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The Usability and Creative Freedom of An About Me Page


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#1 cre8pc

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Posted 08 September 2005 - 12:38 PM

When Andy Beal, friend and famous SEO/SEM/Blog guy, launched his new blog, Marketing Pilgrim, I clicked around it, much like poking around someone's house.

Finding his About Andy Beal page, despite already knowing him, I peeked anyway.

It's a great About Me page, and clever. Why? Because he presents himself in a warm, funny, but still factual and professional way.

It's hard to write about yourself. You try to pretend that anyone cares, for starters. One of my solutions for handling this is in my Cre8pc blog, in the navigation section where I talk about me (under the heading called "Self-Esteem on Steroids"), endlessly. There's a kind of funny way you can present yourself, sort of tongue in cheek-like, and still get the message across.

Andy does it in his About page, with headings like "Does he know anything?" and "Does anyone listen to him?" and you can plainly see, by way of the many many logos, that he's made his point.

He does it again with "Can he put two sentences together?", which is where readers learn he is a speaker at conferences and seminars. He doesn't resort to a bland heading like "My Speaking Experience". blech!

I like this let-me-talk-about-me-behind-my-back approach because it allows the writer, who in many cases is writing about themselves and trying to sound objective, drop the ego and yet show off themselves at the same time.

For usability, an About Us page is a workhorse in my opinion. When I test sites, I've noticed that the kind of introductory content I'm hoping to find on the homepage, such as the what/where/how/why/when details, is hiding quietly in the About Us page. While I'm happy to find this information, it's a click away from the homepage, where its most needed to make a quick impression.

About Us pages are used differently, depending on the requirements of a site. For a blog, there is often very little in the header or body about the purpose of the blog, or any particulars about who it belongs to, why it exists, how long it's been online, what its about or where its based. Much of that isn't as important because a blog isn't trying to sell you a car or vitamins. It's selling opinions and information. Sometimes a little curious peek at the author is all a reader wants.

In Andy's case, he sells his expertise on his About page, which fortifies his blog's reputation. It may mean the difference between getting a link from a qualified source, or not.

For ecommerce, an About Us page can help meet authenticity and credibility requirements in the same way. Most About Us pages on ecom sites are boring to read and knowing this, most prospective customers ignore them. This is a lost opportunity to persuade prospects and in some cases, increase conversions (sales/traffic/subscriptions/registrations, etc.)

If you want to stand out in the crowd, try to create a unique way to talk about your company or self. Introduce your hardworking staff. Share your mission statement. Do you get involved with your local community? What organizations do you belong to? Has a magazine featured your product or service? What led you do to this business?

We like to think the Internet has brought us all a little bit closer to each other, but the truth is, we're still seeking ways with our writing and design skills to make profitable or friendly connections. An About Us/Me page, when presented with humor, honesty and true facts, can bring you one step closer to letting someone shake your hand.

Have you seen other About Us pages that impressed you? Any you'd like to share and if so, what makes it work for you?

#2 DCrx

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Posted 08 September 2005 - 01:30 PM

Great topic, well put. I don't feel About Us pages have gotten enough attention.

Cornerhost uses About Us to tell their basic story. The Principles section is a provable mission statement, where most missions are "sweet nothings," nice abstract notions which will never be embodied, qualified or quantified. Where most web hosts are commodities, ASPwebhosting is more focussed on performance.

Jewelboxing takes another popular route, the FAQ/About page. Product based sites tend toward the FAQ type about page.

Coudal takes the approach you are what you do.

Finally, the employee About Us approach. Harvard does okay, but I've not found very good examples. Snapple built a successful branding campaign on employees and customers, you'd never know it from the Web. People will spend far longer fussing over the 'right' stock photography of fashion models dressed as fauxployees.

#3 randfish

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Posted 08 September 2005 - 03:43 PM

I have to agree Kim - I've watched a lot of folks in a usability test visit the about us page right after the home page when they're given unstructured tasks. They go there hoping to learn more about the people, the organization, etc. and my feeling is that they leave dissapointed 99% of the time.

The problem is, oftentimes, even they can't articulate what they were hoping for. I'm guessing Andy's page, though, is getting the job done.

#4 cre8pc

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Posted 09 September 2005 - 08:21 AM

They go there hoping to learn more about the people, the organization, etc.


Yes, exactly. This is what I see as well. :)

I'm reminded of your yellow shoes, Rand. When you meet people at SEO conferences, and wear your bright yellow shoes, they are conversation piece. They open up dialog. They offer an immediate idea about you may be (friendly, approachable, not afraid to stand out), and this can translate to friendly, customer service oriented, interested in making someone's experience a good one. Someone may want to do business with you if these are qualities they seek.

I use real-life analogies a lot to help me understand usability and user centered design goals. An About Us/Me page can be someone's yellow shoes. It's the extra something that leaves an impression, and one we hope is a good one, and possibly converts later in some positive way.



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