Monday, June 18, 2012

“About Us” Evaluation: 37Signals Gets a C Plus

37Signals, founded by three young entrepreneurs in 1999 and based in Chicago, is a privately held company that develops web applications. Its first and still most popular product is Basecamp, which allows collaborative project management over the Internet. The 37Signals About Us page (“Our Story”) is here.

37Signals has a single About Us page with an elegantly laid out timeline, followed by the bios of company leaders and then a list of services offered. These are all good choices for an About Us page, but when the page opens, we have no idea that so much is there. We’d like to see the timeline, bios, and services all appear “above the fold” -- on the opening screen. Subway’s About Us page is a good example.

Accessibility: A
On the Contact Us page we’re given a snail-mail address and an email address, which we greatly prefer to an online email form, since it allows us to keep a copy. The company also offers answers to quick queries via Twitter: a welcome new option.

Products/Services: C
The timeline is elegant, but doesn’t focus enough on the company’s products. Dates in gray mark major innovations on the Net or in technology. The connection between those events and the company milestones, in red, aren’t always obvious. We have seen timelines and company histories that brilliantly tie a company’s past to events on the world scene. This one doesn’t.

In the list of services at the end on this page, we’d like to have teasers that would encourage us to click on the links. If we could see the headings on the Basecamp page we’d be more interested in visiting it, and a direct link to the page that offers a free trial might entice us even more.

Personality: C
The leadership team of 37Signals is Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, plus Jeff Bezos of Amazon, the company’s sole investor. Since Fried is a co-founder of the company, why not quote him on how the company was conceived, what principles it runs on, what services it offers, and what books he’s written? Also worth mentioning is the fact that MIT’s Technology Review named him one of the top 35 innovators in the world under age 35. (We repeat: the Wikipedia article on your company should not be a better source of information than your own About Us page.)

We are fans of breathing space in page layout, but there is too much white space and too little information on this About Us page.

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.