It’s All ‘About Us’
October 15, 2015 The NonProfit Times
The About Us section of Feeding America’s website was given special attention during last year’s redesign. Key pieces of information were broken down into easily digestible subsections and a search-engine-optimized “Why Feeding America” page was created, which was dedicated to educating visitors on why they should donate to the organization.
“Our website launched last October and we looked at the general hierarchy of information in the design,” said Lindsey Iero, director of digital engagement. “About Us was a key page.”
Nearly a year later, the “Why Feeding America” section is among the most common landing pages for organic visitors, Iero said. Given the changes to analytics between Chicago-headquartered Feeding America’s old and new websites, it is difficult to gauge how much web traffic has increased, Iero said.
Feeding America took a narrative approach to its web design. Starting from left with a Hunger in America tab to illustrate the issues at hand, the site flows to the About Us tab that shares how Feeding America is responding to issues. It then finishes off with Take Action, Find a Food Bank and Ways to Give sections to direct visitors toward means of helping.
Livening up the website with images was another priority, Iero said. The About Us page, for instance, now features five subsections, each with an image, that break down to further subsections — each with an image and snippet of information below them, teasing the following page’s content. “The site prior to the redesign, section landing pages were almost like link farms, not a lot of visual interest, not a lot of additional content or context,” Iero said.
Feeding America is not alone in making its About Us page a priority. Often among the most viewed pages on organizations’ websites, nonprofits are paying careful attention to messages they present on the page and how they convey it.
Approximately 70 percent of the traffic on World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) About Us page this year is from first-time visitors, according to Diane Quigley director of web content for WWF, based in Washington, D.C. It is thus important for the page to be easy to navigate, as its visitors are typically just learning about WWF. Making sure that the section, along with the rest of the site, is mobile-friendly was also a focus, Quigley said, as nearly 50 percent of WWF’s web traffic is from mobile devices.
WWF’s About Us page consistently ranks among the top 50 of WWF’s 8,000 pages in terms of visits.
“I think that building trust is really what that page is all about,” Quigley said of the About Us section. When WWF launched its current site in 2012, the organization put an emphasis on building trust on the page. WWF highlighted its longevity, leadership hierarchy and mission statement. It also made sure that its financial information, including diagrams depicting what portion of funding goes to programmatic work, was clear and accessible — an important feature in establishing donor trust, Quigley said.
Direct Relief in Goleta, Calif., is in the process of making its website more transparent, according to Tony Morain, director of communications. In 2010, Direct Relief launched its distribution map, illustrating how much funding goes to each part of the globe. Direct Relief plans to have more readily updated financial information on its About Us section by year’s end.
The About Us section is consistently among Direct Relief’s most heavily trafficked pages, right after the home page, Morain said. Visitors generally go to the page to either learn about the organization or to donate and Direct Relief keeps that in mind with the information available on the page. “A website is so much more than a website. It’s really the only thing a person has to go by with a nonprofit,” Morain said.
Direct Relief strategized to answer a few key questions with its About Us page: The organization’s mission; its values; and, how the organization will use donors’ money. Financial and policy information is also featured on Direct Relief’s About Us page, including donor privacy and donation policy information, Morain said.
About Us is the third most visited section on The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) website, according to Amy Bastian, director of analytics and testing digital engagement for the Arlington, Va., organization. It ranks just behind the homepage and blog. Bastian cited career and volunteer information as drivers for the page.
Visitors tend to use the About Us section to find ways to get involved, Bastian said. TNC is in the process of collecting quantitative and analytical data to better understand visitors’ usage of its website in advance of a redesign that will take place in the coming years. One of the early findings is an overlap between visitors looking to make donations, volunteer and learn about job opportunities. Moving forward, TNC will look to step back and evaluate how best to present the content visitors are seeking, keeping in mind that some visit the page for multiple reasons, Bastian said.
Among the organizations Idealware of Portland, Maine works with, the About Us page typically ranks within the top five pages visited, often slotting second behind the homepage, according to Karen Graham, executive director of the nonprofit technology organization. Graham described About Us pages as an opportunity to convey the organization in a nutshell, to provide a case statement describing what it is trying to accomplish and why it needs the visitor. About Us pages that do not provide visitors with a direct prompt toward an action miss an opportunity, Graham said.
In drafting content for the page, Graham recommended using keywords for search engine optimization so that those seeking the organization can be directed to the About Us section. Graham also cautions against using a contact form on an About Us page in lieu of a means of direct contact such as an email or phone number, believing they can sometimes put up a barrier between visitors and organizations. “I wouldn’t get rid of that, just so long as there’s an opportunity to directly contact, so long as the contact request is responded to promptly,” Graham said of contact forms. “If they go into a black hole, that’s just terrible customer service.”
Some organizations might see minimal traffic on the About Us sections and may thus de-emphasize them. That would be a mistake, according to George Weiner, founder and CEO of Whole Whale in Brooklyn, N.Y. A common funnel toward an organization’s donate page is homepage to About Us to donate section, Weiner said. “The About section has become as critical or more critical than the donate page,” Weiner said.
Though organizations spend much of their focus on homepages, Weiner said that is important not to lose sight of the fact that visitors’ first interaction with a website can come on any page.
“It’s what we call the front door syndrome,” Weiner said. “Beware of front door syndrome, that the website is like a store and people come right in. Websites have no walls. Every page is a potential landing page.”
Weiner suggested using the About Us page as a means of selling an organization to a visitor as opposed to a section completely dedicated to history. With that, he has seen an increased use of infographics and images on About Us pages, a feature he recommended using.
“Any time you’re looking at an About page and the word count is 500 without pictures, you’ve made an error,” Weiner said. “You’re not telling a story, you’re telling them to read a novel and, sadly, that’s not how the Internet works. Putting a bulk of text up there, you’re just going to lose people.” NPT