Paul McAleer

Bye-Bye, ‘My’

Paul McAleer


This is a debate that has existed as long as I’ve been doing web design: In a web app, do you label text elements as ‘My ___’ or ‘Your ___’?

Erika Hall favors ‘Your’, and so have I for as long as I’ve been involved in the debate. In her words,

In their excellent Design Pattern Library, the Yahoo! Developer Network explains the heart of the problem their parent created. Instead of reinforcing a sense of ownership and agency, this unnatural locution feels presumptuous and alienating.

‘It is as if the user has printed out labels and stuck them to various objects: My Lunch, My Desk, My Red Stapler. Except the user hasn’t done this; you (the site) did it for them.’

This is lazy design and branding. It’s bad style.

Aside from being bad style, one of the fundamental problems with ‘My’ is that it becomes awkward to reference in help text, such as “To find your documents, simply navigate to your My Documents page….” Using the second-person eliminates this issue, among others.

I, too, have always shied away from “My” because it’s totally unclear.