This is the about section. I’m to add information here, that explains who I am and why this website exists. GOOD LUCK!
So how do you make your About page worth visiting? Luckily, there’s a ten step program for that (twelve is so 1995). In this 101 post we’ll focus on getting the basics right with five things to keep in mind when carving out an introduction to yourself and your blog that doesn’t scream “nothing to see here, move along.”
1. Know what you want to do with it. Your blog or site exists for a purpose. If you don’t know what that is, and don’t set about making it abundantly clear, your chances of having people stick around to read your content are on the fast track to nowheresville. Imagine you were running a roadside BBQ emporium. If the sign for said emporium had pictures of yoga poses, moustaches, kittens, and hotdogs on it, you’d probably be failing to connect with your potential audience. Your About page is that sign. It’s your chance to inspire them into action. Know what it is you want to inspire them to do. Do you want people to get in touch? To realize that you’re an expert in fossilized monkey dung? To hire you? To follow your blog? To seek you out on Facebook? To laugh until they pee? Have a goal, and everything else falls into place.
Action time! Set a timer for 90 seconds. In that 90 seconds, jot down 1-3 things you’d like your audience to feel, think, and most importantly of all, do, when they read your About page.
2. Meal vs. shopping list. A shopping list and a delicious meal have a lot in common (okay, ingredients), but they’re not the same thing. Imagine a hungry friend comes over for dinner. But instead of serving them your signature dish, you read them a list of ingredients. “Pasta” you say. “Cheese” you say. “Tomatoes” you say. Half an hour in, they start to cry.
That’s exactly what most About pages feel like. “I come from blah blah” you say. “I like dogs” you say. “My best friend Winnie thinks it’s cute when I blow my nose trumpet” you say. But none of it holds together. It’s a shopping list. Your job is to put those parts together and make them into something greater than their sum. Tell us a story, connect the dots: “Living in the mountains of Switzerland as a teenage shepherd, I learnt the art of playing the nose trumpet to communicate with the first of my many canine friends, Winnie. My love of dogs, mountains and nose trumpeteering has continued to this day, only now I play nose jazz in Seattle while Winnie’s son Mr Ruffles dances a doggy tarantella. For cold hard cash.”
Action time! Get that timer out again. Give yourself 60 seconds this time, because you like living on the edge. Scribble down, at breakneck pace, any words that spring to mind to describe you (“book nerd,” “cat fancier,” “walrus trainer”). Take another sixty seconds and do the same for your blog (“hilarity fiesta,” “doom machine,” “cat photos”). Take on one more bout of sixty second scribbing, because, hey, what’s three minutes between friends, and do the same for important events in your life (“dog bite,” “cheese aversion,” “psychokinetic prom fire”). Now you have all of your ingredients on the page, give yourself 90 decadent seconds to draw lines between all of the above and see how you can connect them all into something greater than the sum of their parts.
3. Front load it. The first sentence of a good About page is there to get the reader to the second sentence. The second sentence’s job is to get them to the third sentence. If people aren’t getting to the fourth sentence without letting out a gut-wrenching yawn, you’re probably veering off course from your goal. Which is to make people do something. The right people. Your people. The others you don’t mind. They don’t belong here. “Get off my land!” you might say to them. But the people you’re addressing, the ones you hope will stick around? Make sure you’re reeling them in from sentence one.
Action Time! Imagine for a moment that you’re one of those poor deflated looking people on the street trying to get strangers to take fliers from you. Only, instead of fliers, you’ve got your blog. You have half a second to get their attention. What are you going to say in that half a second to make them stop in their tracks? Set a timer for, say, two minutes. Jot down as many opening lines as you can come up with.
4.Elevator pitch. Nobody’s saying you need to boil your About page down into haiku-like super-brevity, but it IS a good idea to have a short, scannable, one-liner version of it to complement the fuller-bodied story of you. Think of this as your way to get a foot in the door of your reader’s rapidly dwindling attention. How can you boil down everything you’ve said in your bio to a single, inviting, enticing soundbite you can use to reel them in?
Action Time! The timer’s off for this one, because being concise is challenge enough. Try to capture the essence of your About page in a single sentence, like the tagline for a movie.
5. For realsies. When we sit down and write it’s very easy to slip into English Class 101 pretentious writing mode. You break out your best adjectives. You toss around flowery verbs. Before you know it, you have the most stilted, unnatural chunk of snooze-text you’ve ever seen. Write your About page as if you telling this to a friend over coffee, beer, or a less stimulating but no less refreshing beverage of your choice.
Action Time! If you really want to put it to the test, go and do that — pitch your About page to a friend. Rehearse. And tell them about your blog. If you see them wincing, you probably need to rewrite your About page so that feels more natural and down to earth. Bonus points if you try this on a stranger at a bus stop.
Hopefully that gives you a little something to shake up your About page. Coming up, in About Page 201: The Meat Grinder, we return like champions to a feast to make minced meat of the most important page of your blog, and ratchet that beast up several more mixed-metaphor notches to excellence.
Until then, link up your own About pages (or those that have inspired you) in the comments and show us how it’s done. Or if you’re hungry for more ways to personalize your site without alienating your audience, check out our earlier post on three ways to make your blog your own.
Your About page is the perfect opportunity to introduce what you’re doing with your blog — and why it matters — to your audience. In About Page 101: Making Them Care, we looked at getting the basics right in terms of knowing what you’re trying to do, telling a compelling story, keeping things brief, and writing in a style that doesn’t come off as more stilted than your Uncle Joe’s wedding party dance moves. Now we’re going to take all of the hard work you did there, all of the blood, sweat, and tears you poured into making your About page rock, and put them through the meat grinder. Because good enough isn’t good enough for us. Ready? Ready.
1. Slash it in half. And in half again. 95% of first paragraphs are a complete waste of everyone’s time (source: the institute of questionable statistics). Often we’re just getting our writing mojo on in those first tentative lines, but by paragraph two we’re working those words like a champ. The same’s often true for endings. You’ve reached a rollicking finale. Everything’s beautiful. And then you add one more paragraph to “wrap things up,” killing the effect of what should have been your last line by smothering it in more needless word-calories than a deep-fried Elvis burger. It hurts to kill your darlings, especially when you’ve spent so long making them beautiful, but more often than not it makes for a more powerful piece of writing.
Action time! Experiment with killing your first and last paragraphs and see if it makes your About page a senseless mess or a leaner, meaner About page machine. In the case of the former, see if you can’t slice and dice a paragraph or two from the midsection to cut out the flab and keep things focused and fancy free.
2. Bite-sized morsels. So, you’ve topped and tailed your About page masterwork. Now it’s time to rescue your readers from the horror that is infinitely long chunks of uninterrupted text. When confronted with more than two or three sentences on the interweb, the human brain has evolved to explode or prevent explosion by switching off. You don’t want that to happen.
When we’re reading a book, we’ll happily shuffle on through scads of text. Web reading is a different experience, and leads people to scan for information. The easier you make it for them to do that, the more chance you have of sparing their screens from a spontaneous headsplosion mishap.
Action time! Try carving your About page up into discrete, bite-sized paragraphs with a little whitespace between them. For bonus points take a leaf from the newspapers and add some subheadings for the sections of your About page, giving people a chance to rapidly identify what’s to come in the next paragraph as they flit through your content at breakneck pace. Examples might include “Where I’m From” and “Where You’ll Find Me”. Alternatively, you could try phrasing them as questions, like “Where are you from?”
3. Signpost your Sunday best. If you’re interested in your readers sticking around or coming back for more, your About page is a great place to point a large flashing neon sign at the posts you’re proudest of on your blog. Failing a large flashing neon sign, you could add some links to them instead. This gives people an easy way to discover your best content and carry on getting to know you and your work, rather than reading your About page, nodding their head silently, and clicking over to that other browser tab with animated kittens dancing, never to return.
Action Time! Quickly jot down the posts you’ve written that you’re proudest of, or that offer the best picture of your interests and passions as outlined in your About page. Now, see if you can’t scatter a handful of those choice links in among the storytelling action to keep ’em reading.
4. Picture this. Chunking your About page into juicy bite-sized morsels certainly makes scanning the content easier, and gives a reader’s eyes respite from the horror of reading gigantic paragraphs on a screen. But what if you were to give your page one or more little visual hooks for their eyes to get snared on? Ok, that’s a nauseating image, but you get the idea.
Adding some images to your About page not only helps to illustrate your ideas, it also gives the eye somewhere to settle when it first lands on the page, and when it starts to scan downward, providing visual cues for the content within. You don’t need to be Picasso to find suitable images. Use photos of yourself or the things you’re writing about, or tap into the huge array of free, remixable images available under the Creative Commons.
Action Time! Scan through your bite-sized morcels of About pageness and brainstorm one or more images you could strategically drop in to catch the eye and illustrate your ideas. It could be as simple as a head shot of yourself, or as abstract as the snowflake that represents your magical uniqueness as a human being.
5. End with some action. In About Page 101 we started off by identifying a purpose for our About pages. You might be trying to convince people to “friend” you on a social media service; to buy your book; to recognize your genius; or simply to introduce yourself to others out there who share your interests. As you bring your About page to a close, bring it back to that purpose and thing about the action you’d like them to take once they’ve finished. If you’re feel particularly ambitious, rather than merely ending your About page with a call to action, weave action in among the whole darned thing, one paragraph at a time.
Action Time! Remind yourself of the purpose you set out to serve with your About page, and see how you can intorduce some calls to action into the end, or throughout your post. It could be that you’re linking to your own or someone else’s content; pointing them in the direction of your Twitter or Facebook presence; asking them to leave a comment or get in touch. The action’s up to you, but you’ll have a lot more chance of someone taking it if you’re explicit about what it actually is.
That’s it, you should now have a lean, mean, fighting keen, erm, About page. It’s taken us some work to get here, but hopefully it’s all been worthwhile. Like all rules, the ten we’ve walked through here are meant to be broken, the more creatively the better.