Monday, October 20, 2014

Quest Diagnostics: “About Us” Evaluation by Corporate

Quest Diagnostics is the world’s leading provider of diagnostic testing services. The company works with about half the physicians and hospitals in the U.S., and has operations in the U.K., Mexico, Brazil, Puerto Rico, and India. Headquartered in Madison, N.J., Quest has some 43,000 employees and over $7.5  billion in annual revenue.  It is on the Fortune 500 and the S&P 500, and since 2008 has been on Fortune’s “World’s Most Admired Companies” list. The main About Us page is Our Company.


Products/Services: A
The main About Us page has an attractive photo and four subheads, each with an illustration and a link to further information: Our Products and Services, Facts and Figures, Innovation Center, and Locations around the World. Each of these sub-pages is also well designed; together they convey a strong business history. The Our Products and Services page, for example, has a simple list of the major areas in which Quest offers products, with summaries and links to even more specific information.  Kudos to Quest: it’s surprisingly, regrettably rare to see this sort of logical, hierarchical organization carried out well.

The other pages on the left-hand navigation menu follow through on this promise. Our Brands is a summary of Quest subsidiaries, with the logo of each company and a paragraph about its specialty. The Fact Sheet is also well done, with subheads for Company Overview (a summary of the company, which incidentally should be copied to the main About Us page as well), At a Glance (statistics on Quest’s size and global reach), Recognition (rankings and awards), Products and Services (links to drug screening, clinical trials, etc.), and Global Presence.

Once in a while the navigation gets confusing: on the Innovations page, for example, there’s no left-hand menu to return us to other About Us pages. But overall Quest’s pages are a good example of our Commandment 5 of About Us pages: “Honor thy readers and their attention spans.” The text is short, to the point, easy to read, and well organized in terms of visuals and text.

One cavil: Nowhere in this material can we easily find the founding year. Other web sources cite it as 1967, under the name Metropolitan Pathology Laboratory, Inc. A bit of information on the name change and evolution to Quest Diagnostics might make for good corporate storytelling.

Personality: B
The green-on-white color scheme suggests cleanliness, which is desirable  for a company involved in sticking people with needles. However, we can’t find any information on who runs the company, so as regards personality, we’re left with a rather ... sterile impression.

Accessibility: A
The Contact Us page lists 8 different reasons you might want to contact Quest (find a lab, get test results, leave feedback, etc.), and each has a distinct set of well-though-out options. Well done.

Pay attention to organizing your material hierarchically: visitors to your site are more likely to hang around and to leave happy if they can find the information they want.
Does your Web site’s “About Us” section accurately convey your organization’s history and capabilities? Every two weeks we evaluate one example, grading it in three areas that are key to potential customers: Personality (Who are you?), Products/Services (What can you do for us?), and Accessibility (How can we reach you?). To talk about your About Us page, contact us!
Today’s example was chosen at random; has no ties to this company.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Does your market know what you do?

What does your company do? Easy question, right? But we see so many About Us website pages that don't answer it. Turns out we're not alone. John Ason, a New Jersey-based venture capitalist, finds the same problem from start-ups seeking investment capital. From a September 17 interview with U.S. 1, a weekly newspaper: 

Is this a program that enables
great composers to write music?
Probably not, since it lacks an eraser.
“One of the most important things is to explicitly state what you do," Ason says. "About 40 percent of the summaries I receive do not have that. They have a list of features or benefits or what it enables customers to do.” For example, he says, he recently received a proposal from a company that was making “a program that enables great composers to write music.” For Ason, that was much too vague of a description. “It could be a consultancy, a music notation program, a music generating program, or it could be a pencil.”

You might argue that start-ups don't yet know exactly what they do. Don't argue it to Ason, however, who funds five or six proposals a year from a field of 3,000. And don't spend too much time crafting a business plan. He calls them "long and full of irrelevant information," rejecting them in favor of a one-page executive summary. Just think! If you write a good exec summary, it can double as your website's About Us page. Ason's own website looks as if it hasn't been updated since 2011--at least the blog is that old--but I imagine fund-seekers are beating a path to his door nonetheless.

Bottom line: You've got to be able to do some effective corporate storytelling even before Chapter 1, so to speak, or you won't have a corporate history later on. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Warby Parker: “About Us” Evaluation by Corporate

Warby Parker, a digital start-up headquartered in New York City, was formed in 2010 by four students at the Wharton School who wanted to sell affordable eyeglasses (under $100) and be socially conscious at the same time. The eyewear was initially offered online, with the option of trying five frames at home for five days free of charge. Recently the company opened stand-alone stores in New York and a handful of other cities. Some of the profits are invested in a project called “Buy a Pair, Give a Pair,” which has so far helped make a million pairs of eyeglasses available to poor people in 35 countries. The main About Us page is History.

The Warby Parker site is elegantly simple: easy to navigate and easy to skim, yet meaty enough to keep visitors reading.

Products/Services: A
The History page begins with a story: a problem and how the company’s founders solved it. Bravo! There’s no better way than great corporate storytelling to engage visitors. Then the focus shifts worldwide, to how many visually impaired people lack eyewear and what the economic consequences are. At the foot of the page – by which time visitors are hooked – they’re given the option for pages on the Buy a Pair, Give a Pair project, corporate Culture, or the design and manufacture of Warby Parker frames.

Buy a Pair, Give a Pair explains in simple but persuasive terms the company’s novel way of distributing glasses worldwide: they train locals to give eye exams and sell glasses to their communities. Warby Parker addresses head-on the fact that they don’t just give glasses away to anyone in need. “It’s a sticky fact of life that kind-hearted gestures can have unintended consequences. Donating is often a temporary solution …. It is rarely sustainable.”

How Your Frames Are Made is another well-designed page: succinct text, lots of photos, good organization.

Personality: A
The Warby Parker site has a sense of humor and a lightheartedness that make it a thoroughly enjoyable read. (Monocles: yes! Bagpipes: no!) The Culture page explains the origins of the company name and gives capsule bios of the founders, restricted to information that is directly related to the founding of Warby Parker... except maybe for the inclusion of each one’s favorite karaoke and happy place, which keeps the whimsical feel going. All in all, the Warby Parker site is a great example of our Commandment 3 of About Us pages: “Reveal thy personality.”

Accessibility: B
The Locations page shows retail stores in the United States, which can be narrowed to a list for each city (with street address and map), and then a page for each store (with hours), and a 360-degree view of the store’s interior. However, the company leadership  seems to be unreachable. Aside from contact information for brick-and-mortar stores, there’s only a Help link that gives email, phone, and LiveChat options, without mentioning any specific people.

Warby Parker’s site reminds us that even a mundane object like eyewear can be presented in a quirky, engaging, yet principled manner. Stick to the subject, but let your personality and your passion shine through. And remember that you don’t have to be old to have a stellar business history.

Does your Web site’s “About Us” section accurately convey your organization’s history and capabilities? Every two weeks we evaluate one example, grading it in three areas that are key to potential customers: Personality (Who are you?), Products/Services (What can you do for us?), and Accessibility (How can we reach you?). To talk about your About Us page, contact us!
Today’s example was chosen at random; has no ties to this company.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Archiving secrets revealed

Good glimpse of what an archivist does in this New York Times article, which profiles Mary Hedge in her daily work at New York's Metropolitan Transit Authority and as she prepares for an exhibit that will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. The exhibit opens on October 30 at the New York Transit Museum in downtown Brooklyn. The 1920s newspaper (image at right, courtesy MTA Bridges & Tunnels Special Archive) was an imaginary depiction that came true when the V-N opened in 1964. 

My favorite part of the piece: The archivist "records oral histories when longtime transit executives approach the end of their service. She interviewed the officers who were on duty in the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel on Sept. 11, 2001, as people fled Manhattan following the terrorist attack, and after Hurricane Sandy she recorded the stories of staff members who were involved in dealing with the storm and cleanup. 'Retirements and disasters,' she said." recently helped recruit an archivist for one of our current clients. She and an assistant did a tremendous amount of work in a single week, bringing box-level order to almost 40 years worth of paper. This material will support other projects in the client's history plan. The client was thrilled and is considering bringing the team back to archive its digital items. It was a good reminder that companies can keep archives under their own roof (no need to pay monthly fees to a warehouse) -- and that even a small investment in archiving pays ongoing dividends. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Stryker Corporation: “About Us” Evaluation by Corporate

In 1941 Dr. Homer Stryker, an orthopedist in Kalamazoo, Michigan, was dissatisfied with medical products that didn’t meet his patients’ needs. So he established a company to manufacture items to his own specifications. He invented the Turning Frame (for repositioning patients who needed to remain immobile), the Cast Cutter, and the Walking Heel. His company became Stryker Corporation in 1964 and went public in 1979. Today Stryker is one of the world’s top medical technology firms, producing implants used in joint replacement, surgical equipment, emergency medical equipment, neurosurgical devices, and more.  Still based in Kalamazoo, Stryker is a Fortune 500 company with 22,000 employees and annual sales of $8.7 billion. The main About Us page is here.


Products/Services: C
The summary on the main About Us page is short and to the point: what field the company is in, what medical technologies it offers, and its global reach. Most of the space on this page is taken up by a link to the 2013 Annual Review. Unlike most annual reviews, this one is heavy on the illustrations and laid out with photos and headlines that do a great job conveying the excitement of Stryker’s cutting-edge work.

The timeline, Company History, is not so impressive. The narrative at the top skips from Dr. Homer Stryker’s interest in creating better medical products straight to Stryker’s current position as a global leader in medical technology. A quick overview of the company’s expansion would be useful here, because it’s impossible to get such an overview from the timeline that follows.

In the timeline, the first 10 or so items are well chosen. But from there, it degenerates into a list of 50-odd acquisitions, milestones, and awards, all presented with equal emphasis. The awards would certainly have more of an impact on a page of their own. Our Commandment 5 of About Us pages is, “Honor thy readers and their attention spans.” We doubt that anyone will ever wade through this timeline—especially because it contains not a single image. And Stryker misses an easy opportunity for corporate storytelling. Why not tell us a little more about the evolution of Stryker from a family business to a publicly held firm, and let us know if any Stryker descendants are still involved?

Personality: D
Not much personality here. The CEO’s biography could apply to any leader of any company, and appears, mysteriously, on a page with the title “Johnson.” Little information is given on the founder of Stryker, although in a stunning example of inessential information, his birthdate begins the company timeline.

Accessibility: C
The Contact Us page offers many different departments, but no names of specific people. As always, this leaves us with the impression that the company doesn’t really want to communicate with us.

If your company is the result of one man’s vision and still runs on that, make sure to feature his goals and values prominently in your About Us pages, and tie the corporate history and current status to it.

Does your Web site’s “About Us” section accurately convey your organization’s history and capabilities? Every two weeks we evaluate one example, grading it in three areas that are key to potential customers: Personality (Who are you?), Products/Services (What can you do for us?), and Accessibility (How can we reach you?). To talk about your About Us page, contact us!
Today’s example was chosen at random; has no ties to this company.