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Ask HN: Better 1st person (My Photos) or 2nd (Your Photos)?
60 points by barredo on Dec 17, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 38 comments
In apps or web apps, in usability, UI and/or UX terms.

How about option 3: "Items" and "Photos"? Unless of course you have to differentiate between "Mine" and "Everyone Elses"

Agreed. Users will be reading "My" every time they see it, so unless it's vital, leave it out.

For example, Microsoft abandoned the "My" prefix in Vista for Documents, Pictures, etc. in the UI.

Microsoft abandoned the "My" prefix in Vista for Documents, Pictures, etc. in the UI.

And then they brought it back in 7. I guess people complained.

I agree that omitting the "My" or "Your" where possible is the right way to go. If the overall context of the web page or application doesn't make it clear whose items are in question, adding "My" isn't always going to help much, or at all.

Consider Facebook, for example. Look at a friend's page. It probably has a "Photos" link. Would "My Photos" be clearer? Would "My Photos" refer to photos belonging to the logged-in user or photos belonging to the person depicted above the link?

It's the context in which the "Photos" link appears that makes its purpose and meaning clear, and that is usually the case.

In my version of Windows 7 (International English?), it says "Documents", "Pictures", "Music", etc. There is no "My" prefix.

"My x" typically sits under library x alongside "shared x" in Windows 7. So I am not sure that the vocabulary was complaint driven.

Regarding Facebook, everything is shared to some degree so I am not sure it is an apt example.

Actually, it took me a while to figure out why "Photos" didn't take my to My photos, but to a photo stream of all of my friends. (Also, Win7 did not add the "My" prefix back to computer, documents, pictures, or anything.)

Actually, it took me a while to figure out why "Photos" didn't take my to My photos, but to a photo stream of all of my friends.

Me too, but I believe that's a context problem, not a phrasing problem.

Also, Win7 did not add the "My" prefix back to computer, documents, pictures, or anything.

Well then somebody has some explaining to do.


In fairness, there are aliases of some kind set up such that "John\Documents" and "John\My Documents" are synonyms. But the GUI very much puts "My" front and center for me.

> And then they brought it back in 7.

Mea culpa. I haven't used 7 very much =)

Speaking of context, though, I've also heard "don't use My" as a recommendation for mobile UIs, because they don't have that much space to spend on the word to begin with...

This option makes tab completions much faster when you are working in the command line. Maybe I just don't pay much attention, but I don't think I've ever seen "My <whatever>" on a Linux system.

I agree. It should be clear from the context that this is the user's content. If there is a mixture of content, I'd opt for labeling the other stuff.

or option 4: [name]'s Items and Photos?

I'm really shocked about the differing opinions on this. I have always thought that the "my X" label triggers selfishness and suspicion in users, putting their guard up. I prefer "Your X" so that people feel like a team has been formed. They trust you with their data because they are entering information into your site. We're a team.

I guess it is understandable that you might not have yet gained the user's trust but I feel like then they wouldn't be your user.

Qualification: This is based upon my personal experience and opinion but not on extensive work experience producing publicly published copy.

For many people, it's going to feel/be more natural to write in the second person. Writing in the first person, when you are instructing someone else rather than describing yourself, takes more conscious effort. It's easy to forget and slip tenses. Also, and important, the resulting language/copy often ends up reading "stilted" -- it doesn't seem natural.

Unless you have a particular impression in mind, and the skill to pull it off well, I'd consider going with second person. It will probably be quicker to write, and if you really need to switch to first person, you'll have pre-existing copy from which to start.

P.S. I also tend to favor leaving such qualifiers off of labels, except when they clearly help distinguish an item.

Yahoo's YUI has a whole write up on this in their design patterns: http://developer.yahoo.com/ypatterns/social/core/yourvmy.htm...

They explain why they've determined that "your" is best.

"My Computer" et al. sounded patronising and childlike when it started and continues to do so now.

How about just "Items" and "Photos"? Unless there is something marked "Someone else's items" and "Someone else's photos", is it necessary to specify that they belong to the user?

I actually create a "my" subdirectory in my home directory that I put all my stuff under (~/my/videos/ ~/my/dotfiles/ etc.)

This is a reaction to being fed up with OSs and programs putting things in the predefined directories without asking.

A good discussion arose on this question a while back - it might be worth checking out http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1714184 and the original article that spawned the discussion -> http://weblog.muledesign.com/2010/06/unsuck_it_special_byeby...

I tend to prefer using the 2nd person, if I have to choose one over the other.

[edit] - Sorry, should also add the link to the Yahoo patterns article, which also recommends the 2nd person http://developer.yahoo.com/ypatterns/social/core/yourvmy.htm....

All you have to do is list out all the things you want to say, and the answer becomes clear:

"My photos" v. "Your photos": both seem to work

"We weren't able to complete your request" v. "Someone else wasn't able to complete my request."

"Please enter your valid email address" v. "Please enter my valid email address"

"To (...), you need to upgrade to a Pro Plan" v. "To (...), I need to upgrade to a Pro Plan."

The user is the second person, because sometimes your app or company needs to speak to them using the first person.

I noticed that Google uses +You in English (as a plug for Google+ if you're not logged in) and +Ich (= +I) in German. Maybe they really just want a three letter word.

Researching further: French: +Vous (polite 2nd person) Italian: +Tu (casual 2nd person)

German seems to be the exception, Googl prefers 2nd person.

In Google Scholar, though, the link to your own Scholar page (if you've set one up and are logged in) is "My Citations" in English, so they seem to be using it inconsistently between products.

But then when you have Google+ they change it to +Name (example +Stephen)

maybe "+Sie" would be confusable?

Also, if you want to buy an AK47 do you google for "buy ak47" or "sell ak47" ? Its the prisioners dillema!

If it's inherently private data, use first person. For shared/public stuff, use second person. 'Your passwords' sounds too much like someone else is talking about my confidential data.

Quoting cing:

    How about option 3: "Items" and "Photos"? Unless of course you have to differentiate between "Mine" and "Everyone Elses"
Combine these two ideas, and I think you're starting to make sense.

If you're talking about labeling things that belong to the user, and your site or app is supposed to feel like the site or app itself belongs to the user (their space), go with what the user would label them. For photos, what would the user write on a shoebox of their own prints? Most likely “My Photos”, but they also could just “Photos” if nobody else's things are stored anywhere nearby.

If the app or site does not belong to the user, but is clearly a third party the user gives things to in order to process them or perform some action on or with them, label it as a service person would speak to the user. How would the service person at Costco refer to those same prints? Probably “Your Photos” in contrast with "Everyone's Photos". In this case, the label "Photos" would be most likely to apply to all photos, not just the user's own.

Going with conversational style, keeping in mind who is the speaker for a given action, goes a long way to clarifying which stories need which terms.

This gets more complicated in "the cloud" but the same distinction (ownership vs operation, and who is the speaker for an action) can apply.

Once you've chosen "My" or "Your" it becomes a boobytrap you have to avoid in all your labels, navigation and copy.

See: http://stackoverflow.com/questions/1924102/my-account-or-you...

The second most popular answer is the one I'd strive for.

The technically more descriptive "Private" and "Public," perhaps?

This is a classic example of a question that can only really be answered with data. Generic studies are good, but nothing beats data you gather about your particular UI.

Never use second person for UI, it's alienating because it subconsciously tells people that they aren't a part of the group and they don't belong. Studies show that conversion rates are much lower when you talk to people in second person for this reason.

Do you have a reference for this? I'd love to see the stats.

I've actually been having a similar internal debate with an app I'm working on now, although for me it's between "My Whatever" and just "Whatever." Currently leaning towards "My."

"Your Whatever" isn't even an option though... don't like it at all.

I'd probably see the website as a third entity presenting stuff to me, so it's coming down to:

Your = "I'm presenting you your photos which i just store for your convenience".

My = "You've uploaded your private photos, now they are mine, dumbass!"

Definitely "Your", in my oppinion.

All else being equal, use the shorter word.

I agree with gerad, use "My" -- it's shorter, cleaner, and appeals to the user more. "Your" creates distance between the app and the user, if one were all alone, "My" would still exist, but "Your" would not.

Shouldn't this be a poll?

And "your" is very accusation and confrontational. "My" rubs the ego the right way. So, my vote goes for "my".

Have you considered just "Items" and "Photos"? If you end up splitting public/private, "My Public...", "My Private..." is a mouthful.

This ultimately is an exercise in KISS imo.

It really depends, but whatever you choose, make it consistant.

for a landing page where you tell them about the product, your.

for actual app interface, my is better

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