Monday, January 6, 2014

Xerox Corporation: “About Us” Evaluation by Corporate

Xerox Corporation was founded in 1906 as Haloid Photographic Company, a manufacturer of paper and equipment for photographers. In 1946 Haloid bought the right to develop Chester Carlson’s process for printing images using an electrically charged drum and dry powder (hence “xerography,” or “dry writing”). The company’s name was changed from “Haloid Xerox” to “Xerox” in 1961. Headquartered in Norwalk, Connecticut, Xerox has 140,000 employees in 160 countries. The main About Us page is Xerox at a Glance.


Personality: A
Highlighted quotes from Chairman and CEO Ursula M. Burns appear throughout the Xerox About Us pages. We have seldom seen the words of the leader of a company used more effectively to indicate the values of the company and the direction it’s going. Also exceptional is Burns’s bio, an engaging story that begins with her summer internship at Xerox and relates her rise through the ranks, including links to pages for departments she was involved with. The sidebar on the right side and the “Ursula Burns in the News” subhead give easy access to speeches and interviews.

Our Commandment 3 of About Us pages is, “Reveal thy personality.” Often the best way to do that is to recount the founder’s vision. But Xerox is no longer primarily concerned with photography or photocopies, so the extensive quotes from the current CEO are better suited to show the direction the company is going.

Products/Services: B
The main About Us page is an overview of the company, including a brief summary (with an optional video in a small box: bravo!) and information on the number of employees, active patents, R&D spending, leadership, locations, and core values. Side menus allow access to company information, products and services, and helpful resources. This page packs a lot of information into an uncluttered layout, but, perplexingly, there are no links where we’re clearly invited to learn more: “Do you have what it takes to join the team?”, “See how we’ve been creating business solutions for more than a century.”

The News page is excellent and comprehensive. Tweets appear in a scrolling column on the left, blog posts in the center. On the right are subheads for Xerox’s own press releases (available via search or by category), for Multimedia, and for Additional Resources (including press contacts). At the bottom of the page are Featured Images. Although this page appears uncluttered, it accomplishes the phenomenal task of allowing visitors to choose between a wide range of options, mostly without scrolling or loading new pages.

The Timeline of Business Innovation and Design is a disappointment. We can’t get an overview of the company history: instead, we’re forced to slog through decade by decade. A short narrative history above the timeline would be very welcome. Incidentally, as historians and philologists, we’d love to read the derivation of the Xerox name as part of the business history. These shortcomings are extra-disappointing because Xerox’s history video, featuring 75 years in 75 seconds, is exemplary corporate storytelling. 

Accessibility: A
Xerox’s Contact Us pages offer a wealth of well-organized information. The main page gives seven choices (e.g., Billing and Account Administration, Research and Innovation). Clicking on one takes us to a three-column page with information on specific divisions (e.g., Palo Alto Research Center, Xerox India Innovation Hub). For each division, we can see not only contact information, but what the division focuses on (e.g., strategic materials research, multimedia research, systems integration, document management). Providing contact information in this much detail reads as a sure sign that Xerox does indeed want to hear from us.

If your CEO often lectures or gives interviews, as Xerox’s does, quotes should feature prominently on your About Us pages. If your company issues press releases, blog posts, and tweets, and is often mentioned in the media as well, make it easy for visitors to your site to find all that information easily.

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.