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.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Clorox Lights Up the Sky

The Clorox Company is leveraging its upcoming 100th anniversary in all kinds of ways. The official tagline is "100 Years, 1000 Reasons." We admit we're a bit biased here at since our president, Marian Calabro, authored Clorox's 100th anniversary book (scheduled for 2013 publication) and most of its online Heritage Timeline. In addition to celebrating its unwaivering dedication to Oakland, CA -- the city that's been home to the company's headquarters, in various locations, since 1913 -- Clorox has developed a Centennial site that's featured here.   And there will be much more news to come as 2013 unfolds.

Meantime, here's how Clorox will light up the sky in California's Bay Area tonight, according to a company press release:

<OAKLAND, Calif., Aug. 21, 2012 - The Clorox Company (CLX) today announced it will flip the switch, for the first time, on two new 17-foot-high rooftop signs on its corporate headquarters in downtown Oakland at 8:30 p.m. Pacific time, tonight, Tuesday, Aug. 21. This will further establish the company's presence on the city's skyline.  

"As Clorox approaches its centennial anniversary, we felt it was important to prominently brand our corporate headquarters to commemorate our past and future," said Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Don Knauss. "For the last 100 years, we've had the privilege of being an employer, a business partner and a member of the Oakland community. We've also grown from a one-product company into a global business with a diverse portfolio of trusted brands. We've come a long way since 1913 and there's more on the horizon."

The company's new sign features Clorox's recently updated corporate logo, which reflects the most dramatic change in its visual identity since 1957. Using a modernized version of the company's iconic diamond mark with a brighter blue color and added accents of green, Clorox's new logo presents the corporate brand as modern and evolving. It also reflects the strength and direction of the company's brand portfolio and underscores its commitment to sustainability.

Using LED lights and a timer, Clorox's illuminated signs are environmentally-friendly and compliant with the U.S. Green Building Association's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design LEED standards. In 2011, Clorox's headquarters achieved (LEED) EB platinum certification, the highest sustainability recognition an existing building can attain. >

Monday, August 13, 2012

“About Us” Evaluation: Modcloth Gets an A

Modcloth, an online retailer, was launched in 2002 by Carnegie Mellon students Susan Gregg and Eric Koger. The site specializes in vintage and vintage-inspired clothing, particularly clothing by independent designers. As of 2009, annual revenues were over $15 million. Modcloth’s About Us page is here.


Products/Services: A
The main About Us page starts with a brief statement about what the company does, who founded it and what drives it. Then, under subheads, it goes into progressively more detail about the Modcloth Community (indie designers, customers who are also “buyers”) and the company’s history. The page ends with prominent links for fashion bloggers, job-seekers, and media.

Although this is a long page, the hierarchy is spot-on and the headings, short paragraphs, and frequent graphics (most showing the company’s products) make it an enticing read.

We like the Testimonials page, which includes dozens of comments from satisfied clients. The Press page has images of the covers of magazines that mentioned Modcloth. In an intelligent twist, rather than linking directly to the stories, the cover images link to Modcloth Blog posts that provide links to the products featured in the article.

Personality: A plus
Life at Modcloth (accessible from the side menu on the About Us page) is aimed at both potential clients and job-seekers. The quotes from employees and the slideshow at the top give a good sense how the company operates. Incidentally, if the “Life Is Good at Modcloth” section were at the top of the About Us page, we’d be bored; but after we’ve read about the company, its founders, and its employees, the phrases seem to have some meaning: “mutual respect and dedication,” “team-oriented,” “rewarding, challenging, and meaningful work.”

We particularly like - and seldom see - a page devoted to the founder. A long interview reveals why Susan Gregg-Koger started the company, what she loves about it, how she runs it, and what day-to-day operations are like. Susan created and embodies the company’s personality. And how clever to include a full-length photo of her wearing one of the company’s dresses that’s so pretty it may make some women want to search for it all over the Modcloth site! The biography of Winston, the office pug dog, adds a homey touch. Who was it who said: “For those who like that sort of thing, that is the sort of thing they like?”

Accessibility: A Plus
We were perplexed for a minute when we couldn’t find a Contact Us page. Eventually we clicked on “Customer Care” instead, and discovered a pop-up box with options for email, phone, or a live chat session. The box also includes a FAQ and links to other useful pages. Social media icons are in the footer of every page. The Press Kit is available from the left menu of all the About Us pages. Well done.

Modcloth’s About Us pages keep the product in sight at all times and vividly convey the personality of those who founded and run the company.

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.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Business Biography Morsels

A feature always worth reading in the Sunday business section of The New York Times is the "Preoccupations" column. The format is "By XYZ as told to Patricia R. Olsen." Mr. or Ms. XYZ is a corporate person with a passion for a special aspect of his or her job. Pat does a great job of finding fascinating stories and telling them in the subject's own voice. I'd equate the pieces to sidebars in an executive memoir: They don't tell the whole story, but they definitely capture the subject's style and approach to management.

This one focuses on an enterprising actuary for Towers Watson ( is proud to have written and published Our Family Tree: The Towers Watson Story).

And this one, by the CEO of Western Union, ends with the refreshing sentiment "Diversity attracts diversity."