Morgan Stanley : Undetailed account

A responsive ‘About Us’ section with a minimalist approach to content lacks the appropriate detail for its main audiences.

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The feature

Morgan Stanley, the US-based financial services firm, recently revamped its corporate website, favouring a responsive design that adjusts automatically to any screen size. In keeping with current trends, the new site features big images set against single-colour banners, an abundance of panels, no left navigation and short headlines in large type.

The ‘About Us’ landing page leads with the slogan ‘We believe that capital can work to benefit all of society’. It is divided into short sub-sections – only accessed via scrolling – on philanthropy, sustainability, diversity of the workforce, a history feature and the company’s ‘global presence’, which visitors can only access via scrolling. Each of these sub-sections also has a large headline (eg, ‘Giving back is our global commitment’) usually with an onward link to further information elsewhere on the site.

The takeaway

Visually, Morgan Stanley’s ‘About Us’ landing page creates a positive first impression. It is an effective billboard for its main audiences – jobseekers, potential customers and others – communicating the bank’s commitment to society as well as clients and shareholders. As expected from its responsive design, the page looks good on smartphones and tablets too, which will help convey the impression, especially with younger audiences, that the company moves with the times.

However, once visitors scroll past the initial headline on the landing page, the lack of adequate detail becomes apparent. Taking jobseekers as a key audience, for example, basic content about what the company actually does, how it is organized, who are its managers, etc, is either difficult to find and lacks depth, or is not there at all (some information is contained in ‘What We Do’ but is similarly thin). Material that the company has included, such as the history section, is also disappointingly shallow, as well as not being signposted from anywhere. Coming across it while scrolling is a surprise, not good for visitors who might wish to go straight there.

Many companies we know are trimming the amount of content on their corporate websites, which can be a good thing if the material is genuinely superfluous. However, if one of the answers to the question, ‘what is a website for?’ is ‘to tell jobseekers and others about the company’ then cutting good content from ‘About us’ sections does not make sense. Too often reducing content is seen as an aim in itself, or worse, as a way to satisfy the requirements of a responsive design template that does not fit the more complex needs of a corporate website audience.
First published 25 March, 2015
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