It’s Not About You…


– I’ve got an awesome record collection and I’m captain of the football team and I swim I work out every day I really do yeah I know a lot about films and I’m really sensitive gosh you have lovely eyes don’t worry if a fat man puts you in a bag in December I told Santa I wanted you for Christmas ha ha ha that was just a joke no seriously my parents are out right now if you know what I mean…

– No thank you. I’d rather take up stamp collecting.

A scene repeated wherever there are teenagers. And yes, if you want to know, a sixth-form pal of mine suggested that a stunningly attractive young lady might like to run her fingers through his vinyl. She replied with ‘stamp collecting.’ Possibly the most devastating put-down in the history of the world and twenty years on he still hasn’t recovered…

But what’s that got to do with you? And specifically, what has it got to do with your website?

Simply this.

Most company websites have an ‘About’ page – the page where visitors can – surprise, surprise – learn all about you. If they don’t call it an ‘About’ page then it might called ‘our people’ or ‘meet the team.’

I think this is one of the most important pages on a website. Very often, it’s the second page I visit after the home page: maybe the third if they have a blog. But 99% of the time I leave the About page wondering why I bothered.

Here’s a wholly fictitious example of what I mean. Let’s imagine I’m looking for a large firm of accountants to handle my hugely successful manufacturing business. The guy I’ve been with for ten years can’t cope any more: it’s time to move to a big company in somewhere like Leeds or Manchester. I find a firm and click on the senior partner’s profile:

After graduating from Leicester University in 1984 with a degree in accountancy, X joined Price Waterhouse as a trainee. He passed his accountancy exams in 1986 (finishing 7th out of more than 2,000 entrants). Initially specialising in insolvency work X quickly developed a reputation for…

And so and so on, possibly for another 400 words.

How much wiser am I at the end? None. Senior partner X has used his profile to tell me how competent he is. But I already knew that. He wouldn’t be the senior partner with a large firm of accountants if he wasn’t competent.

He’s written what he wanted to write. Not what I wanted to read. In exactly the same way as my pal blurted out what he wanted to say, not what she wanted to hear.

I wanted to know if I liked my potential accountant: if we had any interests in common, if having a long term business relationship with him would be a good experience. All the senior partners in Leeds or Manchester are going to be competent: I’m looking for the one that I’ll like.

I’m looking for an About page – not a CV page.

This is a fundamental truth and yet it is ignored by 99% of corporate websites. As Jane Austen might have said, ‘It is a truth that should be universally acknowledged that a corporate website must be in want of a good ‘About’ page.’

I know that it can be difficult for some people to open up – and I know that writing an About page is seriously difficult. But it’s worth making the effort – it marks you out as different and it can be the start of a profitable, long term relationship with a client.

So let’s all help each other. Send me examples of what you think are really good ‘About’ pages (not your own!) That way we can all see examples of best practice – and improve what really is a crucial part of our website.

Anyway, enough from me for this week. The boys are out: I’m alone with my wife and a bottle of red wine. Maybe she’d like to leaf through my collection of football programmes…

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8 comments

  1. Rory Ryan · June 15, 2012

    Thankfully I read this post! I’m about to launch a new website and the about page is my CV!

    • edreidyork · June 15, 2012

      Look forward to the revised version Rory – lots to tell!

  2. Suzanne Bell · June 15, 2012

    Well this isn’t quite an ‘About us’ page, but it is ‘Meet the team’ (similar!) – the website sprang to mind as I read your blog. One of our TAB members, MotorMarque, approaches their people page with a really personal and friendly format. Take a look for yourself …http://www.motormarque.co.uk/about-us/our-team/

    • edreidyork · June 15, 2012

      Hi Suzanne – thanks for bringing these guys to the party. I agree with Dick that it shows they’re an energetic and human company!

  3. Dick Jennings · June 15, 2012

    Oh dear, Ed, going to have to disagree on this one. What I look for in a CV is a bit of hard fact as to who the person is, where they come from, what they’ve done. Can I trust them for a particular job? Do we have background, or possible business colleagues, in common?

    My bugbear with on-line CVs is precisely where they attempt to show the real human being – and end up with some cringeworthily winsome little phrase about liking football or golf (why only ever football and golf?), which instantly marks the person down (i) as utterly humdrum and (ii) as potentially the kind of bar bore who actually thinks I’ll find my millionth meeting with a Premier League couch potato some kind of a thrill.

    Actually I think the MotorMarque stuff is great, but on a quite different level. It’s pretending to tell you about the individuals, but actually all it’s doing is pounding away at a simple brand message. You don’t learn anything at all about the people, but you do feel that the business is suffused, from top to bottom, with an infectious and energetic passion for cars.

    • edreidyork · June 15, 2012

      Morning Dick – always great to read your sage comments, and ironically I’m delighted you don’t agree. I think I need more dissenting voices occasionally. So those people who spout football/golf all the time had better watch out!

  4. Anya Mathewson · June 15, 2012

    Ed,
    I can only partially agree with this one. I have read so many cringeworthy “about me” posts which are not a CV but talk about the family (even pictures), spiritual growth, and it still reads me,me,me! I would want a short CV sprinkled with something to bring out the human side. ie a little bit of both.
    And now it’s time for me to revisit my website……………………………

  5. simonjhudson · June 15, 2012

    Well, that prompted me to look at our about the team – it was poor. So now it’s mid way thorugh an update:
    http://www.cloud2.co.uk/about/meet-the-team/
    Who we are is a vital part of what we do, so it’s vital to get it right.

    I used to worry abou how to balance teh different tone of voice that client expect to hear – should one have a super-professional (soulless) version of a site/profile etc for blue chip corporations and a separate hippy-style one for the freewheeling potential clients? These days I feel it’s very easy – be who you are; you’ll get found out either way and, frankly, it’s no fun doing business with clients where there is a bad cultural fit. We take pride in being the outspoken, opinionated, insightful, best-of-breed smart-arses that we are and we want to work with clients who need that and avoid those that don’t. So get that sorted early on (fail quickly, in small ways).

    Feedback welcome…

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