Monday, May 13, 2013

Longwood Gardens: “About Us” Evaluation by Corporate

Longwood Gardens, in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, is a horticultural mecca of over 1,000 acres – one of the leading botanical gardens in the United States. Situated on land purchased from William Penn, it was opened to the public as an arboretum in 1798 and was greatly expanded by Pierre S. du Pont, who purchased the property in 1906. He spent decades developing the conservatory, fountains, and other features. Since his death in 1954 it has been operated by the Longwood Foundation. The main About Us page (Gardens / History) is here.


Products/Services: A
We seldom see a site that covers all the bases of its own corporate history: usually we have to seek out essential details on Wikipedia or elsewhere on the web. The Story of Longwood page is a rare exception and a great read. It covers the organization’s entire history with appropriate weight on the important items. And it has archival photos! A slight cavil there: please, Longwood staff writers, add captions or ID tags. Even if the photo is immediately referenced nearby, captions matter. Readers always read them.

Adding subheads is another minor change that would make a big difference. Rather than “1700 to Present” (currently the only subhead), why not “The Peirce Farm,” “Pierre du Pont,” “The Fountains,” and so on? Or we suggest dividing the long time span into shorter chronological chunks.

Supplementary pages focus on non-botanical attractions that might draw visitors to Longwood: the mansion, the organ, the carillon. We like this as an illustration of our Commandment 2 of About Us pages: Know thy audience. Think about the types of people who might be interested in your organization, and make a point of offering material that will appeal to each. On all these pages, the sidebar features lovely photos of flowers and scenes from the gardens to remind visitors to the site that yes, they ought to visit Longwood.

All these great pages (under Gardens) are not the “official” About Us page, which is reached via a link in the footer and only offers information about Longwood’s tax status and major departments. The official page could be livened up with links to these pages, each with a teaser and a photo.

Personality: A
Longwood stresses that the gardens were the work of Pierre du Pont, and describes his interests and goals. It states that the goal of the current management is to continue his vision - the “innate sense of the garden as theater” – while incorporating modern technology. Clear and effective: well done.

Accessibility: A
A link in the footer leads to a Contact page with telephone numbers and emails for many specific departments and names. We get the impression that the Longwood Gardens staff would be pleased to hear from us, a pleasant change from filling out an online contact form that’s dispatched to who knows whom, who knows where.

In an age of tweets and videos, presenting a well-written story with great illustrations is still one of the most attention-grabbing things you can do. And kudos to the person who chose the banner photo: a glimpse of the less formal gardens, a path, and a couple wearing jeans and hugging. It subtly promotes Longwood Gardens as a casual spot to visit and feel romantic. Very inviting!

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