What Makes a Good Website About Page? (Hint: The Same Details That Make a Great Book Preface or Introduction)

man and woman discussing website content outside coffee shop

Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

If you’re creating a website for your business like the hipster fellow in the above photo, you may be wondering, “What should I include in my About page?” How personal should it get? How business-y should it sound?

Here’s how I answered this web content question on the social site Quora a few years ago. My answer still holds true. The last paragraph also applies for writing nonfiction book Prefaces and Intros.

Depending on your industry, a clearly written, friendly About page can be where media people will go to find out who you are—what you’re about—and what ideas you represent. What I’ve told my clients in the past is that while Home pages are often dominated by “the latest news” or a splashy interface displaying a new product or campaign, About pages are where new site visitors go after they’ve seen your sales pitch, when they want to get a sense of who’s selling to them.

Seth Godin published some rules for writing About pages on his blog. One of them was “Be human. Write like you talk and put your name on it. Tell a story, a true one, one that resonates.”

I agree. Compelling personal stories are eye-catching. They also function as the most immediate of all possible testimonials: your story about why you started your business, wrote your book, or founded your non-profit.

For many business endeavors, the story goes something like this: “I saw a need. Nobody was filling this need. So I jumped in and created something I’m proud of. I know it will help you, because it helped me. Please get in touch and let me know how you like my product. I welcome your feedback.”

How does this relate to nonfiction books?

Nonfiction books of the self-help or how-to variety are information products–emphasis on the word “products.” As such, their introductory material often covers the same ground as a website About page: you need readers to know quickly who’s selling them this information. What makes you, the author, the right person to teach me something over the course of a few days or weeks?

Here’s a handy analogy:

Website splash page = book back cover copy. The energetic words and occasional overselling (let’s be honest!) catch your eye when you’re browsing online or in the bookstore.

About page = book introduction and/or preface. Inside the book is the place you go to learn more about the author–their personal story, their background, and why they felt compelled to write this book.

Do you need help writing or editing an About page, professional bio, book preface, or statement about your business? I can help. Let’s talk!

Write What You Don’t Know (Yet)

Write to discover what you want to say. Photo by David Iskander on Unsplash

Photo by David Iskander on Unsplash

Note: This post was originally published on my blog in April 2008.

Right now I’m reading a book called The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse. The author, Louise Erdrich, is one of my favorite writers. I first learned of her when I was a freshman at Dartmouth. About fifteen of us who’d designated creative writing as a potential major were invited to meet with her and her husband, Michael Dorris, at the Montgomery House, where they were living as fellows and resident scholars.

I don’t remember much about the meeting, except that they served tea, cookies, and chocolate covered strawberries. The authors gave us some advice, then invited us to ask questions. I’d never raised my hand to ask or answer a single thing in thirteen years of public education, but now, newly collegiate, I was surprisingly bold.

My question: “Everyone always tells writers to write what they know. But we’re only eighteen years old and nothing’s happened to us yet. What are we supposed to write about?”

Read moreWrite What You Don’t Know (Yet)