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Talking Point – Faceless Websites – Missing Persons!

A trend seems to be emerging on websites which needs to be nipped in the bud before irreparable damage is done. It could appear to be a sign of arrogance or ignorance on the part of the organisation who owns the website and there seems to be no logical reason for doing this, unless they’re trying to hide something. Or hide from something. They certainly aren’t building any trust by behaving in this way.

Now that I’ve got your attention, I’ll tell you what I’m referring to.

Missing Persons, or more specifically, the increasingly number of people missing from the About Us sections on websites.

More and more frequently I’m coming across websites with no mention of the people behind the organisation. I’m referring to the people who are usually the owners, the boards, or the staff. About Us sections used to be all about the people and it’s where relationships started and trust was built. I’m not talking about shopping sites where all visitors care about is finding the products they want and getting to the check out.

These days many websites seem to be more intent on using the About Us section to push products, promote their own agenda, talk about their reasons for being, or using it as a place to lobby (depending on who or what they are). They miss an opportunity to create a relationship and engage with the visitors to their website.

Living in our small nation has the benefit of smaller degrees of separation – people often know, or have a connection to, the people we ultimately do business with. It can also work in the site visitors’ favour when there are people they don’t want to deal with, such as poor performers, fly-by-nighters, scammers, or simply people who don’t share their values.

Networking was really big in the 1990s, though we’d been doing it long before then – it just didn’t have a fancy name – and people realised the value that connecting with people added to their lives. With the advent of the internet and World Wide Web, some of that networking went online, but it was still people-driven, with referrals being paramount when choosing a supplier of goods or services. Knowing who is involved in the organisation we are thinking of dealing with can still be the deciding factor of whether we buy from them, or not.

So why have many organisations stopped publishing information about their people? There are several reasons that spring to mind

  • They don’t want their identities known
  • They don’t want visitors to their site to know how small they are by the number of their staff
  • They don’t want to be contacted directly
  • They don’t want anyone to know where they’re based
  • They don’t want their personal connection with the organisation known for some reason
  • They find it too hard to write bios and obtain photos of their staff
  • Their staff turns over too quickly – there’s too much churn in the organisation
  • They don’t think it’s important or necessary
  • They’re too busy
  • They have something to hide

Even if none of the above reasons apply, visitors to these faceless websites must feel slightly wary of dealing with organisations that aren’t prepared to disclose who they are. The lack of trust, whether intentional or not, is evident and potentially damaging to the organisation, so why risk it? It reminds me of people’s reluctance to answering phone calls where the number has been withheld – people like to know who they’re talking to or dealing with.

Most, if not all, of Expert’s clients’ websites feature an About Us section – we stress the value of it when we work through the design brief with the client – and the section typically contains information about the key people in the organisation, their roles and usually with a bio and a photograph included.

Where staff members specialise in specific areas or have certain skills or expertise it’s a good idea to include that too, possibly as standalone headings. Law firms do this really well. It’s also a great way to show your organisation’s competence and experience, which of course sits with the people who work there.

One thing to avoid is using images from photo libraries of stock people. I kid you not. I’ve seen websites where the team are featured using free library photos and everyone looks really familiar because they’ve already appeared multiple times on the internet. How dodgy must the organisation doing this be? What else are they lying about?

Here’s a wee suggestion - if the people in your organisation are not quite as photogenic as you’d like, don’t use photos for anyone.

Over the years I have however seen organisations use photos of their staff / team taken in silhouette, dressed in fancy dress costumes, photos of them when they were babies, and even seen photos of their pets which appear as proxies for the people employed. Creative sector companies might have been able to almost get away with doing this in years gone by, but if you want to be taken seriously don’t even think about doing anything like this.

An article appeared in Stuff recently which goes into far more detail about all the reasons why an About Us page is really important for websites . It does a deep dive into why having an organisation’s people fronting their website is so vital and uses a great analogy with websites being the virtual shopfront or office of an organisation.

Of course none of this is rocket science so please include the key people who work in your organisation in your About Us section – you’ll reap the rewards. And if you’re worried about your staff being poached by your competitors if they’re promoted on your website, don’t concern yourself – that’s what LinkedIn is for!

If you’d like help with your About Us section feel free to contact us – we can help you to gather the correct info and we’ll display it nicely on your site. We can even take photos of your key people as we have our own in-house photographer.

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