10 Commandments of About Us Pages

Commandment 1: Know thy audience. Who’s most likely to look you up? Friends, advocates, opponents, information-seekers? Figure it out and talk to them. Design separate pages for specialized users if needed. No dry resumes or warmed-over Annual Report summaries, please. DO let your org’s personality show. But DON’T imitate the Web site designer who blogs on her home page about an anxiety disorder that keeps her from working for days at a time. (Great way to win new clients, huh?) Think elevator speech. Wrap facts in an enticing overview.

Commandment 2: Thou shalt not generalize. Noble abstractions (“achieve the highest standards,” “provide timely and efficient service”) may read well in mission statements--but to hold the attention of fickle web-surfers, you need specifics. How many products or services do you offer? How long have you been doing it? What awards have you won? What do clients say?

Commandment 3: Reveal thy personality. Photos are good. Quick, solid info about the people in the company is better. Who was your founder, and what DNA did he or she impart? (From Walt Disney on down, I’ve yet to encounter a company that didn’t reflect its founder’s interests and quirks.) Where is your current CEO steering the company? Who’s on your management team? What are your employees’ aggregate strengths?

Commandment 4: Don’t take your own name in vain. Readers may find all kinds of things about you on a Web search. That’s why, on your About Us page, you should refer visitors to outside sources who can testify to the value of your products, your management, your expertise, and your good works. When objective third parties confirm what you’re saying, your credibility is increased.

Commandment 5: Honor thy readers and their attention spansHurried visitors will be more likely to finish your page if you ruthlessly cut anything that’s not crucial for that enticing overview. Can’t bear to part with a paragraph that’s unnecessary for the Big Picture? Move it to another page and add a link. At the same time, give good material its due. Some topics need explication, and some audiences (especially literary folks) enjoy longer copy.

Commandment 6: Honor thy visualsA solid block of 9-point Verdana tempts visitors to click and move on. Break the text into paragraphs or themes or timelines. Use subheads. Add photos, both current and archival, and generously lace them with captions.

Commandment 7. Remember to keep navigation easy. Once you’ve got great content, attractively presented, make sure it’s easily accessible. Your navigation bars should look like navigation bars, and they should provide access to all pages. The text of the About Us page should include links to relevant subpages or to other pages on your site.

Commandment 8. Remember to make yourself and your organization easily accessible. Give visitors a variety of ways to contact you. Make the contact information easy to find from any page. Reminding visitors of why they want to contact you is a great way to end an About Us page.

Commandment 9. Worship clarity. Check your grammar, spelling, punctuation, and other fine points. Errors here are “broken windows.” They suggest you’re careless with details--that you may be as indifferent to a misplaced decimal point as you are to a misplaced apostrophe.

Commandment 10. Remember to keep holy the updates. Once your “About Us” pages are polished, keep them fresh. A copyright date from even one year ago suggests that no one’s minding the store.