It’s often the most neglected page on your website; if you even have this page. However, if you do, it is very likely among the most visited pages. I may be dating myself, but it is the Rodney Dangerfield of web pages. It gets no respect. Do you have an “about us” page? Is it performing at the level it should be?
As brands, we should want people to like us, to share our values, to feel validated by doing business with us. How are we supposed to get them to do this if we don’t connect to them on a human level in a “human voice”?
The worst crime is having no page or, as may be the classic case of dehumanization in history, the new Huffington Post about us page, post the AOL acquisition. Yes, it is blank. Great job for a bunch of writers.
The purpose of the about us page is to break down the facade of anonymity of the web and of corporations. The visitor who clicks on that page is giving you their permission to share with them all about your company, in the spirit of transparency and with an authentic voice that allows you to share all that makes you the business you are.
What is a good about us page like? Below are some guidelines, but first check out the Zappos about us page:
1. They tell you who they are, not what they do. In fact, what you can do for customers and why they should care is messaging that most of the rest of your website should convey.
So take it easy on the sales pitch and give us you and your company’s story. Show us your passion. Can you tell what passion Zappos has?
2. Behind every business there are real people – highlight them! Zappos does this in so many ways on its about us page. In Stanford’s Persuasive Technology Lab web credibility research project by my friend BJ Fogg, they share 10 guidelines for building the credibility of a website. These guidelines are based on three years of research that included over 4,500 people. I want to point out three of the 10:
- Show that there’s a real organization behind your site.
- Highlight the expertise in your organization.
- Show that honest and trustworthy people stand behind your site.
Did you forget to feature the people behind your business on your about us page? Just compare this page without the staff behind it to this page with the staff. Which one do you want to do business with?
3. Culture, values, and personality matter to people! Don’t come up short with flaccid copy. The vast majority of about us pages are simply boring, stiff, and tightly clenched pages. Companies love to have fun and show off their creativity in their advertising, but it seems the second you get them in front of a CMS, they lose their personality. This is a great page to feature video of your team.
Check out examples of featuring videos from the CEOs from large corporations such as ING Direct to medium-sized businesses like Spence Diamonds. If you were in the market for a diamond, wouldn’t you want to buy one from Sean Jones?
How do you choose the voice of your about us page? Here are some more ideas:
- What is the overall emotional stance that your company has towards its industry/market?
- If your company were an actual person, who would it be?
- Is there a favorite quote you or the people in your company have?
- Is there one particular moment in the life of your company that would capture its essence in a nutshell?
- Do certain words or phrases keep popping up in your daily conversations, your salespeople’s sales calls, your blog posts, etc.
- Use the verbiage your customers use. Mine your live chat logs, emails, customer service calls, in site search, and especially customer product reviews if you have them.
- As an exercise, do a “25 Random Things About Our Company.” Then pull out the nuggets and insert them into your about us page. Or leave the whole list as a link or tab from your about us page.
- Make sure your voice on the about us page is consistent with the rest of the site. Yes, you can afford to be a little more conversational and personal/passionate, but the overall writing style should be relatively consistent.
4. Size doesn’t matter to everyone. Don’t exaggerate your size to fake credibility. Jason Fried, CEO of 37signals (which has a fabulous about us page), explains why people should avoid exaggerating size.
- Many people like new.
- Many people prefer to work with smaller, garage-type companies.
- New companies can be poised and extremely flexible.
- Smaller companies can be more intimate.
- Smaller companies can be more innovative.
- Most smaller or newer companies are designed to fill in gaps or weaknesses of bigger competitors, giving their customers an advantage.
5. Some cool stuff you can add to your about us. I’ve enjoyed exploring timelines of companies in their about us page or section. You can see 37signals’ timeline or check out the one from the McDonald’s website .
Tumblr is about sharing content with people, and one of the first things it does on its about us page is share the Tumblr blogs from its management team.
This is a social networking nirvana. This is often where your visitors want to get a sense of the people behind your team. Highlight key clients they may have worked with, trade organizations, publications, or events they have contributed to. Companies like The Brooks Group allow you to see their team members’ email addresses, phone numbers, and even invite you to connect to them on LinkedIn. If your team members have authored books, whitepapers, or a blog, a Twitter account, or a Facebook page, feel free to share them here too.
Is there anything else you would like to know about “about us” pages, but might have been afraid to ask? Feel free to share your favorite about us page in the comments below.
Bryan is off today. This column was originally published on July 1, 2011 on ClickZ.