Monday, August 27, 2012

“About Us” Evaluation: Ford Foundation Gets a B

The Ford Foundation, established in 1936 by a $25,000 gift from Edsel Ford and Henry Ford, parlayed its non-voting shares in Ford Motor Company into current assets of $10 billion. With particular interests in education, the arts, and Third World development, it is one of the world’s largest and most influential foundations, dispensing grants of $413 million in 2011. The Ford Foundation’s main About Us page is here.

The main About Us page offers no fewer than 12 navigational options, each with a heading and teaser, many with an image as well – yet the grid layout and white background prevent us from feeling overwhelmed with choices. Well done.

We wonder (as we often do) whether such a large photo “above the fold” is the most effective use of space; but in this case, the image is flanked by a brief mission statement. That is worth the space, since the name “Ford Foundation” (while famous) doesn’t give a clue what the organization’s focus is.

One tweak: we’d appreciate having a caption for the large image that tells how it’s related to the Ford Foundation’s work. If it’s important enough to include, it ought to be identified.

Products/Services: A
This is a well-integrated, well-though-out set of About Us pages. A brief mission statement is front and center on the main About Us page, with a link to a mission page where it’s summarized in a bulleted list and elaborated. The dense history page (some subheads or additional photos would be welcome) properly keeps the focus on the Foundation’s long-term goals.

As for graphic design, we like the elegantly simple layout of the interactive timeline and the timeline of Nobel Laureates, which consist of photos whose captions appear when you roll the mouse over them. To give a broad perspective, though, the whole timeline should be available as a PDF. Since designing interactive history timelines is part of what does, we know how effortless the good ones look—and how difficult they actually are to create.

Personality: A
The main About Us page makes it immediately clear who runs the Foundation: the president’s photo appears with a link to all his speeches and letters. The ten grant-makers also get top billing, with photos and a link to a page about them or to separate bio pages that state each grant-maker’s areas of interest and qualifications.

Accessibility: C
At the lower right of the main About us page are the address and telephone of the Foundation’s headquarters. A link leads to a dedicated Contact Us page with more information. Nothing innovative here, but it’s functional.

Throughout its About Us pages, the Ford Foundation does an excellent job of making clear what the organization does and who runs it. The main page and interactive timeline are particularly noteworthy for their rich content and efficient layout.

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.