Jakob Nielsen is well known and lauded for his web site usability expertise. He's been called the "guru of web page usability" by the New York Times, "the next best thing to a true time machine" by USA Today, "the Web's usability czar" by WebReference.com and one of the "top ten minds in small business" by Fortune.
When Jakob speaks about web site design, people listen.
Jakob recently released an exhaustive study and survey on "About Us" pages. Just about every corporate site on the planet has one. Are they effective?
Summary: We found a 9% improvement in the usability of About Us information on websites over the past 5 years. But companies and organizations still can't explain what they do in one paragraph.
- Jakob Nielsen
That one capsule of the study is enough to get tongues wagging in web site usability circles to question whether "About Us" pages should go the way of the Doh Doh bird.
Note: B.L. Ochman's well thought out plea to just outright ban "About Us" pages.
I'll let you read both pieces from the links above; but here are a few of my personal walkaways:
1. From the survey; "About Us" pages are getting better from a pure usability standpoint; but visitor satisfaction is going down and the success rate of "task success" for actually finding out what an organization does is also going down. Nielsen attributes this strange contradiction in findings to the web user's rising expectations in what they expect to get out of a typical web site.
2. Ochman makes a great point: what goes on your "About Us" page should probably be on your front page summed up in a one or two line elevator pitch statement anyway. I agree that what your organization is or does should be easily communicated on the home page. I wouldn't give up the 'About Us" page, however. People always want more and to dig deeper. I often look for that page to get a sense of who's behind the company: who are its executives, is their a parent company; company history, etc.
3. I am frustrated with an organization's site when I can't easily find out: who runs it, who owns it, where it's based and what is the core mission.