Monday, March 25, 2013

INSEAD: “About Us” Evaluation by Corporate

INSEAD is a truly global business school, offering Master of Business Administration, Master of Finance, PhD in management, and various executive education programs. It has campuses in France, Singapore, and Abu Dhabi, plus partnerships with the Wharton School and the Kellogg School of Management. INSEAD’s main About Us page is here.


Products/Services: C
In terms of navigation, the best feature of the About Us page is the tab labeled “One-click access,” which pops up a well-organized site menu. Great content is wasted without great navigation. (See our Commandment 7 of About Us pages: Keep Navigation Easy.)

Unfortunately, the content of INSEAD’s About Us pages isn’t stellar. The main text of the page, in five small, dense paragraphs, needs to be broken up with headings and bulleted points (degrees offered, campuses, partnerships). A link to 50 Alumni Who Changed the World and a more prominent link to Faculty and Research would be great additions. As it stands, the list of Publications is more enticing than the main About Us page: it summarizes the programs offered and has visuals as well.

The events on the timeline demonstrate INSEAD’s global scope: well done. The 50th-anniversary logo reminds us that this school has a long, solid reputation. We don’t mind that the anniversary occurred in 2007: it’s great to show pride in your corporate history. However, we mind very much that once we click on the logo to visit the 50th anniversary site, we’re stranded, with no links to take us back to the current pages. Big mistake!

And here’s an even bigger one. Having read all INSEAD’s About Us pages, we still didn’t know what “INSEAD” means. Is it a foreign name? An acronym? Wikipedia reveals that the school was originally the Institut Europeen d’Administration des Affaires (European Institute of Business Administration).

At, we revel in primary documents, real or virtual. We do not consider Wikipedia a scholarly resource - but it is a terrific way to find out what people want to know about you, so you don’t miss obvious points. In the Wikipedia article on INSEAD, the explanation of the name is in the very first paragraph.

Accessibility: B
Aside from the standard information, the Contact page (accessible via a link in the header) offers Quick Links to degrees, faculty, and alumni. In the lower part of the page, the collapsible list of departments with phones and emails is an elegant solution to a list that fills several pages when expanded.

Personality: D
Under Who We Are, the Constituencies link defaults to bios of the school’s interim deans. Why not the chairman, who presumably sets the direction of the school? But the chairman’s bio doesn’t talk about his vision for the school’s current and future goals, either. Nor does the Mission statement. Of its five points, only two are directly related to business education, and nothing here indicates why we’d want a degree from INSEAD rather than Wharton or Harvard Business School.

Don’t overlook the obvious: check Wikipedia or other outside sources to see what people want to know about you.

 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?). Today’s example was chosen at random; has no ties to this company.
To talk about your About Us page, contact us!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Narratives Are Thicker Than Water

Bruce Feiler, author of The Secrets of Happy Families, says: "The single most important thing you can do for your family may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative." That's not just his opinion. It's buttressed by research done at Emory University and the US Naval Academy. You can substitute "company narrative" for "family narrative" because the benefits of knowing one's organizational history are so similar:
  • Post 9/11, offspring who "knew more about their families proved to be more resilient, meaning they could moderate the effects of stress" (a quote from psychologist Marshall Duke, co-author of the Emory study).
  • "Jim Collins, a management expert and the author of Good to Great, told me that successful human enterprises of any kind, from companies to countries, go out of their way to capture their core identity. In Mr. Collins's terms, they 'preserve core, while stimulating progress.'" 
  • "The military has also found that teaching recruits about the history of their service increases their camaraderie and ability to bond more closely with their unit." (Quotations 2 and 3 are from Feiler's book.)
Families use holidays, parties, vacations, and other events to transmit their narratives to the next generation. Businesses have an array of means to tell the story of their corporate history and values: parties, sure, but also conferences, internal communications, the About Us pages of their website, social media, team-building activities, and more. Anniversaries present ideal opportunities! What matters is the message This is our history, not the form. 


Monday, March 11, 2013

Vayable: “About Us” Evaluation by Corporate

After being temporary roommates via an Airbnb rental, Jamie Wong and Samrat Jeyaprakash set out to solve the problem, “What do we do once we get there?” The company they founded, Vayable, now connects vetted local tour guides with travelers seeking unique experiences in New York, Istanbul, Buenos Aires, Tokyo, and 600 other cities worldwide. By late 2012, Vayable offered over 2,500 tours at prices ranging from $5 to $5,000. As a new company Vayable doesn’t have much of a corporate history, but it makes the most of what it’s got. The company’s About Us page is here.


Products/Services: A
The main About Us page (Our Stories) offers first-hand accounts of travelers to exotic locales who are excited about sharing their experiences. It’s a great introduction to the company, one that honors Commandment 2 of’s 10 Commandments of About Us pages: Thou Shalt Not Generalize. The company’s actual mission statement (Our Purpose) is considerably less enticing: “To enable entrepreneurship, cultural exchange, community-building and exploration worldwide by empowering people to share experiences with others.” And we don’t even get gorgeous photos of exotic places to go with that mouthful!

The layout of How This Works is simple and clear, reminding us (probably not coincidentally) of Airbnb, which we evaluated in May 2011. The opening screen features an enticing photo, one-line summaries of three tours we know Carnival Cruises will never offer us, and brief statements on four topics of concern to travelers: quality of the tour, trustworthiness of the guides, ease of use, and payments.

Scrolling down How This Works takes us to a 3-step guide to booking, then a series of testimonials, then links to a page of media coverage. This is an excellent sequence, worthy of emulation. Our only quibble is that there’s no link within the text to a page where we can start searching for and booking tours.

The Media page is a model for such pages: logo of the publication, date, and the title of the article serving as a link to the article itself. Even visitors who don’t click the link get a sense of the positive press response to Vayable.

Personality: C
Vayable’s guides are the face of the company, and the Ambassadors are the highest-ranking guides. But there’s no way to search them out: the Ambassadors page blithely tells us to look for the Ambassador badge on the guide’s Profile and Experience pages. Why not make it simple for us to find the best of the best, and let them impress us enough to search for tours?

Vayable’s management appears on the Team page ... we think. Nice photos, interesting bios, but what roles do these three play in Vayable’s operations? Titles, please, and how they became involved Vayable, and why. On the main About Us page (Our Stories), Jamie Wong (listed there as co-founder) recounts an outing in Morocco that changed her life, but there’s no link from that to her Team bio, or vice versa.

Accessibility: B
The Support page is also simply and clearly laid out: each heading shows the most frequently asked questions, with an option to see more. Why not rearrange the questions, so one column is aimed at tour guides, the other at travelers? In the current layout, travelers have to scroll past all the FAQs for tour guides.

One major navigation error: there’s no way to get back to the Vayable site from the Support page or any of its sub-pages. The Vayable icon isn’t a link to the Home page, and there are no headers or footers with links.

Remember your audience’s context. If you’re a new company offering a new service, be sure to explain who you are and how you operate. Otherwise, your business history may be “history” all too soon.

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?). Today’s example was chosen at random; has no ties to this company. To talk about your About Us page, contact us!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Rooting for Ginori

Richard Ginori porcelain has been synonymous with high style and quality since 1735. Napoleon himself ate from Ginori tableware during the years he ruled Tuscany, and the Vatican sets its tables with Ginori. Now, however, the Ginori factory stands shuttered as the company tries to pull itself out of bankruptcy. A few bad decisions during the economic downturn spiraled into severe debt. Italian courts found a buyer, but that deal fell through. 

Ginori's Metroquadrodue designs on display.
Photo courtesy of
What an amazing corporate history! Forza, Ginori. Coraggio! Here's hoping a new bid from Lenox becomes the ticket to solvency and renewed growth. We should know the outcome by May. As employee Valentina Puggelli told The New York Times: "There are laws to save pandas. We want to save something as rare."