Monday, February 11, 2013

Ethan Allen: “About Us” Evaluation by Corporate

Ethan Allen Global, Inc., is one of the largest furniture manufacturing companies in the United States, with almost 300 stores and revenue of over $700 million. Founded in 1932 by brothers-in-law Nathan S. Ancell and Theodore Baumritter, who named it for a Revolutionary War patriot, the company was sold in 1980 to Interco and went public in 1993. Its headquarters is in Danbury, CT. The company’s About Us page is here.

Ethan Allen’s About Us pages offer almost no information about the company. The main About Us page automatically runs a video of Chairman, President, and CEO Farooq Kathwari. While we are usually happy to hear a company’s leader discuss his goals, the video window takes up all the “above the fold” space on this page, with no option for fast-forwarding and no indication of running time. Closing this window brings up a photo of Mr. Kathwari that takes up the same large amount of screen real estate. The only text outside the header and footer are the captions for many more interviews with Mr. Kathwari. This is a huge violation of one of our key commandments for About Us pages: Thou Shalt Not Generalize.

This page desperately needs a tagline, a summary of what the company does and how long it’s been around, images of Ethan Allen’s product, and links to lure us to pages with further information. In short, it lacks any sense of corporate storytelling.

Products/Services: D
The main About Us page has no still photos of Ethan Allen furniture, and its Timeline is another missed opportunity. On the timeline screen for any given decade, one or two items about Ethan Allen are scattered among 3 or 4 events of world history. Why are the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge, Dolly the cloned sheep, and the launch of Facebook worthy of mention here? Photos of the company’s products vintage ads and earlier designs would be much more to the point.

Personality: D
The text of the About Us pages is written throughout in a fragmentary style. For example, the Corporate Profile page begins, “A strong American brand with global reach. A design authority with a modern attitude. A high-quality manufacturer. An innovative retailer. A destination for the one-stop shopper. A full-service design center staffed by design professionals who make house calls.” Using occasional fragments for emphasis can be very effective. Overusing them makes your writing disjointed. More polished and traditional prose would be appropriate here, given Ethan Allen’s reputation as a maker of solid, traditional furniture.

Accessibility: C
The footer of every page offers a toll-free number and an email address. The Customer Service page provides links to recalls, design consultants, financing, and so on. However, the order on the page needs revamping: why should Facebook appear before Online Services or Gift Cards?

Wake up, Ethan Allen! Your “About Us” pages look as tattered as the sale banner over the marquee of your Paramus, NJ, store when I drove by it last month. Corporate history simply goes missing here. These pages offer too few images and too little content, and they’re written in a style that is at odds with the traditional craftsmanship and quality on which the company built its reputation.

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. Today’s example was chosen at random; has no ties to this company.