Image: ‘About Us’ page of The National Audubon Society. The Audubon ‘About Us’ page has 12 helpful sections to help visitors easily find what they want.
Despite various ‘expert’ comments that website use is fading in this era of social media and mobile technology, websites are still a vital source of information. When building or running websites, recent usability studies by the Nielsen Norman Group indicate you engage users best by crafting key information in your About Us pages. This might seem obvious, but many organizations still don’t understand its importance.
Research findings show new visitors to your website are strongly influenced by the About Us page – more strongly than you might expect. After the home page, the About Us page is probably the most important point in a website for a visitor, consistent with the concept of the primacy effect and the recency effect, in which people remember the first and last things best in a list of any items or pages.
Helpful, well-written summaries in key About Us pages will increase perceptions of transparency and trust about your organization.
Site visitors make first-impressions very quickly – and they move on if they feel you are not worth the effort. The lesson is to give a good overview of your organization in these pages – in the summary/intro area of all main pages in addition to the About Us area in the home page.
Visitors need to read highlights they can absorb in a glance. Concise summaries at the top of each main page are appealing because they provide context and reduce the amount of effort required to click through layers of content. Forcing people to work hard turns them off. Vague generic statements, and platitudes and clichés are equally unacceptable for an About Us page.
For instance, the About Us page of billion-dollar pharmaceutical company AbbVie starts with a sweeping single paragraph:
The text continues to give not the slightest hint as to what those health issues may be, what AbbVie actually does, its head office location or development. Only by scrolling down several screen pages do we find that Abbvie was hived off from parent company Abbott in 2013. No background explanation of why that billion-dollar decision was made.
And at the end of the introductory section, they give a three-sentence ‘history’:
Information to include on your ‘About Us’ page
An ‘About Us’ or ‘About [the name of your organization]’ page should give concise summary information (but not just repeating info posted elsewhere in your website). A suitable word count would be around 300-500 words, so readers won’t be overwhelmed by the volume of info. Obviously, if you are a small or medium business, the content on your About us page can be adapted to suit. Overall, the page should represent your organization to strangers – you should put yourselves metaphorically in the shoes of a visitor and offer them a snapshot of your organization. Include where appropriate:
- What your organization does, with a value proposition above the fold (top half of the web page, visible without scrolling down the page)
- organizational vision, mission and goals – with tight descriptions and perhaps links to these topics on separate pages.
- Broad structure, if applicable.
- Names and titles of senior executives – these could highlight relevant skills and experience in providing value to your customers. (To keep the page concise, you may want to provide a link about those key people posted on another page).
- Brief summary of products and operating locations.
- Imagery such as photos of products and the CEO/chairperson/founder or equivalent. Videos are useful here as well. Try to minimize stock photos in this page. Apparently genuine images of operations, employees, products, etc increase page conversions significantly.
- Succinct summary of your most recent financial results or operating performance.
- Short chronology of the organizational history and key milestones – such as how the founder/s were inspired to start the business, obstacles that were overcome, and other info that reveals more human interest elements than would be on other pages.
- Testimonials and positive reviews – you can very briefly quote. They increase sales and trust.
- Up-to-date contact information, especially your telephone number, and email address of a live person or job title. It looks evasive when these details aren’t shown.
- Your organizational ethics policy. If that is too long to include in full, provide a sentence or two overview and link to an ethics page.
- Include a call-to-action towards the end of the page, because this can increase conversions significantly.
Don’t use fancy names like Info Center or put the information anywhere except the home page. This only makes it harder for a visitor to access the information they are seeking. The New York Times ‘Company’ page, below, is a good example of this.
An easy-to-find About us page is essential for journalists. If you don’t have a separate area for the media, they will visit your About us page instead, or they will visit it regardless.
Make sure the essential information is accessible on your About us page, especially the contact information. Some large organizations merely give an email address for inquiries. This looks evasive. If your telephone number is not supplied, it gives visitors the impression that you are making it difficult for current and potential customers to speak to a live person and thereby dodging accountability for your products and services. If the organization is in a different time zone, lack of quick contact may become a problem. Government websites are also common offenders.
If your corporate information is hard to find or is out of date, visitors are likely to go to straight to a competitor’s website.
Why not conduct a quick usability check of your website to see how accessible your About us area, or its equivalent, is? Look for the name of your CEO, check your corporate telephone number and email address, and find your organization’s operating philosophy.
Below image: The New York Times About Us [‘Company’] page. The information is spread over a wide area in width and depth. Not clear why the page is designed this way, but it leaves vast open spaces on the page, which don’t appear to be good use of design.