Congratulations on your splashy landing page: your snazzy banner, your artsy directives, your mood shots of beautiful happy strangers, but nine times out of ten I’m clicking right on past. If I am a first-time visitor to your site, it is your company’s About page where my “meaningful engagement” really begins—or fails to begin, as the case may be for these and other underwhelming About pages.
As a first time visitor to your company and services, I prefer to start at the very beginning. “A very good place to start,” Maria Von Trapp might say. I want to know who you are. If I already know, I still want to know how you talk about who you are. Even if I am familiar with your company, I like to remind myself of what you do, why you do what you do, and how you talk about why you do what you do. I don’t think I am alone.
Visitors are spending less than a minute on the average site and more than half of them are sticking around for fewer than 15 seconds. Everyone has flashy, funny, compelling intros these days.
I want past all that.
Past being wowed. Past being wooed. I want eye contact. If I can’t establish a trustworthy connection in short order, I’m inclined to turn and go.
Tell me—Who are you? What do you do? Why is it of particular interest to me (your future customer/partner)?
Bottom line—is your About page easy to find? Easy to engage? Does it cut through the noise and get at the heart of what you do?
So, What Makes a Bad About Page?
The problems are more subtle than you might expect. These aren’t jaw-dropping fails or laugh-out-loud mistakes. The companies below seem professional enough in many respects and have a fine grasp of the English language. Everybody seems to be spellchecking and grammar-proofing. You might not even spot the problems at first glance, which is part of the reason why it deserves to be addressed. It is a matter of undermining the importance of your About page, or not connecting to your customers’ needs and wants. Let’s take a look.
Imagine meeting someone at a party, asking them about themselves, and receiving the following reply, “Well, this is my arm, and over here is my leg, and down there is my foot.”
A staff list is not an About page. What is your perceived role in reporting, HuffPo? What is your voice? What is your vantage point on the world? I’d really like to know.
Grain & Mortar
Nice digs, Grain & Mortar. You are creative—got it. You are proud of your space. I can’t fault you for that.
Now what exactly do you do? Do I really have to guess? You… make things? That help your clients…. Lead easier lives? Furniture? Tractors? Glow in the dark headbands? Should I just keep guessing?
When About pages starts to become an afterthought, compelling reasons for visitors to pay attention goes right out the window, as it did for me reading Level 3’s About page. The word “communication” appears 3 times in the first sentence, and a version of “provides” appears twice.
You are a communications provider who provides communications? Sorry to have to be the one to say it, but a little preparation prior to “providing” might go a long way in convincing customers of your grand powers of communication next time around.
Scroll, scroll, scroll. Keep scrolling. Here’s what I call an About page burial.
Stuffed way down at the bottom of this page from Alix Partners, I found the bare bones information to get me started, but before I could locate it, they had already amped up a hyperbole campaign about their work on “matters of high importance.” Great. If you were truly “all about my needs,” you might have thought to take care of the first one—easy to find and trustworthy information.
Who are you? What do you do? The real information is there, but visitors are liable to abandon ship while you are yammering on and on about about how great you are at being great.
If you are going to try and fit a summary of who you are and what you do into one sentence, (which isn’t always advisable), don’t allow your first and only sentence be a poorly constructed one. I am having a hard time following the logic of this sentence, not to mention that it is stiff and filled with jargon.
I think I see what you were shooting for, Hightail, but it took you way too long to get there. You almost had me with the opening thought, but then it all started to fizzle out. Visitors aren’t generally patient enough to wade through multiple paragraphs of broad, artful set up to finally hear the brass tacks of what it is you actually do.
Purple Rock Scissors
About pages that demand a video be watched—like what I found here at Digital creative agency Purple Rock Scissors—run the risk of appearing presumptive, at the very least. I am not necessarily eager for my eyes and ears (as well as the eyes and ears of whoever is in the grocery line with me) to be hijacked for an undetermined amount of time with what I expect will more hype than heart.
In this case, the “About” was nothing more than culture propaganda with a heaping scoop of millennial flair. Get everything in there, gang! Coffee! Transparent dry-erase board! Beer pong! Video games! Pets! Parties! Scooters! And yes, even drones.
Lots of companies treat their About pages as a fractured dumping ground. This is a perfect example.
Instead of going small, they go huge, subdividing everything they do into separate pages, as if more information is always better information, and as if we all have that kind of time. I take special delight in the fact that the set up on the left states that they are interested in “customers, community, vision, values” while the ironic punchline on the right tells a different story of motivation: “5.6 billion in net profits.” Please don’t confuse my delight with my feelings on becoming a customer anytime soon.
Here we expand on that theme. GM expresses their purpose as being, “To earn customers for life.” In my mind, they are saying NOT that they are happy to serve, or how they want to make your life better, only that they are happy about the prospect of being rewarded for it. On top of the fact that the sentiment doesn’t register with me, the About page is full of jargon and an infographic that is dedicated to their accomplishments as opposed to their care for customers.
There’s one word that caught me here, and I just can’t shake it. Disney, far above GM or Wells Fargo, purports to be about positive customer experiences.
They are wrapped up in all things family and children, from theme parks to movies to books to resort vacations. They work in the realm of values communication, and our children are growing up on their stories because a lot of us grew up on their stories.
I’m shocked that in Disney’s mission statement they declare an expressed desire to develop the “most profitable experiences and products in the world.” Why is that so bad, you ask? It’s not troubling because they tell the truth. It’s troubling because it is the truth. How that plays out is up for discussion, but when the commodifying of your customer base makes it into the mission statement, it might be time to rethink the purpose and nature of your enterprise.