Is it Time to Prune Your ‘About’ Section?

Photo by Ian Robb

Photo by Ian Robb

Visiting the “About” section of a company’s website can feel like a journey to a dense jungle. There may be lots of valuable insights to be gained, but the environment is so cluttered and overgrown, it’s hard to know where to find them.

Far too often, a simple declarative statement of purpose is nowhere to be found.

“About” is a logical first stop when someone is trying to learn about your organization — especially when time is of the essence (as it often is).

It’s the primary place I visit when I’m conducting research for an article I’m writing or considering a potential business collaboration. Typically, I’m just looking for a plain-English sentence or two about what product or service the firm sells, and to whom.

Instead, I’m often greeted by a grandiose, jargon-laden mishmash of pieces and parts. I may encounter a philosophical treatise, a rambling marketing diatribe or a historical timeline of every milestone the company has achieved throughout its existence.

Proud as you may be of these narratives, I don’t really think they serve your organization well if they are shoehorned into a section whose primary purpose is to provide a clear, concise overview of your firm.

Probably the most frustrating experience is when I click on an “About Us” button, only to reveal a subpage with a dozen (or more) niche menu choices, none of which offers a simple description of the firm. Ugh.

Here are a few principles I believe are important to keep in mind as you craft and curate the content that will populate your “About” section.

People value simplicity.

The online world is a crowded and confusing place. Don’t add to the confusion. Begin with a simple, descriptive summary of what your firm brings to the world, and why.

Keep in mind that most web visitors aren’t looking for a marketing tagline or clever statement concocted by a branding consultancy. These statements have their place, but the “About” section is not one of them.

Focus on short, declarative statements that emphasize nouns and verbs rather than adjectives and over-the-top marketing speak.

Don’t assume visitors have any prior knowledge of your company or industry.

Though customers — current and future — are the lifeblood of any enterprise, they are not the only people who visit your website. Prospective employees, potential business partners, news media and other curious folks may just want to get the gist of what your firm brings to the world. Make it easy for them.

Respect time constraints and short attention spans.

You may have unlimited digital real estate available to you, but you should constantly remind yourself that most visitors have limited time and brain space available to invest in your website.

Nix the jargon…or at least bury it.

Your customers may know exactly what an “end-to-end encryption solution” means. Most of the rest of us, however, do not. Use plain English and skip the industry jargon, or at least defer it until someone chooses to progress deeper into the site.

Limit the posturing.

Your firm may be the most amazing business on the planet, but your “About” section isn’t the place for posturing. If you want to boast about your impressive awards or industry rankings, feature those accolades on a separate page. 

Consider an ‘express lane.’

To make it easy for time- or attention-strapped visitors, consider developing a quick company overview that summarizes your company as succinctly as possible. Place this description front and center. It may not be the most creative or memorable narrative ever written, but your visitors will no doubt appreciate it. I know I will. 

The process of developing or updating a website is complex and challenging, and it's often fraught with too many cooks and lots of disparate audiences to satisfy.  

Summarizing a large, diverse organization into a simple, inclusive description can be really tricky. I understand.

As you navigate these logistical and political issues, I hope you won't lose sight of the core purpose of an “About” section and make it as valuable as possible for your visitors.

Better sharpen those pruning shears.