Via online business online marketing online business opportunities

Summary:Users expect About Us sections to be clear, authentic, and transparent. They compare corporate content with third-party reviews to form a holistic opinion of a company before initiating business or applying for jobs.

Whether users seek company information in aB2B (business–to–business)orB2C (business–to–consumer)context, effectively explaining a company’s purpose and what it stands for is important for users and helps the business maintain its reputation.

Most sites offer anAbout Ussection, but the pages often do a poor job of clearly communicating the most important information about the organization. Additionally, many people now seek out company information not only from theAbout Ussection, but also from third parties who might provide an honest, unbiased perspective about the organization.

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Via online business online marketing online business opportunities Seeking About Us Content: Why and How

Though big or famous organizations may think theAbout Ussection of the site should have low priority, this information is important and accessed by many different types of users in a variety of scenarios:

  • Professionals who want to interact with business partners and investigate potential vendors 
  • Medical professionals, lawyers, and tradespeople who need quick answers about your company, products, or services
  • People who take up sports or new hobbies, discover a new genre of literature, music, or home décor, are diagnosed with a new disease, start eating a new type of food, or otherwise become interested in organizations they’ve never dealt with before
  • Journalists, influencers, and content creators who need information about your products or services
  • Individual investors who read something positive about your company or saw it pop out of a page of stock metrics 
  • Job seekers who were attracted by one of your opportunities and want to learn about the organization before applying 

When asked to describe the last time she looked up company information on a website, one user seeking a new job said, “I was being recruited and was just looking into the company as a potential one to work for. On their website, I looked at their mission, their client base, how they describe their products. I look at the vibe and feel. If you hire a high-school kid to do your site, I can tell and I don’t want to work for a company like that. The site itself is not going to sell me, but it’s a good start.” 

She went on to explain that she did this type of research primarily on a desktop computer. For the companies she was interested in, when she had a question on the go, she would access the site on her mobile device. In fact, the majority of users in our study stated that they usually try to learn about companies on desktop, rather than on mobile.

Via online business online marketing online business opportunities Three Rounds of Research and 85 Guidelines

To help designers understand the evolving behaviors and user preferences related toAbout Uscontent, we conducted three rounds of research, using two methodologies:expert design reviewsandqualitative usability testing. In total, we observed over 70 users, including business professionals, as they completed common tasks withAbout Uscontent on a variety of corporate websites. Studies primarily took place in the United States, with a few sessions in Hong Kong.

Across the three studies, we tested 100 websites and reviewed an additional 65 sites.The result is 85 guidelines for designingAbout Uscontentto help users easily find and understand your company information. The guidelines include ways to improve the usability ofAbout Ussections and other corporate website areas, to bolster your company’s image and maximize its reputation, while garnering interest and trust.

We tested sites in 5 different categories, based on organization size:

  • Large companies, such as Zappos, General Electric, Citigroup, Eli Lilly, Chevron, and Nestlé
  • Medium-sized companies, such as LogMeIn, Cintas, Slack, and Team Industrial Services
  • Small companies, such as Oscar Insurance, ImmunoGen, Uncommon Goods, OneCall, and Squarespace
  • Government agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Department of the Interior, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Small Business Administration
  • Nonprofits, such as American Refugee Committee, Make-A-Wish Foundation, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, and Charity Water

Our most recent study included 20 users. Participants’ occupations ranged from financial analysts and realtors to city clerks and nurses. People working in technology or tangential fields were screened out to avoid bias. All participants had at least 2 years of experience using the web for decision-making tasks related to their jobs. Their ages ranged from 24 to 65. 

Users attempted to learn the organizations’ purposes, where companies were located, their missions, values, and history, as well as how to contact them. Each user was given a unique, open-ended task to attempt on two different websites, specified by the facilitator. After attempting the open-ended task, users were provided with 8 directed tasks to attempt on each site. At the end of each testing session, users provided feedback about the most important factors that impacted their perception of an organization. Most sites were tested on desktop computers; a small portion were tested on mobile.

Consistent with our previous studies, users appreciatedAbout Uscontent that was easy to find and understand. However, users in the most recent study were more skeptical than in the past. Organizations that stood out from the crowd in favorable ways used tactics that helped them appear authentic and transparent. Those tactics included:

  • Storytelling
  • Using realistic photography
  • Showcasing unbiased reviews
  • Offering multiple channels to connect with a real person at the company 

Via online business online marketing online business opportunitiesAbout Usin an Age of Transparency and Authenticity

Because we’ve studiedAbout Uscontent for over a decade, we have a strong basis on which to assess the major trends surrounding corporate-website design. Perhaps the most noteworthy trend that emerged in our most recent round of research is that users now expect companies to demonstrate a heightened level of authenticity and transparency not only on their websites, but in every interaction a person may have with the organization.More than ever, users are skeptical of companies and see right through complex corporate speak, jargon, and stock photography.

People favor companies that showcase themselves as being customer-focused, human, and easy to understand. When businesses deliver on their promises, users are willing to write them glowing reviews and recommend them to friends, colleagues, and family. We found thatreviews and recommendations from trusted peers are one of the most important criteria used when forming an impression about an organization.Reviews also influence the decision to conduct business or apply for jobs with a particular organization.

People continue to value plain,easy-to-understand languageinAbout Ussections. They appreciate copy that makes them feel as though they are having an intentional and mutually beneficial conversation with a human at the company. Our participants liked to see photos of real employees and products, and looked for content that came directly from happy customers and employees. Content with an honest and straightforwardtone of voiceeased fears and skepticism, therefore making users more comfortable with sharing their personal information, reaching out to contact the company, applying for a job, or initiating business with the organization. 

Via online business online marketing online business opportunities What Does Transparency and Authenticity Look Like?

Elements that make an organization appear transparent and authentic can manifest in many different ways. Most impactful were those in social-responsibility areas such asDiversity and Inclusion,Sustainability,Culture, andMission and Values.

For example, Zappos’About Ussection included a subcategory calledZappos for Good, where it outlined the company’s position on important social topics such as environmental sustainability and giving back to less-fortunate people.

via online business online marketing online business opportunities Zappos' For Good page demonstrates transparency and authenticity.
The content on Zappos for Good affirmed the organization’s stance on important social topics, making it appear authentic and transparent.

Zappos’ mainAbout Uspage also featured elements that contributed to the authentic image of the organization. Across both of these main-site pages, the authenticity of the company was displayed in many ways, such as:

  • Realistic photography 
  • Videos that felt compassionate and genuine to users 
  • Stories about its business model, policies, and working at the company
  • Use of plain language resulting in easy-to-understand headlines and copy
  • Highlighting of community efforts 

All of this showed that Zappos spent time to thoughtfully, clearly, and creatively explain its values to website visitors. This approach is preferred by users who are tired of seeing company websites full of corporate speak and stock photography.

via online business online marketing online business opportunities Zappos About Us page
The realistic portrayal of Zappos’ culture in itsAbout Ussection made the company appear authentic and transparent as opposed to corporate and stuffy. 

We also observed elements which demonstrated transparency and authenticity on a few of the government-agency websites that we tested. For example, on the Small Business Administration’s website,officials included their social media usernames as a means by which to get in contact. From a user’s standpoint, this demonstrated authenticity and transparency because it showed that officials weren’t hiding on social media and that they wanted to engage in conversation with people on these channels. This transparency showsempathyand a willingness to meet people in places they already are online, rather than dictating a rigid process for interaction.

via online business online marketing online business opportunities SBA About us page includes social media names for officials.
Leaders from the Small Business Administration encouraged users to follow and communicate with them on social media channels

Via online business online marketing online business opportunities Beyond the About Us Section

Users don’t always trust what company websites say, andskepticism often drives people to look beyond theAbout Ussectionto piece together what they think is a more accurate perception of a business based on ratings and reviews from others. 

In our studies, users turned to social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn to see what other people were saying about their experiences with the company. Many people also relied upon user review sites such as Google Reviews, Yelp, and Glassdoor, to get a more realistic picture of the organization they were researching. 

While some websites had testimonials in theirAbout Ussections, users remained leery as to whether the company had curated the reviews to show only the most favorable ones. Despite this cynicism,users still read the testimonials and often compared the information they found on corporate sites with what they discovered on the third-party review sites.Because of this user behavior, we recommend including honest and balanced testimonials on your corporate website, and also cross-referencing other review sites; users will take all sources of information into account when forming an opinion about your company. 

Via online business online marketing online business opportunities Finding Answers in Search-Engine Results

If they were pressed for time, users didn’t even navigate to a company’sAbout Ussection if they could find answers to their questions from the metadata or rich-answer boxes found onsearch-engine–results pages. Additionally, people relied on search engines when they were unable to quickly find the information they needed in theAbout Ussections of corporate websites. 

When users were unable to find an answer or piece of information on a corporate website, they often gave up and said,“At this point, I’d just Google it.”Several users also stated that they prefer to use a search engine to find a quick answer to a question rather than going to the company’s website. They’d often give the search engine the credit for providing the answer, even if the information displayed came directly from the company’s website.

Because users seek information from external sources, companies must align their content on all their communication channels. Users expect organizations to tell aconsistent and cohesiveAbout Usstory. Also,make sure that metadata and contact information published on third-party sites are accurate and up-to-date, as users rely on those sources when forming perceptions and initiating interactions. 

Via online business online marketing online business opportunities User Satisfaction: Contributing and Detracting Factors

While today’s websites are getting better at supporting people’s tasks, standards are much higher than they used to be and organizations must work hard to satisfy users. 

The main factors thatnegatively impacteduser satisfaction withAbout Uscontent were:

  • Complex and overwhelmingnavigation 
  • Hard-to-find critical information (such as what the company does and whom to contact) 
  • Content that lacked substance
  • Stock photography
  • Walls of text and insufficient use of white space
  • Busy and cluttered interfaces
  • Poor choice of font size, color, and contrast, proving low consideration foraccessibility
  • Lack of trust and security indicators 
  • Aggressive sales tactics (e.g., promotions, banner ads, pushy tones)
  • Layouts that were not mobile friendly

The main factors thatpositively impacteduser satisfaction were:

  • Clean graphic designs that complimented the content and were consistent with the company’s image
  • Authentic, realistic imagery 
  • Simple layouts and a consistent navigational structure across desktop and mobile
  • Easy-to-find contact information that included a diversity of options — telephone numbers, physical addresses, email addresses, and chat
  • Clearly outlined community and social efforts, interest in diversity, inclusion, and environmental sustainability
  • Endorsements from reputable, external sources
  • Seemingly good products and services

Via online business online marketing online business opportunities Empathizing with User Skepticism

An influx of online scams, data breaches, and negative experiences contributed to users’ increasing skepticism about businesses and theirAbout Uscontent. In addition, hearing about other people’s bad experiences on social media, in the news, or via word of mouth heightened fear among users.

Ecommerce sites, transactional sites, and online services sites need a strongAbout Ussection, because users often wonder who’s behind a business, how it’s funded, and whether it’s credible. Here are some common questions that users have and that need to be answered in theAbout Ussection:

  • If I order from an ecommerce site, can I trust the company to ship the package? 
  • Will the company accept a return if the product arrives in poor condition?
  • If I register on a site, will it sell my personal information to anyone who can pay, thus exposing me to endless spam? 
  • If Idonate to this nonprofit, how much of my donation will go to administrative fees versus supporting the cause?

Due to many recent data breaches,users are also sensitive with their personal information online.They fear their data might be shared, compromised, or that their privacy could be violated. In our most recent study, several users were cautious with their email addresses — they thought if an organization had their email, the company would abuse it and spam them with unwanted messages.

With the increased scrutiny companies now face from users, we wondered if this had any impact on users’ preferences for working with small or large businesses. As is too often in the field of user experience, the answer is: it depends. In general, users felt that they would get better convenience, prices, and overall support from big companies than from small ones. They feared that small businesses will have higher prices and lower reliability than large companies. At the same time, many participants were skeptical of large businesses and felt these would be less honest and helpful than small companies. 

One user said, “I don’t have a [size] preference, but if I had to pick, I’d choose a small business over a large one. I like having direct contact with a person and sometimes, it’s harder to work with larger companies. I like to support small businesses; it’s easier to get things done when working with a smaller company, in general. Bureaucracy elongates things.”

The key takeaway here is that both large and small companies have an opportunity to show users that these assumptions are wrong. Be thorough and diligent in theAbout Ussection of your website to address these legitimate user concerns.

Via online business online marketing online business opportunities The Rise of Reviews

In the 20 sessions we conducted during this round of research, the word reviews was used over 40 times.It’s important for companies to monitor what’s being said about them on review sites. Doing so will ensure the company can either address the issues in its corporate site content or use the feedback to improve. 

For example, one user said, “I would do a Google search for the company name to learn more about them. I’d target sites that do company reviews and give info about the company, as well as its competitors. Google would give me that site along with others. It’s validation for what they’re [the company] saying about themselves. I’ll be on the lookout for adverse stuff as well; I look for consistency and trends.”

Another said, “I’m very skeptical; I would not look at just the website. I would look at blogs and review sites; these would be my first place. I’ve been burned and the website alone won’t make the case for me. I’m going to Google that company and look for reviews and see what’s out there. There’s all kinds of places you can go to now.”

This reliance on reviews means that companies also have an opportunity to set themselves apart by including authentic review content in theirAbout Ussections. Though users will likely still use a search engine to form their final opinions, at least surfacing unadulterated reviews shows you have nothing to hide and that you want people to get the full story on you from real customers. 

Via online business online marketing online business opportunities Structuring and LabelingAbout UsContent

We recommend that sites always include at least a mainAbout Uspage, but depending on the amount of content you have, your users’ information needs, the size, and tenure of your organization, you may decide to include subcategory pages underneathAbout Us.

We suggest providingAbout Usinformation at 4 levels of detail:

  1. Tagline on homepage:A few words or brief sentences that summarize what the organization does 
  2. Summary onAbout Uspage:1–2 short, scannable paragraphs at the top of a mainAbout Uspage, that offer a bit more detail about the organization’s goals and main accomplishments 
  3. Subcategory pages underAbout Us:Including detailed information on subcategory pages can give users answers to their questions when they want to learn even more about your company. Examples of appropriate subcategory pages that could live underneath the mainAbout Uscategory includeMission and Values,Company History,Leadership and Team,InvestorRelations,News,Careers,Environmental Sustainability, andDiversity and Inclusion. For smaller sites and organizations, subcategory content can live directly on a singleAbout Uspage, rather than being broken up into individual pages. In either case, if your organization places a heightened emphasis on any of the subcategory pages we mentioned, these subcategories should be easily findable from links in the main navigation (instead of just being subcategories underneathAbout Us). This often happens with pages such asNews,Investor Relations, orCareersto name a few.
  4. About Uslinks in the footer:Users heavily relied on thefooteras a fallback. Anytime people couldn’t find the information they needed from the main navigation, they immediately scrolled down to the footer to find it.

Additionally, it’s important to reiterate from previous studies that most users willrarely click on obscurely named linkssuch asCorporateGovernance.People don’t understand jargon terms and struggle to decipher meaning from unclear link names. Useexplicit link labels; they help all users navigate and are less burdensome even forsophisticated users, such as investors or business journalists.

Via online business online marketing online business opportunities Explain What Your Organization Does

Whether your site includes a singleAbout Uspage or an entireAbout Ussection, you must provide a clear explanation of what your company does.Although this sounds obvious, for many organizations it’s quite difficult to do. We saw journalists, investors, and general web users baffled by numerous websites and unable to figure out what the organization did. Too often, companies erroneously assume that people understand their business and neglect to concisely state their purpose or how they differ from competitors. Usually, a single phrase or a concise paragraph will do the trick.

Some organizations intentionally convolute this content to keep themselves open to many different types of business partnerships. In other cases, internal content creators assume the copy describes what the business does, but to an outside user, it means nothing. No matter the reason, if yourAbout Uscontent is vague, jargon-laden, or difficult to understand, work with stakeholders to define the company’s purpose and clearly identify differentiators. Do competitive analysis and market research before crafting your messaging, and test out different descriptions with real users, to find out which ones make sense to your target audience.

In any conversation, saying who you are and what you do demonstrates good manners.Explain what you do, your company’s origins, how you view business, and how you relate to the community.From our earliest usability studies to now, we’ve seen that users like getting a sense of the company behind the website and goodAbout Uscontent helps facilitate this conversation.

Via online business online marketing online business opportunities Full Report

The new edition of our report on Presenting Company Information on Corporate Websites and inAbout UsSectionswith85 actionable UX design guidelinesis now available for download.

(An earlier version of this article was originally published September 29, 2008. The article was last updated and revised on May 26, 2019.)

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