Representing a company or organization on the Internet is one of a website’s most important jobs. Effectively explaining the company’s purpose and what it stands for provides essential support for all other website goals.
Unfortunately, while most sites offer an About Us section, they often do a poor job of communicating the crucial information it should contain.
To find out how users find and interpret website profiles of companies and organizations, we conducted user testing of sites run by 63 organizations in five general categories:
* Large companies, such as Bristol-Myers Squibb, China Mobile, Citigroup, Eli Lilly, Vivendi, and Yamaha.
* Medium-sized companies, such as Body Trends, Cintas, Pier 1 Imports, and Titan Corporation.
* Smaller companies, such as GiftTree.com, ImmunoGen, Nabi Biopharmaceuticals, OneCall, and Paper Style.
* 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.
* Non-profits, such as American Refugee Committee, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, and the United Nations Children’s Fund.
We tested 15 sites in our first round of research 5 years ago, and 48 sites in our new study.
On each site, we gave users one open-ended task: evaluate the organization. We also gave them several directed tasks, such as to find out who runs the organization, what community or social programs the organization contributes to, and when the organization was founded.
Most test participants were mainstream Web users, investment analysts, or journalists with at least 2 years’ Internet experience. In Study 1, we included a few teenagers because the goals of putting corporate information on the Web often include supporting student projects, building long-term loyalty, and attracting interns.
We conducted most sessions in the United States, and a few in Hong Kong to ensure the international applicability of our findings.