Monday, April 13, 2015

NJ Transit: “About Us” Evaluation by Corporate

NJ Transit was established by the Public Transportation Act of 1979 to operate mass transit within New Jersey and to New York City and Philadelphia. It absorbed the transit business that had been run by Public Service, New Jersey’s largest utility company, since PS’s founding in 1903. (In those days, the routes included not just buses and trains but trolleys and streetcars.) NJ Transit also subsumed many private bus lines and took over Conrail routes in 1983. With some 220 million passenger-trips per year, NJ Transit is the third largest provider in the United States of bus, rail, and light rail transit. NJ Transit’s About Us page is here.


Products/Services: E
NJ Transit has one and only one About Us page, with numerous subheads: Directions / Address & Phone; History & Structure; Executive Director; Board Members; Board Agenda / Meeting Minutes / Video; and so on. Our Commandment 1 of About Us pages is, “Know thy audience.” It’s not clear for whom this page is written.

Visually, this is not a welcoming page. It’s difficult to read the introductory paragraphs, since they’re set in a small font and long lines. Enlarging the size in the browser merely makes the lines run off the screen. A couple boldly designed maps to show NJ Transit’s rail network or bus routes would break up the dense text and offer a visual summary of the company’s scope.

Another problem: all those headings. No attempt is made to show which are related, for example by grouping together all the ones that deal with administration. Also, the headings are all in the same style, but they don’t all behave the same way. Sometimes clicking on the arrow next to a heading makes subheads appear: sometimes not. Sometimes clicking on the heading makes a paragraph or two drop down. Sometimes it sends you to another page (without a “return” option), or opens a PDF. For the headings with drop-down text, there’s no option to expand all.

As for corporate history: there is none. Not even a glancing mention is given to the bus and rail services that were “acquired” by NJ Transit. This is a lost opportunity, because the colorful transit history of Public Service is well documented in a centennial corporate history of PSEG published in 2003. (Full disclosure: that PSEG history was authored by Marian Calabro, who has since become president of As a work of New Jersey history, “Making Things Work: PSEG’s First Century” is available at 25 libraries in the Bergen County Cooperative Library Service and many others across the state.)

Personality: D
NJ Transit’s business history is almost completely absent. The focus is on Executive Director Veronique Hakim. Her bio is lengthy, but it’s basically a list of positions and a recap of the scope of her duties. Inexcusably, the stats given in her bio don’t agree with the stats at the top of the page. For example, her bio says NJ Transit runs 261 bus routes; the introductory text says it runs 236. Our Commandment 9 of About Us pages is, “Worship clarity.” On a one-page site, discrepancies such as these are glaring.

Under Board Members, only names, titles, and photos are given. What’s the point of including this, if no further comment or contact information is supplied?

Accessibility: E
Contact information is under the Directions / Address & Phone heading. It consists of the address and main phone numbers for NJ Transit’s headquarters and two other buildings. No other means of contact (email, fax, social media) is provided. A great deal of space is dedicated to giving every possible option for travel by car or mass transit to each of the three locations ... But should we wish to visit NJ Transit, this page offers no way to figure out whether we ought to visit the headquarters, the general office building, or the administration building, or what person or department we should ask for when we got there.

Think about the audience for your About Us page, and be sure to offer information they can use, in a layout that lets them find it. At the same time, include sufficient company 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, although its president, Marian Calabro, covered the transit-related history of NJ Transit predecessor PSEG in her centennnial history of the latter company.