Monday, June 24, 2013

Penguin Group: “About Us” Evaluation by Corporate

Penguin Books was the brainchild of Sir Allen Lane, who believed he could sell paperbacks of serious literary works -- not just the lurid fiction that predominated at the time. In 1936, its first year in business, Penguin sold a million books. Since it went public in 1961, it has gone through numerous mergers and acquisitions; currently Penguin Books is an imprint of Penguin Random House. Hence it’s not surprising that the About Us pages for Random House and Penguin are very similar. (See our evaluation of Random House.) Sadly, neither of these storied publishers tells its own story well. Penguin’s About Us page (“Overview”) is here.


Products/Services: D
The Overview page is dauntingly dense, with no headings to break it up those long paragraphs of tiny type. Our Commandment 6 of About Us pages is “Honor thy visuals.” Famous book covers and headshots of notable authors are an obvious choice to illustrate Penguin’s corporate history: in the text, beside the text, as a frame for the text ...

Another flaw (again a common one): the text on the Overview page is a dead end. It doesn’t have a single link to other pages on the site. If seeing Nancy Drew’s name makes us want to catch up with our childhood sleuthing chum, why not make it easy for us to click and buy—or at least see how the series has been updated?

We do commend the placement of the video. Rather than being given a huge block of above-the-fold space, it’s tucked into a corner. Those who want to view the video can choose full-screen viewing once they’ve clicked on it.

Then again, why would they? The caption (“To watch employee videos, click here”) is stunningly unenticing. Copywriting 101: captions are eye-catching; make them count.

Personality: D
The pages for Penguin’s management (starting with John Makinson) offer standard, canned bios that give no sense of who’s running the company.

The History page is yet another wasted opportunity: it’s primarily a list of mergers, acquisitions, and imprints. Focusing on Penguin Books that have been history-making, record-breaking, or award-winning (with images, please!) would make for fascinating reading. And again, adding subheads to break up the long text and including links to other pages on the site would be enormous improvements.

Accessibility: D
We have the distinct impression that Penguin would rather not hear from us. The Contact Us page opens with, “We appreciate the many questions and comments submitted by our readers and would like to answer them all individually. Because of the significant volume of e-mail received daily, however, we will not be able to respond if your question is one of our Frequently Asked Questions, or if the answer is provided in our General Information section [no link given!]. Therefore, we ask that you please read through both of these areas before submitting an inquiry.” If we stubbornly insist on trying to contact them, despite this off-putting introduction, then clicking the link to the self-service help center lets us click to another page that lets us send a message via an online form ... to an unknown person, with no option to have a copy sent to ourselves.

If your company has a long history, your About Us pages are the place to brag about it. Don’t just list mergers and acquisitions: make the pages an honor roll of your best products and a gateway to all that you offer.

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.