler --> Zealot" continuum :-)
I think "zealot: is a bit harsh - but certainly "enthusiastic to the point of obsessive" perhaps :-))

I don't know what the other developers will feel (most are asleep right now), but I'm happy with the status quo, as you will have gathered. Thats not to say I would object, but wouldn't be enthused enough to want to make the change myself, and would need a way to turn it off. Thats where it gets a little messy, as we have a strong philosophy of removing rather than adding-to the vast array of configuration options. Yes, I did see your suggestion that users could just ignore it, but as of now they don't have to....

There is, in my view, a simple alternative that needs no change, and really, not that much effort from you. When you go to approve a user on User administration you need to do a few things, whether you want to or not. At the very least change the status to "approved by admin", and it is surely sensible to decide whether to allow the user to edit or not. While you are there, and as soon as you have done, just click the "email" icon against the user, on the same page. Then you can tell them yourself that they are approved.

Of course, for real labour saving, why not just un-check the "Require admin approval" option completely, then they can self-register with NO intervention required by you.
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Re: webtrees usability issues from a wannabe convert 7 years 7 months ago #18

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You are fast! I'm trying to get to bed too :-)

Yes, I already do all the things you suggest. And I like to do it quickly when someone signs up and is enthusiastic. So I'm often doing this on an iPhone.
  1. I'm not prepared to let just anyone sign up - it's just for family. So I do need to approve them. Simple - I check a box.
  2. I do want all family members to be able to add/edit info, so I do change their status to editor. Simple - a pulldown menu
  3. I don't trust that they'll make edits in an error-free way, so I want to review them. Also, I especially want to ensure that a cousin doesn't inadvertently (or deliberately) delete information. So I ensure they require Admin approval. Easy.
  4. I do want to connect each user to their individual record. This is currently slower than in PGV - enough of a pain that I may not bother (especially on an iPhone) - but I could live with it and hope that you'll improve it over time.
  5. I guess I'll need to add to this a very brief "you're approved" email (arghhh). Especially a pain on an iPhone.
So which is harsher..."Zealot", or "Obsessive". Such a tough call :-)
Last Edit: 7 years 7 months ago by hab.
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Re: webtrees usability issues from a wannabe convert 7 years 7 months ago #19

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why is there a limit to the number of characters in the welcome message of 255?

We store this value in a "configuration settings" table in the database. This table/column needs to be indexed. Indexes limit a column to 255 chars.

We're aware of this. We're also aware of requests for "custom login modules". This whole area needs a lot of thought and re-design. However, development time is limited, and there are more important/interesting things to work on....

Meanwhile, there is a simple (ish) workaround. You can include HTML, so add a link to a static page, containing all your terms and conditions.

Also, I've written some code that allows you to set default user settings (that are assigned to new users) and default family tree settings (that are assigned to new family trees). This works quite well for this sort of thing. You set the default access levels once, and new users get them automatically. I didn't get time to finish this (something more important came up), but it is expected "real soon".
Greg Roach - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - fisharebest.webtrees.net
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Re: webtrees usability issues from a wannabe convert 7 years 7 months ago #20

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@hab
Just a quick update. You are absolutely correct that the email notification system is not working as designed, and further that the new user registrant is receiving unintended emails that were to be directed to the admin and not the user. We'll look into this.
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