Decorative Mask

Would you go masked to a business meeting?

Surely not. But that is effectively what people do when they tell us nothing about themselves in the content of the About or About us page on their site.

I don’t know of any research that explains why so many business people neglect to provide any content about their company or themselves, even when the tab says “About Us”. Is it choice or is it an oversight?

I do know that it is a mistake for us to neglect our About or About Us pages.

Because there is nothing mysterious about why people might want to check out our About or About Us page.

It’s just basic human nature: if we like what we read in a blog post or are interested in a product or service we list, it’s perfectly normal for us to want to find out something about the author or the provider of the product or service.

Which means that if we leave that About page in its raw template form – you know, “This is an example of a WordPress About page…” – of just drop some boring promo material into it, then every time someone clicks on that About or About Us tab there could be a missed opportunity for lead generation or for collaboration possibilities.

And I for one find it very frustrating when, having read an interesting blog post, or having received some sort of proposal in my email, I go to the About or About Us page on the company’s site and find either no relevant content or just a (usually) boring blurb about their products.

Only yesterday I received a pitch, via another site of mine, to look at a service which offered to help me manage my sites. On the About Us page there was a whole screed about the service and the benefits I could expect to gain from using the service. And it was free – what was not to like about that?

A lot actually. Because there was no information on that page about the company or people behind the service.

It may be that there is a legitimate company and good people behind the service, but I was not to know from the About Us page.

So I moved on.

Why do people neglect their About page or do a poor job with it?

There could be a number of reasons for not getting the About page right:

  • They left their site design to a designer, who just got some information about the company’s products and dropped that into the page.
  • They are uncomfortable writing about themselves and singing their own praises, so they put off doing anything about it, sometimes putting it off indefinitely.
  • They are trying to make up their minds whether to write in the first or third person.
  • They don’t actually have a real, duly registered business.

The key to getting the About page right

A quick search online will show there is no shortage of advice available on what to put on an About page. The key to getting it right is to focus on the users.
  • What might they be looking for?
  • What kind and depth of information?
Web development company owner Peter Boag has some good advice, delivered very directly and humorously, in his post Who the hell are you anyway? where he says that “About us pages are the neglected step child of the web design world.”

He lists some questions users will be turning over in their minds as they read our About page:

  • Are you financially stable?
  • Who are the people behind your company?
  • What is the makeup of your organization?
  • What do you do?
  • What’s this company’s culture?
  • What makes you different?
  • Can they back up their claims?
  • What do they stand for (and against)?
  • Are they trustworthy?

And he provides examples, with screenshots, to illustrate how each of these question has been addressed by various firms.

Is there a guide you can use easily?

The best guide I know for any home based entrepreneur who wants an effective About page is the blog post by Ivan Walsh (good friend, no relation) in his post Why Your About Us Page is the Second Most Important Page on Your Site. Although I had read that post ages ago and in fact linked to it in a post here some months ago, I re-read it yesterday and realized I had not really taken in all of Ivan’s good advice on the topic.

Walking the Talk time

So last night and today I gave my About page here a going over. Frankly it wasn’t easy and in fact I don’t feel it’s right yet, but it is more focused before on answering those questions listed by Peter Boag in the post mentioned above and it’s more now like Ivan’s model than it was before. Feedback welcome.

One thing I intend to do soon is to add a video. (Update Feb 10: video now added.)

If you have examples of About pages that work well, your own or others, I trust you will feel free to share the links and tell us why you like the example you are sharing.

Image credit: Decorative Mask, by alantankenghoe, Flickr, Creative Commons

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