About Us Pages: What Does This Company Do?

“Should I buy this company’s product or service?” “Is this organization reputable?” To answer those questions, you naturally click to the About Us web page. But once there, it is likely that you won’t find useful answers and information.  In his September 29th Alertbox newsletter, usability guru Jakob Nielsen summarizes his About Us page research. In the past five years, users’ ability to find out what the company or organization does has actually dropped from 90% to 81%.

“Companies and organizations still can’t explain what they do in one paragraph,” Nielsen says. As an example he cites this About Us summary: X Corporation provides highly specialized services to businesses of all types throughout North America.  As one tester remarked, “I still don’t know what they do.”

Think Elevator Speech
Why do organizations write what Nielsen terms “marketese and blah-blah text?” One reason is that writing a short concise summary is hard to do. Writing your About Us summary is similar to developing your elevator pitch: how you’d explain your company to a potential client or financial backer who gets on at the 6th floor. In both your elevator speech and your About Us summary, you want to distill your organization’s essence–clearly explain what you sell or do and how it benefits your customers. And you want to do it quickly, before your reader clicks off or your elevator captive flees once the doors open on the ground floor.

Start with Now
Instead of opening with a powerful what-we-do summary, many organizations
default to history. (Founded in 1986. . .  . In 1992, our company . . . .) Your history is useful, but it belongs in a subparagraph or subpage.  First up, your readers want to know what you can do for them right now.

Be Specific and Concrete
Let’s go back to the vague and unhelpful About Us summary that Nielsen cited.  X Corporation provides highly specialized services to businesses of all types. Substitute specific examples for highly specialized services  and actual clients for businesses of all types,  and you’ve got the backbone of a successful About Us: 

X Corporation provides translators in 30 languages to organizations such as IBM, eBay, and Citibank.

Remember That About Us Is About the Reader
Yes, the About Us page is your opportunity to tell readers who you are.  But frame that information as a reader (potential client) benefit.  Here’s a benefits
sentence to add to Corporation X’s About Us: 

Our quick and accurate translations enable you to overcome language barriers and sell your products worldwide.

Combine the two sentences and you’ve got an About Us that tells readers who you are and why that matters to them:

X Corporation provides translators in 30 languages to organizations
such as IBM, eBay and Citibank. Our quick and accurate translations
enable you to overcome language barriers and sell your product
worldwide.

Choose Each Word Carefully
So, you’re almost there. But before you publish your About Us, made sure it uses plain, simple language. Be judicious in your use of superlatives.  (Translators is simple; world’s best translators is marketese.) Use words your readers understand. (Overcome language barriers is clear; transcend marketing obstacles caused by language disparities is obtuse.)

Your Thoughts on About Us Pages
Have you found examples of well-written and helpful About Us pages? Do you have any tips on writing them or suggestions about content?  Please share your examples and thoughts with us!

—Marilynne Rudick (guest blogger)

Comments

How weird. I have a small translation and editing company and today finally started re-writing my web site. I came to your blog today via Luisa Carrada's "Mestiere di Scrivere" blog (Luisa is an Italian business writer). I spent much of this afternoon mulling over my own "About us" page, so was amazed to find this post on my very first visit to your site. Serendipity. PS I do subscribe to Jakob Nielsen's newsletters, but I've been busy recently and they've been piling up in my inbox.

Posted by: Marian D | October 21, 2008 at 06:09:02pm

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