Monday, July 30, 2012

“About Us” Evaluation: E*Trade Gets a D Minus

E*Trade’s main business is online discount stock brokerage for self-directed investors. Founded in 1991, at the beginning of the Internet boom, it originally offered its trading services via America Online and Compuserve (now there’s a historical fact). Its headquarters are in New York. E*Trade’s main About Us page is here.

E*Trade’s baby broker is one of the few faces that makes us stop fast-forwarding through TV commercials. Alas, the E*Trade site doesn’t seem to include a single image of the child – and there’s not much else that’s entertaining or enticing, either.
Also worth noting: the E*Trade site is not easy to navigate. We found the FAQ page only via a Google search. We wonder how much more we’re missing!

Products/Services: D
If you want me to entrust you with a substantial part of my income and savings, you’d better explain where your company comes from, what it offers, and what its operating principles are. Yet the Corporate Facts offered on E*Trade’s About Us page consist of a brief bulleted list without a single link within the text leading to further information. What does appear here, in a large footer, are government-mandated warnings, “Important Disclosures.” On E*Trade’s home page, awards from SmartMoney, Kiplinger’s and Barron’s are prominently displayed. Why not put them on the About Us page (with links, of course) to help offset that daunting disclaimer?

E*Trade’s Home page has many more details about the services offered. We’d love to see a bulleted list on the About us page of the company’s services, linked to pages with specific information.

Accessibility: E
To access E*Trade’s Contact Us page requires that one sign in or create an account. We prefer not to give out our banking information on a first date, but once on this page there are no menus to help us seek information elsewhere. Yet E*Trade’s home page has options for phone and chat: why, oh why are those not on the Contact page as well?

Personality: D
From the About Us page, we don’t get even a hint of E*Trade’s position as one of the earliest online brokerage services, although that would certainly help establish its credibility with potential clients. The only company history on the site is a brief bulleted list on the main page: date founded, CEO, number of employees, headquarters, number of retail branches.

Stubbornly searching for more information, we discovered that Investor Relations is merely a list of E*Trade press releases and presentations, none with a summary that would entice us to look further. Nor do the biographies of the Leadership Team make scintillating reading. (Can’t we have the Baby Broker here as Special Assistant to the CMO?) We do like the length of the Leadership page, which is kept to a manageable size by showing a summary of each officer’s current duties with a “more” link for the full biography.

E*Trade’s About Us pages fail to convey the company’s products and personality. They’re difficult to navigate, provide inadequate information about the company’s services, and fail to take advantage of a widely known advertising campaign.

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.