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I am creating a web application for college students where they can share their timetable and help each other in studies and courses. We are in the process of designing the profile of a user. However, we are having a slight argument over including an "About me" field in the profile, as it seems to be not so useful. I tried to search for some UX studies or statistics about how many people do actually fill that info, but could not find sufficient data.

Can anybody suggest some points/statistics which I can use to convince the team to go with the field?

EDIT: Well, it's a platform for people to participate in collaborative projects. We need some field by which a person can check if the profile owner is really an interesting person to collaborate/partner up with?

We have already decided on including interest, expertise and skills and a field titled "PASSION". But still there has to be some personal touch to the profile (in my point of view).

If without an "About me" field, then what?

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You're doing it the wrong way around. Don't think up the fields first; decide on the information you need to collect and then determine the fields you need to get that information, preferably using as few fields as possible. –  JonW Jan 9 '13 at 19:42

5 Answers 5

Social network sites LinkedIn and OkCupid, while already oriented towards populating "About me" information, incentivise users to fill out their details by offering a progress bar and perks for completion. If you want your users making use of it, I think this is a good way to go. I mean, both of my profiles on those sites have 100% completion, and I don't even really use their sites.

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Another site that rewards completion of all fields is this very one. All stack exchange sites award the Autobiographer badge for just this purpose. –  JonW Jan 15 '13 at 21:13

From my personal experience, collaborative projects are more than just a list of skills and interests. Clashing personalities and work ethic plays a major role in deciding who you will be collaborating with especially on complex projects.

So far, the about me section seems to be the only area that allows any sort of "personality" to reveal itself.

I like Mary's approach, but something feels robotic about it. Perhaps, it's just me, but I generally get more information based on a person's writing style and the words they choose to use.

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"About me" fields are general purpose free form areas that allow you to let people share what they would like to share. For example, rather than having fields for LinkedIn, Twitter, and whatever else you want to share, the "About me" text are allows you to share those without having to ask every user for that information.

In 37Signals terminology, this is a "judo" solution. I know for a fact that the "About me" field on StackExchange is used, because I've had contact with a number of people through it.

There is enough general usage of the "About me" field in profiles to justify including it. Even if you don't know how it will be used.

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EDIT: Well, it's a platform for people to participate in collaborative projects. We need some field by which a person can check if the profile owner is really an interesting person to collaborate/partner up with?

We have already decided on including interest, expertise and skills and a field titled "PASSION". But still there has to be some personal touch to the profile (in my point of view).

If without an "About me" field, then what?

So you need a field for determining if the user's personality is one you'd be interested in collaborating with? Why not rephrase that question as an open-ended statement and let the users finish it for themselves? Possible fields:

  • You should work with me because...
  • I work best with...
  • The last person who worked with me...
  • Don't work with me if...

Then it's up to the student if he's going to post something true, funny, or serious. A generic "About Me" may be to daunting to fill out, so narrowing down the question may encourage your users to answer it.

You can always test the proposed screens/questions with a small group of people before launch to see if they respond better to targeted questions or if they just ignore it like the "About Me" section of a profile. (Or, who knows, you might get data that shows a high answering-rate for About Me fields.)

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What is the purpose of the field? If it is key to helping each other, why not build in a lesson about knowing the user and persona development, and see how they can develop it to understand what they want to know about each other in order to work well together?

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How would I "build in a lesson". –  mlakhara Jan 9 '13 at 19:28
    
Sorry dude, from the tone I assumed you were instructing a class. What's the context? –  Peter Jan 9 '13 at 19:33
    
thanks for prompt response, I edited the question. Please refer above. –  mlakhara Jan 9 '13 at 19:55

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