Your About Page Is a Robot

by Erin Kissane

29 Reader Comments

Back to the Article
  1. Good article.

    Althought, in my humble opinion, the about page should not exists in first place. Instead, you should provide – right away, on the front page

    visitors with essential facts about your site, differentiate your organization from others like it, […] and give visitors several reasons for doing whatever it is you want them to do: contact a sales lead, join a campaign, send money, buy a widget.

    If all this is not obvious just by looking at your front page, you are missing the point of doing a Web site.

    For a moment, imagine your Web site to be a real brick-and-mortar store. Would it make sense to require potential customers passing by on the street to go inside, all the way in the back, up to the manager’s office before knowing what your business is all about, why you are unique and why they should do business with you? Of course, not.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  2. Sounds like the about bots could do with reading your Zombie Copy article, Erin. It all boils down to one thing: people visit a website to try and get the information they want, ideally in Plain English (or language of their choice). If you try instead to tell them what you want them to know, they’ll look elsewhere. The internet is not a medium particularly suited for puff-pieces: certainly if I feel I’m reading promotional literature I’ll stop and look elsewhere for the facts. It’s just a shame more people don’t listen to you…

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  3. I really appreciate your aticles.

    You shouldn’t be neglecting your website.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  4. If all this is not obvious just by looking at your front page, you are missing the point of doing a Web site.

    Yes, the home page should clearly identify key areas of the website – but the about page needs to be much more detailed. Compare Dell’s “home page”:http://www.dell.com/ and their “about page”:http://www1.euro.dell.com/content/topics/global.aspx/corp/emea/home . The home page provides gateways to the main areas of the site that visitors are likely to want. The about page gives more detailed background information behind the company – contact details, company history, office locations, etc.

    The home page enables people to buy the services or products of your company – the about page might give them a reason to, eg because you are well-established, local, sponsor their local team, etc.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  5. Very interesting article, Erin. It really gets you thinking more about the content itself and the different types of delivery to take when writing. I’ve always found the About pages the hardest to write effectively, especially when your unfamiliar with your target audience.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  6. My two biggest pet peeves when visiting a web site are an about page that gives me nothing, and contact info that is either useless or buried so far into the site by the time I find it I forgot why I was looking for it (of course the cynical side of me things that is by design).

    I must say I’m a little disappointed with ALA though, this comment page shows up with validation warnings via Tidy.  It’s the first time I’ve seen anything bug the happy little green check mark from this site.  Maybe I don’t visit the comments enough.  The problem seems to be the use of a number as the first character in the name attribute of the a tags.  ‘name’ is depreciated and should be replaced with ‘id’.  The first character to an ‘id’ attribute must be [a-zA-Z].

    The comment preview thing is really cool though.  I’ve never seen that before.

    Keep up the good work.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  7. Very interesting. I like how this ties in with “Zombie Copy” and the grand senselessness that permeates the Web. On that note, I searched (googled) the Web for “Editorial Strategist” (ALAs description of your job) and this is from the very first link (it’s a job posting):


    Editorial Strategist
     
    Mission
    The position of Editorial Strategist will span across marketing, business, and creative platforms.  The Strategist will be responsible for original content and interacting with various teams to develop, schedule, and produce projects through completion.  This person will set a high-level editorial vision, working with multiple internal stakeholders to create content that maps to their strategic objectives and tactical goals.  In addition, the Editorial Strategist will define an appropriate editorial voice to communicate optimally with key product user groups.

    [end quote]

    Is that really what you do?

    Thanks for another interesting read.
    Matt

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  8. Your article remembers me, that I have something to do. Especially for smaller business you can convice and interest visitors for your products with personality. The visitor of websites from larger companies is not intersted in personality. Those visitors wants to see facts.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  9. nice article erin! Have been looking for nice About Us page guidelines. and finally, its here. on beloved ALA! great.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  10. I must say I’m a little disappointed with ALA though, this comment page shows up with validation warnings via Tidy.

    You trust Tidy too much. It misses a lot of errors and shows warnings where it shouldn’t. Try validating with W3C Validator instead; you’ll be surprised.

    The visitor of websites from larger companies is not intersted in personality. Those visitors wants to see facts.

    Why?

    Do you really think Coca Cola, Apple, Levis, BMW, Disney, Hello Kitty, Hollywood, … seduce consumers with cold facts?

    Powerful brands are nothing but clear qualities and traits, in other words distinctive personalities. Marketing is all about making beleive one can acquire those subjective traits.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  11. I suspect the assumption that customers don’t look for personality in the companies (of whatever size) they do business with is one of the worst marketing mistakes anyone could make. One of the primary goals of branding is to make an emotional connection with customers. Whether that’s done through writing, design or other means, establishing a personality is a critial maneuver for most any successful business.

    Different people are going to want different things. Some of your customers might only want facts. Some of your customers will want more personality than others. The difficulty writers and designers alike face is satisfying different kinds of people in one shot. And that’s what you’ve got to do on an About page—satsify those various differents kids of visitors. It’s a big job.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  12. I thought of a way to split up the About-Page in two Divisions: The first one with the given robots, mainly the lawbot which IS mostlikely necessary for companies. Although, you might use some section like ‘general terms and conditions’ for this.
    The other part should be the personal. Include Photos, Biographies, etc. As desired.
    I don’t think that one division could survive without the other one.

    By the way: Same with German cable and telephone companies, in some cases so much the worse.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  13. >The visitor of websites from larger companies is not intersted in personality. Those >visitors wants to see facts.
    >
    >Why?

    You can connect personality with products, but it´s difficult to have the same effect with the company.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  14. I think that it can be extemely effective to brand your company with a personality.

    Think about Google, which (still) holds a tender spot in the hearts of most of Internet users.  Or Volkswagen, which has built an image of quirky quality.  Contrast that with General Motors which has the image of a huge corporation with no character whatsoever.

    Companies which have the intelligence to brand their own image, in addition to their products, have a huge emotional advantage over their competitors—and since people buy on emotion, that has to help their bottom line.

    So I definitely agree, the About Page needs to give more than just a few boring facts… it needs to show some passion too!

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  15. You can connect personality with products, but it´s difficult to have the same effect with the company.

    Yes, some compagnies tend to neglect or fail to connect emotionally with consumers. It’s not part of their business culture, so it’s absent from their marketing efforts. It doesn’t make their clients some kind of consumaris insensibilis.

    In any business relation, psychological aspects are very important. And your Web site is where you have business meetings with your future clients. You need to shake hands, to smile and have a pleasant personnality.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  16. This was one of the more entertaining articles in ALA history.  And many of the entertaining articles have less to offer in the way of practical information (“Oz”:http://www.alistapart.com/articles/oz/ , “Soopa”:http://www.alistapart.com/articles/soopa/ , etc).  Thank you for re-establishing my faith in the existance of a web design community with real culture.

    One of the primary goals of branding is to make an emotional connection with customers. Whether that’s done through writing, design or other means, establishing a personality is a critial maneuver for most any successful business.

    I read this and thought, “Oh, someone’s read Amber’s article”.  Then I got to the end and saw that, no, someone IS Amber.  Dammit.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  17. This was a nice article. I’d like to see Erin submit examples of well done “About Pages.” Seeing the ones that are not so well done is helpful, but goes only half way illustrating/supporting the problem.
    The article text helps give inspiration for what they could be, but real life examples of nicely done pages supports the opinion with illustration.

     

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  18. this was a really fun article

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  19. My about me page needs some serious attenttion and after reading this I am glad to have picked up some knowledge on how to better it, love the Laser gun bit.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  20. Target’s site is an accessibility disaster, but their About page is dead on for their brand: friendly, stylish, and helpful.

    You’d also better accept their cookie; I didn’t and my Firefox browser got caught in a redirection loop.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  21. I write copy for small businesses and find that start-ups are some of the worst offenders when it comes to self-congratulatory, superlative fluff because they are short on verifiable accomplishments.  They try to emulate the big guys (who are also botching the About Us page) and do themselves a disservice.  I’m going to send this link to my clients and link to it in my blog!

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  22. Some time ago in a Fiction Writing course, the directive was given-“Show your audience, don’t tell your audience.”

    This seems to hold true for About page authoring.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  23. To amplify on comment #25, I think a good model for an about page would be the five w’s taught in any good writing class: who, what, where, when, why.  Tell us who you are, what you do, when you started, etc…  Concrete examples of your work or contribution to the world(show not tell) would helpful as well.  And write it from the perspective of someone who doesn’t know anything about your company or industry.  That seems like the most common mistake about use pages make – assuming that the reader knows industry jargon or acronyms.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  24. Stimulating content that suppossed to bring users back to your website is what the Internet should be about. This article elaborates on the essentials to make the Internet more human and I think that’s exaclty what we need.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  25. I appreciate the article’s constructive criticism of ‘about’ pages.  On my blog, I have done minor work on it but have noticed that it’s always in my top 10 of content hits on my site.  With that, I’d really appreciate some examples of some great ‘about’ pages.

    Thanks!
    Doug

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  26. A smart article and will drive me to improve my own site’s homepage. Thanks!

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  27. Intrsting and smart article. I didn’t create my about page yet, thank you.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  28. Nice article. An “About” page is one area where a small business website really has the edge over the bigger guns. With a small staff – or even just one person – you can introduce the people behind the business and really build your credibility. I often go to the About page first to get a feel for the business. It’s not the place for mission statements, however.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  29. I think the About Us section is a good place to put in online demos of your product or web service in video or swf format if you don’t already have any done.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.