About Pages: Good, Bad, and Missing

John Hyde has uncovered a variety of approaches while researching About Us pages. This post catalogs some of the most notable, eventually exploring why some of the biggest names decide to go "without about."

Users rarely begin their relationship with a company through its About page. More often than not, they learn about us based on what we do, the product or service that we offer. Why, then, should they want to learn more? About pages help users discover who lives behind the websites we create.

Users seek reassurance. In the humblest of ways, they want to check that ours is a real company. That real people are on the other end of that website—with a real address—that can really provide the service that they want. Users want to know that our organization’s values and priorities match theirs. Subconsciously, they’re asking:

  • Who are you?
  • Where are you?
  • What do you do?
  • How are you doing it?
  • When did you start?

A good About page answers these questions directly by providing contact information (including a physical address), displaying photos of real people, and explaining what the organization is currently doing. About pages help users put our heretofore anonymous organization into perspective.

Examples

Speaking of perspective, here are some examples I’ve collected of About pages in the wild:

  1. In Dog We Trust

    The UK animal charity Dogs Trust answers the visitor’s questions well:

    About Dogs Trust

    Dogs Trust About page

    The organization’s name and logo are already powerful clues, but the page spells out what they are: dog welfare charity. It says this twice. Then the well-written mission statement covers their aims and values, and the bullet points give specific details of what they are doing. These include links for anyone who wants additional information.

    Finally, the last paragraph has a clear call–to–action: make a donation today.

  2. Joel on Fog Creek

    Joel Spolsky is a software legend and his Fog Creek Software company looks like a place where top-gun programmers live the dream:

    “What if the programmers were treated like rock stars? …Free lunch for everyone…huge monitors…designer chairs…

    The language here is clever. Even managers (like the Pointy Haired Boss in the Dilbert cartoons) see themselves as the good guys in this battle between technical excellence and corporate bureaucracy.

  3. Kingswood Skis

    People love stories; if you really did make your first–ever hovercraft on the kitchen table out of your dad’s lawn mower then why not tell the world about it?

    Here is a great example from Kingswood Skis:

    About Kingswood Skis

    Kingswood Skis speaks from the heart

    Although it doesn’t say “made with my bare hands,” it’s nearly there:

    “The first press was made from two pieces of rolled steel sandwiched together with car jacks.”

    Notice how the Kingswood page answers the 5 Ws. Heroic stories aren’t just for small companies. Another example comes from UK fashion giant Johnnie Boden:

    After five burglaries, one office dog, nine Christmas quizzes, twelve nights spent in the warehouse…

The missing About

Missing About Pages

Missing about page

Some companies go without—notably, apple.com. But we can all guess what “About Apple” would say. Rather than spoil it, they leave it to our imagination. Their first navigation link is to their store where we can get on and buy something.

Looking through the alphabet of ecommerce sites from Amazon to Zappos very few have an about us page. They all lead with their product categories.

The thought process for these players is:

  1. What is good about our company?
  2. Let’s put #1 everywhere instead of having an About Us page.

Kingswood Skis has an About page, but none of the bigger international ski brands do. They don’t sell direct to the public and they want to push their products – not themselves.

The faulty About

About Blah-blah

Corporate babble

This page has combed its hair and polished its shoes but has nothing to say. It’s a corporate version of Lorem Ipsum text. Tweak just 6 words and it could fit any organization on the planet.

Some facts would rescue this page:

  • How many tech staff?
  • How many data centers?
  • Were they first to do anything?

 

You know that any page is going wrong when it has more superlatives (“best,” “exceptional,” “innovative”) than facts.

This page is an extreme version of what you find on most small business websites. Pay attention at the back: you could be doing one of these tomorrow.

About face

Ready to face there world? Here are some tips to get you going:

About checklist

  • Answer the 5 Ws (who, what, when, where, how).
  • Remember who you are writing for. You’re befriending one customer at a time, not humanity in general.
  • Fight apathy. About pages need to reassure visitors and give them a reason to get on with it.

Blenkinsop Partners always checks the recent tax returns of new clients. In 2009 we got an average tax refund of £ 1,134 for new clients.

We open late every Thursday for new clients. Call 01234 567 890 and make an appointment.

More examples

Know of an outrageous About page? Or perhaps you’ve recently updated your own? Post a link in the comments! And no bad ones, please; they really are everywhere. Tell us what makes your example unique.

Further reading

About the Author

John Hyde

John Hyde works closely with clients to get better results. He uses analytics, A/B split testing, and usability to improve - and improve again. Check his own about Site Doublers page.

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30 Comments

  • Scott Reply

    For a pretty deep descrition including a four-decade history of the company and explanation of their other brands check out http://www.mastergrinding.com. I think they did a pretty nice job.

  • Scott Corgan Reply

    Well I do know this, if you ever use stock photography on your about page, that means your company is most likely far from legit…

    • Perplexed user of stock photography Reply

      What absolute tosh! Many *legitimate* small to medium businesses couldn’t possibly afford a photo shoot and rely on the excellent stock resources available.

      Or do you have an axe to grind here?

  • Kennyd Reply

    MASERGYs about-page hmm no good.

  • Ryan Reply

    Nothing in this post is wrong, but I’m a little surprised that the author couldn’t find better examples. There are some really witty, humorous and well designed about pages out there that are actually engaging. How can a giant wall of text and bullet points ever deliver a great experience?

  • Jogos Gratis Reply

    It’s very tricky when writing the about us page. when I’m interested in a company’s service I always read their about us to get a better feeling about them.
    When I can’t find the about us page I think the company is concerned of talk about themselves or they are not serious about their business.

  • Jordan Walker Reply

    That pretty well sums up the About page. Those are excellent recommendations for anyone who is looking to improve their website.

  • bractus Reply

    I was reading somewhere for SEO reason instead of saying ‘About us’ we should say ‘About mycompany’!
    Just want to share.

    • Josh Reply

      I agree. “About Us” is not a descriptive phrase to a search engine. It follows along with the old “Click Here” link. You used to be able to google “Click Here” and get 100′s of thousands of results.

    • Katie Reply

      I’d go with something even more specific like ‘About the _insert company name here__ team’. Just using ‘My’ probably won’t give you much if any SEO benefit.

  • Robyn Reply

    As a web designer I always ask my clients to compare their website to its physical counterpart? What sort of impression would they like to make, that’s how they should set up their About page. As for ourselves, my partner and I opted for a one-minute video introduction. We mixed real photos of ourselves + voice-over in iMovie. We’ve had very positive feedback.

  • Katie Reply

    Great idea for a post! This post would have come in handy about 6 mos. ago when we went through our redesign.

    One thing we wrestled with was whether to have people write their bio in first or third person. We ended up choosing first person because let’s face it, we all write our own bios in most cases, and it just seemed more personal and honest that way. Here’s mine for example: http://www.newfangled.com/katies_blog

    Another fave I’ve come across is Clear Left’s bio page (http://clearleft.com/is/)

  • Hari Hoedojo Reply

    This article is sweet. My company is about to change their website, this article kind of gave us a bit of light :D. Thank you

  • Best Gadgets Deals Reply

    My blog use About Us in my blog to.. I think about pages good for profesional blog

    • Pete Morley Reply

      Toni, having taken a quick look at your blog I’d offer a little constructive criticism (if you want it :) )

      I’d leave out the fact that you had a couple of failed websites, nobody needs to know that and I’m sure we’ve all had one or two. Personally, as a visitor to to your website, I want to know more about this program against global warming that you’ve touched upon and your day job as a farmer. I see these as unique selling points for yourself.

  • aditia Reply

    good post, it’ll useful for professional business use, or problogger, and one day i’ll come to that phase

  • Rob Reply

    Haha, i like the idea of a reward for a missing page, that’s great!

  • Lisa Reply

    I tend to think about the following when designing About pages:

    The text should be informative without being too formal.

    There shouldn’t be too much text. Bullet points and short sentences and designing for skim reading help to keep the user’s attention.

    It should have ‘personality’, after all we all want to do business with other ‘people’.

    Include a photo to increase trust.

    Include links to Facebook/Twitter/Blog, etc to increase ‘social proof’.

    Can be a good place to add a testimonial to show how fabulous you are to work with ;)

  • John Reply

    I see a lot of about us pages that talk about “we” they rabble on to try and give the impression that its quite a decent sized company, often its just one person, ive checked so called companies before, simply checking out the address to see that there is no business address, just operating from a 3 bedroom house.

    A lot of what is written in an about page is made up and exagerated, and sometimes better off missing.

  • Zhu Reply

    About me pages are very important. From my blog stats, I noticed it was one of the most seen pages. And that was after a little make-over!

  • JustynaM_etc Reply

    AmoebaCorp has a FANTASTIC About page, although technically its a “Profile” page. But it really lets you meet the team and gives you a better sense of who they are as an organization.

  • Michael Reply

    Hmmm. I don’t even have an “About” page on my site. Guess I should get on that…

  • Jambaroo Reply

    I have an extended about us page, my niche is British made children’s clothes so i think its really important to expand on that as a theme. I’m also starting a brand from scratch so feel its important customer can relate.

  • Leanne Reed Reply

    I agree with the 5 W’s theory, as long as it does not come across as a laundry list of items. It is so annoying when you go to an About page and you see a laundry list of company logos and nothing that relates to what they did or how they improved the business. Anyone can grab reputable industry leaders logo and slap it on their site.

    One thing that most about pages are missing is their company culture.

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