Use “Your” instead of “My” when labeling things that are considered belonging to a user!
Possessive pronoun labels on a website (or computer) should be considered part of communication from the website to the user, as that fits the mental model most people construct subconsciously when reading text on a website. The website is communicating to you, the user. Years of consistent usage has trained us to understand that “My” means something that belongs to me, the user, so we are not completely confused when we see “My”. However, it does come with a small cognitive load penalty, as the user has to do a little thinking to understand what is meant.
The word “My” has been replaced by “Your” as a label from most popular websites over the years. Amazon uses “Your Account” instead of “My Account”, and Microsoft changed “My Computer” in Windows XP to just “Computer” in Windows 7 and now “This PC” in Windows 8. Many sites that present content specific to the individual user will even display your name as the modifier, like “Matt’s Account”.
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One concept that has resisted the change is the “My Site” in SharePoint. Microsoft has eliminated the use of “My” in the front-end labels in SharePoint 2013 and Office 365, although on the back-end the feature is still called “My Site”. Additionally, the default URL associated with the feature is still “my”, leading to many SharePoint instances that still include the word in the URL and nowhere else. Your default profile page is “Person.aspx” and the text cues refer to the content as “your profile”, so clearly somebody gets it. Microsoft recommends a separate web application for the My Site Host, and a managed path for all the personal site collections, so you have 2 labels you need to come up with in order to properly deploy your my site- see how confusing “your my site” looks?
“Your” does not make sense in this case as the sites are not just for you but also for others to access. I recommend “people” as the subdomain for your my site web application, with “personal” (or just “p”) as the managed path for the personal site collection. This way you end up with a nice URL like “people.perficient.com/Person.aspx” or “people.perficient.com/personal/matt_connolly/documents”. Those of us on the implementation side can help by referring to these sites as “personal sites”, even while we continue activate the My Site feature as administrators.
If you don’t follow my recommendations on naming your my site, at least, I implore you to drop the word “my” everywhere you can!
- Designing Social Interfaces – Your vs. My
- Yahoo Design Pattern Library – Your vs. My
- UX Stack Exchange – My Account or Your Account