Importance of “about us”

October 1, 2008

One of the necessary sections of any website is the “about us” page. It should provide your visitors with a brief snapshot of what your organization does and then provide links to further information such as executive profiles, frequently asked questions and history. I found it interesting to read the latest report from website usability guru Jakob Nielsen on “about us” information.

Nielsen found that the usability (i.e. how easy it is for visitors to find and use information on the Web) rating on the “about us” sections of company, government and nonprofit websites has improved over the past five years but that organizations still find it difficult to briefly and clearly describe what they do in one paragraph.

The other interesting finding is that users had more success finding the “about us” section on websites and retrieving information about the organization but their overall satisfaction with content decreased. The reason for this? People are demanding more from this section of a company website.

The report’s description of one company’s “about us” paragraph is particularly striking:

Summary statements often degenerate into worthless mission statements with feel-good verbiage and no specifics. One site had the following bold-faced summary at the top of its About Us page: “X Corporation provides highly specialized services to businesses of all types throughout North America.” Aside from giving the company’s geographical focus, this content-free statement was useless and prompted one test user to remark, “I still don’t know what they do.”

I read numerous company websites. I use the Web for research when I begin work in a sector I’m not as familiar with or to investigate what a client’s competition is up to. Upon reflection, I agree that my expectation for the “about us” section has increased. I’m frustrated when I can’t find out how long a company has been in business, who the principals are and a succinct blurb about what that company or nonprofit does. It makes me wonder what they’re trying to hide. I attribute this attitude to the increased demand for transparency born out of the Internet information age.

This report is especially relevant to nonprofits. Make it easy for potential donors to find the basics on your site and make the links for them to delve deeper available. They are looking to this section as a way to evaluate your organization’s credibility.

If you’re about to revamp your website or are interested in how people use the Web, subscribing to Jakob Nielsen’s Usability Alertbox is a must. Another great resource is Steve Krug’s book, “Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability.”

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