The Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA) opened its doors in 1916, with funds and land donated by four local businessmen. Its substantial endowment makes it one of the wealthiest museums in the United States. The collection of 43,000 works is especially strong in Asian and Egyptian art. The CMA’s main About Us page is here.
OVERALL GRADE: B plus
For websites with more than one page under the About Us tab, the main page should be a portal that lures visitors to other pages. The CMA’s mainAbout Us page entices with witty visuals matched with its 12 options, including a portrait of George Washington for Museum Leadership and a scroll of hieroglyphics for Contact Us. Even better, these 12 images are tidily arranged to fit on a single screen, making it easy for a visitor to see all the options. Well done! We’ll be curious to see what CMA does for its 100th business anniversary next year.
Products/Services and Personality: B
The History and Mission page gives an overview of the Museum’s development via what each of its ten directors chose to focus on—an interesting structure that offers some subtle corporate storytelling. The founders get their own page, with an image of each and an explanation of how he became interested in art. The Inaugural Exhibition of 1916 also has a page. The Building page offers a slightly different perspective: when and why different expansions were undertaken. Take a lesson from the CMA: If your institutional or corporate history is long and complex, presenting it from different angles on several pages is a great choice.
Our Commandment 6 of About Us pages is, “Honor thy visuals.” That’s particularly true for an arts museum, since one of the best ways to get people to visit is to show them the treasures that await. In this respect, the CMA pages fall short. Most pages have a single large photo at the top; it's not obvious that one can click on it to see more, and that some of the text below applies to these various images. On Picture This: CMA Photographic History, why not make all the photos visible, each above its corresponding text, rather than making us click through photos at the top, and then scroll down to the relevant text? On the Inaugural Exhibition page, why not space the images through the text? On the Building page, why not show galleries then and now, as they're discussed? On the History and Mission page, why not put the images with the directors, and for the sake of luring people in, show a notable acquisition of each director? And, for yet another perspective, why not have a timeline of collection highlights, with brief notes on why each was considered worth acquiring?
CMA boasts that it was created “for the benefit of all the people forever,” and their Contact us page suggests that they are in fact interested in hearing from people – a relative rarity among large institutions. Next to the CMA’s general contact information is the query, “Have a question for Director William Griswold?” – with his email. For those who don’t want to go straight to the top, the Contact Us page links to a directory with emails for dozens of departments, from Administration to Visitor Services.
If you have a rich history, try telling it from several different angles – but don’t forget to include great text and visuals.
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!
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