Monday, February 14, 2011

“About Us”: Tim Hortons Gets an A Minus

Tim Hortons, founded in 1964 in Hamilton, Ontario, is the largest fast-food restaurant chain in Canada. Its 3,000 locations (now including 500 in the United States) specialize in coffee, baked goods, and homestyle lunches. The company’s main About Us page is here.


Products/Services: A

The main page, The Story of Tim Hortons, is brilliant because it not only tells the story of Tim Hortons, but does it in a mouth-watering way: history as food rather than finance. The rotating images of food in the left-hand column and the vintage photo of the original Tim Hortons are perfect complements to the text.

“Monumental Moments” on the lower half of the same page is the best presentation of a company history that we’ve seen in our About Us evaluations. If we want an overview, we can glance at the one-line listing of years and events. If we want more, we can click on any event for details and a photo. The detail view stays open until we close it, so we don’t have to exercise our memory (short-term at best when we’re browsing the web) to remember events that have flashed out of existence. Contrast the Universal Health Services timeline, which is elegantly laid out, but only permits visitors to view one event at a time.

Personality: A

The founders and leaders of Tim Hortons are presented on a page with four pictures. We’d like to see the titles as well as the names here, so we could more easily decide who to click on.

The page on Tim Horton is a model of a biographical About Us page that also explains the whole company’s creation and purpose. Here we learn about Horton’s character and his 24-year career as a hockey player, and how those relate to his decision to go into the restaurant business.

Incidentally, we applaud the fact that the bio page mentions only briefly that Horton died in a car accident in 1974. The autopsy showed alcohol and drugs in Horton’s system--but that was nearly 40 years ago, and has nothing to do with the taste of Tim Hortons coffee and donuts. The company website wisely ignores the old scandal.

We have pointed out before (in our discussion of Cablevision) that a company’s About Us page should mention any thorny issues that are currently in the news, and should direct visitors to positive media coverage. However, that doesn’t mean that every piece of dirty laundry needs to be aired on an About Us page--or left there to air forever. One of the great advantages of the web is that websites can be so easily adapted to the current situation. And one of the great advantages of hindsight is that mistakes can be presented in the context of lessons learned.

Accessibility: B

The Tim Hortons restaurant locator is at the upper right of all the web pages. We’d also like to see it featured on the main About Us page, with an invitation to come visit one of over 3,000 locations in the United States and Canada. Right after that mouth-watering history would be especially appropriate.


The Tim Hortons site has several features worth emulating. The first is the company history, which does a superb job of selling the company’s products while telling its story. The second is a well-designed timeline that offers a quick overview for visitors in a hurry, and details with photos for those who have more time. The third is a well-edited bio of the company’s founder that gives a charming personality to what could easily be seen as just another fast-food chain.

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?). Contact us if you’d like to have your site evaluated—there’s no charge and no obligation.
Today’s example was chosen at random; has no ties to this company.