Monday, August 5, 2013

Barnes Foundation: “About Us” Evaluation by Corporate

The Barnes Foundation was established by Dr. Albert C. Barnes, a chemist, in 1922. Today the collection encompasses more than 2,500 objects worth an estimated $25 billion, with particularly strong holdings of paintings by Impressionist and Modernist masters such as Renoir, Cezanne, Matisse, Picasso, Degas, and Van Gogh. The Barnes has two locations: Barnes Philadelphia at Logan Square (the art collection) and Barnes Merion (the Arboretum, established by Laura Barnes). The main About Us page (“About the Barnes”) is here.

Even if you've never visited the Barnes, its name is likely to tug at your memory for something unpleasant ... A scandal, maybe? If you’re involved in the art world or live near Philadelphia, you know that for over a decade, the move of the Barnes Collection from its Merion mansion to center city Philadelphia was a matter for public debate and judicial review. It was even the subject of a documentary, The Art of the Steal.

Our Commandment 4 of About Us pages -- “Don’t take your own name in vain” – advises you to refer visitors to outside sources who can testify to your value and credibility. Since the Barnes ignores this negative publicity, curious visitors are going to learn about it from sources who might be very unsympathetic. At the very least, the Barnes About Us pages should offer links to rave reviews of the new Barnes Philadelphia facility, which opened in May 2012.

Products/Services: D
The main About Us page would be improved with an overview such as the one that appears as the first question on the FAQ page (“What is the Barnes Foundation?”). The headings as they currently appear, “Campuses,” “History,” and “Careers and Volunteering,” aren't very helpful. About Us pages are supposed to tell visitors what you’re about. Oh, and in August 2013 the History page contained this sidebar: “The Philadelphia campus will open in Spring 2012. Sign up for our newsletter for the latest news.” Obviously the Web site writer needs to sign up! Has no one updated this site for a full year?

And also: Where are the pictures on the About Us pages? The kind of pictures that make you say, “Oh, that’s where that painting is!” or “Oh, I've got to get to that museum!” Showing Dr. Barnes’s earliest acquisitions, or the ones that became his favorites, would really punch up the page about him. Likewise, showing the arboretum would make Laura Barnes’s story much more vivid. Yes, such images appear on the main site, but you should never assume visitors to your About Us page have already spent time elsewhere on your site – or that they’ll ever go there, if you don’t make the trip easy and enticing.

Personality: C
The pages on Albert Barnes and on Laura Barnes are good, as far as they go. But why not mention, for example, that Barnes visited Gertrude and Leo Stein’s home in Paris, where he met Matisse and Picasso? That he originally restricted visitors to 2 days per week, because he conceived the Foundation as a school rather than a standard museum? That he prohibited loans from the collection or color reproductions of the works in it? That Matisse is reported to have said the Foundation was the only sane place in America to view art? All these details would make the personality of Dr. Barnes more vivid and rouse our curiosity to see his collection. Instead, The Barnes squanders so many corporate storytelling opportunities.

Accessibility: C
The Contact Us page offers mailing address, phone, fax and general email for Barnes Philadelphia, and the same, minus email, for Barnes Merion. In the long list of departments on the same page, offering names and emails would help convey the impression that the Barnes Foundation really does want to hear from us.

Write your main About Us page as though it might be the first and only page on your site that a visitor sees. If your company has been getting negative publicity, either address it directly or send your visitors to coverage that tells your side of the history.

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.