Examples of Good “About” Information
In the comments for my prior post about Quick Note to Website and Blog Designers Lesa asked "would you mind giving some examples of what you're looking for"
Sure! I'll use LibraryThing as an example. If you go to their homepage, it is pretty clear that they are some sort of Library cataloging system. At the top of the page there is a very easy to find About tab. If you click on that you get the About page and the first heading is:
What is LibraryThing?
LibraryThing is an online service to help people catalog their books easily. You can access your catalog from anywhere—even on your mobile phone—. Because everyone catalogs together, LibraryThing also connects people with the same books, comes up with suggestions for what to read next, and so forth.
Here is something that I can cut and paste easily into my blog or handout or website. I don't have to write a description of it myself. Of course, if I really love the site, I will probably rave about it and tell why I enjoy it (at least on my blog!). But it seems to me that most sites that are selling things or providing information should want to make it as easy to get the word about their site. And maintain some control over the message.
Here is an example of what drives me crazy. I recently found out about FilmLoop, a new photo utility. I knew a little bit about what it could do, but not much. The homepage gave me some information, but not a concise description and I was still a little confused as to what they really were and how they differed from Flickr. Plus I wanted something to cut and paste onto my blog. So I looked at the menu across the top. No About page. I kept looking around and found it really tiny across the bottom. So I clicked on it. This is what I got:
FilmLoop was hatched over a breakfast of hashbrowns and pancakes in 2004 by Kyle Mashima and Prescott Lee. Since then, the two friends have been working hard with their team to ready FilmLoop for the world.
Interesting information, but still does not really tell me what FilmLoop is or does. The only other information on that page is a list of press releases which I could probably click on and maybe find a description but that is a pain. So I keep looking. To the right of the page, (below the "fold") I see a link to a Using FilmLoopFAQ. Finally I get to a page where I can click on "What is FilmLoop":
What is FilmLoop?
FilmLoop is a free photo broadcasting ("photocasting") network. It lets you tell your story in live photo Loops and broadcast it to all your friends.
Instead of showing photos on a Web page, or including them as email attachments, FilmLoop presents photos in a "Loop" on your desktop. Share your Loop with your friends, and they can add their photos too. It also allows you to set up a Loop as your screensaver (PC only; screensaver for the Mac coming soon).
Now that is more of what I was looking for. It also explains how they are different then the multitude of other photo sites such as Flickr. Now, I did go back and look and found that the FAQ is available if you click on Help but again it is easy to overlook (listed second or third in a list of links on the Help page). Either way you still have to drill around quite a bit to find what you are looking for. And on some websites you can't even find any kind of concise statement of what they do.
Maybe I am just lazy or tired after having spent quite a bit of time adding links to vendors over at VaHomeschoolers.org and updating resource handouts. But I am finding that I am getting more and more picky about what I look for in a website.
I do a lot of shopping online and a well designed and easy to use website will make the sale for me. I recently bought a hammock online and specifically choose one vendor over another solely because I thought the website was easier to use and had better information which helped me make my decision. The products were the same, the price was a couple of dollars difference (I went with the higher priced site). The website made the sale.
I guess the thing for designers to think about is how can they make it as easy as possible for for their visitors to pass on information about their site. Especially in this day and age with blogs so abundant. I may see a cool site that I want to pass on, but if I have to spend a lot of time writing "copy" then I might choose to put it off. Now of course if the site is just way cool, then I will probably take the time.
A good mission/purpose statement seems like it should be a basic. So just make it easy to find!