The web can often be a place of short attention spans and instantaneous judgments. With hundreds of different online retailers of tea, one cannot possibly take the time to even fully explore every tea company website, even if you're a serious tea blogger, webmaster of a tea website, or a die-hard tea enthusiast. An interesting book, Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell, explores the question of instantaneous, intuitive decisions, and finds that in a number of ways, people can actually be quite accurate with snap decisions.
Looking at a Tea Company Website:
Different people look for different things on a website. I'm less of an artistic person, and while good visual design does get my attention and make a positive impression, I'm not willing to write off a company just because their website is minimal, blocky, or unprofessional looking--nor am I willing to consider a company legitimate just because their design is outstanding. So what do I look for?
I go straight to the "About Us" page.
If your website does not have an "About" or "About Us" page (or equivalent page by some other name), that sends up a red flag. What kind of legitimate business would ignore the opportunity to present basic information to curious potential customers looking to learn more about a company?
Bad or Meaningless "About Us" Pages:
What is perhaps worse than no about page, however, is a trite page spewing platitudes about how the company is committed to bringing you the best teas, without actually giving any factual background information about the company or useful information about the company's history or focus. This communicates, like above, a lack of business confidence and know-how. A confident business advertises: Here I am, this is who I am, this is what makes me special.
An ideal About page:
I strongly prefer when the about us page identifies the owner(s) of the company, where the company is located, when it was founded, and any relevant history of the company. These things all serve to make the company seem more personal, and they also make me more interested in and curious about the company. Information about location can provide an extra boost of interest if the company happens to be based in a city or town which I am familiar with. But the most important point of all to include is what makes your particular tea company unique.
The about us page is an awesome opportunity--one of the best opportunities to make a sales pitch for your business. If someone actually comes to this page and is reading it, they are interested in learning more about your company, and they are specifically looking for more information. This is as good as it gets! Don't blow this prime opportunity!
Highlight your strengths. Do you sell some unusual Chinese oolongs that are hard to obtain elsewhere? Or some single-estate tea from Malawi that is inexpensive, subtly flavored, and that no one has heard of? Do you specialize in Ceylon or Indian teas from a particular region? Does your company offer innovative herbal blends? Or classic British-style teas? Are you going above and beyond with your use of sustainable packing materials? Do you sell any teas sourced directly from small, farmer-owned tea gardens or cooperatives?
Link up your page with an active blog and/or active social media accounts. One of the best ways to establish legitimacy is through recommendations of others. If you're actively participating in a community of tea enthusiasts, interacting with other tea drinkers, tea companies, and people in the world of tea, this helps to demonstrate that the facts on your website can be trusted in a way that cannot be conveyed by just writing something on your site alone.
Link only to actively maintained accounts and sites. If you don't use your twitter account, don't link to it--an account with a single tweet 6 months ago draws attention to the fact that you don't use this type of social media. If you don't use it, that's fine, but don't draw attention to this fact. The same goes for blogs. Try to post at least once a month, ideally more often, on a given type of media (facebook, blog, twitter, etc.) if you are going to link to it.
It doesn't need to be named "about":
Lastly, you can call your about page anything you want, especially if you want to get more personal. Chicago Tea Garden says "Our Story", which I like because it brings to mind the process that led the company to be founded; Zen Tara Tea says "Who We Are", which I like because it's very direct. Just make sure the page is intuitively named and easy to locate. Since it's the second page that many people will view after landing on your site (I've found this same pattern on all websites I've ever administered), it makes sense to link to it from every page on your site.
I hope this page can encourage some of the newer and smaller companies to fill out their about us page! I'm always surprised when I am looking for more info and don't find it! It takes only a brief amount of time to fill out such a page, and it will convey instant legitimacy, at least, to readers like me.