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I want to put a link to an account page in a toolbar. What person should I use to refer to the user's settings? Should I call it 'My Account' or 'Your Account'? I've seen both is use, and I'm not sure which one is correct, or even better.

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Are there any other my/your links elsewhere in the site? –  TJH Aug 13 '12 at 14:15
    
@TJH No, not yet, but I'll be using the same throughout. –  fredley Aug 13 '12 at 14:16
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There are a couple of related posts here about this issue that may be of some use. –  JonW Aug 13 '12 at 14:45
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I've eschewed the tradition entirely and always go with the more concise "Account": who else's account would I be accessing? That, or do as Stack Exchange does and use the username or some other personal identifier. –  msanford Aug 13 '12 at 19:45
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@msanford: Hyperlinked username is a good idea; you should add that as an answer. –  Mechanical snail Aug 14 '12 at 22:47
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10 Answers

up vote 62 down vote accepted

In addition to the related posts that JonW, called attention to, I think the biggest question to answer is using 'My' vs. 'Your'. We've had a previous question on the subject ("'Your' vs 'My' in user interfaces"), which is a great resource, but my favorite resource on the matter is the Yahoo Design Pattern Library.

Yahoo advises to use 'Your' as the pronoun in most cases, or consider sidestepping the issue entirely ("Bill's Recommendations", for instance). The logic of creating a dialog is pretty sound, in my opinion:

Objects labeled "My" on behalf of a user by the system can give the feeling of an impersonal, if helpful, robotic valet or assistant, generically identifying items as if by proxy. This mode of nomenclature works just fine for private, individual environments. If a site has the feel of a bathroom cabinet or sock drawer, then calling items My Toothpaste or My Socks suits the solipsistic environment just fine.

However, in a social site, we want to avoid the call of introversion and instead encourage our participants to open themselves up to the possibility of conversation, both with their co-denizens of the site and with the site (or rather the people behind the site) itself.

Hence, we use "Your" to engage the social mind in a dialogue. A human being, even perhaps a live assistant or valet, might say, "I bought you your favorite toothpaste," or "Here are your socks."

So, to answer your question, I would go with either "Your Account" or possibly even "Dan's Account".

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+1 for the "Dan's Account". This seems to the the approach many big time players are using. I know I felt even more connected with Google when I first saw +Kyle show up in the menu bar. –  kwelch Aug 13 '12 at 19:38
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What would you do when the genitive is not that simple? I’m thinking about cases where the s would be left out, or even other languages where there is no . –  poke Aug 13 '12 at 21:04
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I can't wait to see the day when someone will just randomly make a program and write "Dan's Account" in the toolbar, verbatim. –  Mehrdad Aug 14 '12 at 5:09
    
'Your X' probably works well on social sites more because it's less ambiguous when content can be produced by more than one person. The idea the alternative promotes 'solipsism' is highly suspect, though. Users don't parse these labels in nearly the sort of detail we like to imagine they do. –  Jimmy Breck-McKye Aug 14 '12 at 11:15
    
I'd say my works well for a collection of things a user has created. But if it's dialogue with information being exchanged then 'your' makes sense. I have seen some examples where 'my' has tested better - can't find them at the mo. –  Stewart Dean Apr 3 '13 at 10:16
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My favourite method is the one employed by Stack Exchange, Google, Flickr, and many other large sites with a strong focus on UX: use their username / real name combination as a clickable link.

This has the dual benefit of hinting to the user if they are logged in as someone else, ans is more personal than the [pronoun] Account approach.

Combinations of {pronoun} account have always made me feel the same way "Dear Customer," email salutation does: generic.

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This is probably a bit tangential to your question, but when it comes to registration / sign up forms, "My" tends to perform better than "Your" conversion-wise.

A/B test "My" vs "Your"

Check out this article - some really interesting examples there.

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Beware of using any results from that article, they are only valid for that particular website they are doing the test on; you should always do your own testing or at least make your decision using research that uses a larger number of websites. Also, some of his viewpoints is quite disturbing: "the goal was to get more sign-ups", "the goal is conversions" sounds like a narrow-minded marketing/sales person who thinks only about his own corner of maximizing leads instead of the business goals as a whole. –  Lie Ryan Feb 13 '13 at 4:02
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That's a perfectly valid observation, @LieRyan, although I'd still test A/B test my registration forms to see which particular wording gets more conversions. I don't see anything wrong with making the site sound more personal/appealing. –  Art Feb 13 '13 at 22:50
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In my opinion it's definitely better to identify the user than to use either pronoun. So the answer would be "fredley's account".

It's more personal, but more importantly it makes it clear what's going on if the user is intentionally or accidentally accessing someone else's account. In the accidental case, I'd immediately think "wait a minute, I'm not fredley!" In the intentional case, suppose I was updating some information on behalf of my boss Mary: there's going to be some mental friction when I see "my account" (or "your account"); I want Mary's account!

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I have not seen any hard studies suggesting that either is better than the other. I would simply choose one convention and stick to it, keeping the same voice throughout your interface.

That's if you even need the 'my' or 'your' - it's usually repetitive and unnecessary.

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As a developer I usually go with "my", that way it seems the app is an extension of themselves instead of something being presented to them by someone else

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But it is something being presented to them by someone else. –  Nico Burns Aug 13 '12 at 21:27
    
@NicoBurns - that's not necessarily their model, though. –  Jimmy Breck-McKye Aug 14 '12 at 11:07
    
@JimmyBreck-McKye hence the question and discussion.. –  Matt Aug 14 '12 at 13:00
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This is an interesting question, and one that actually seems to receive a lot of attention in areas outside of UI design. To take a page from the marketing peeps behind this new wave of "We're a happy, caring part of your family" approach to consumer contact-heavy industries like banking and sales, it's really about how you'd like your user to perceive their relationship with your product.

It's a bit of a double-edged sword actually. A subtle as it might seem, establishing the illusion of a seemingly innocuous but personal connection to your user, and backing it up with delivery of course, actually increases loyalty. And that's exactly what the banks are... err, banking on.

But it's pretty service-specific. If your app or site is focused on selling something arbitrary (from an emotional perspective), are your users REALLY expected to believe that you're personally invested in sharing a part of their experience with them? Is that even an appropriate thing for your service to imply?

Anyway, long story short, it comes down to the context. Is it about them? (My space, my money, my property listing) Or is it about what you're offering? (Your order status, your place in queue, your departure time).

Either way, as the designer, you're account-able (ho ho ho).

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I would just call it "Acccount". I don't think there's any track learning you how to address to your viewers, even so the approach might vary depending on business or service. More people are using for clear concise information. Why bother overthinking something plain simple when you could easisly call it Account ? I really don't think someone will be mad at it, after all it's working for such popular services like Gmail.

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I wouldn't say it does matter very much in general, yet in particular cases My may prove more effective than Your. You might want to provide AB testing for this, it is going to be quite simple, as most probably it is just a text link, so you can easily check how it performs in your case.

In general, there are two schools: one saying that My makes the site more personal, and the other one saying that the system user interacts with is actually his/her minion, so it should work like a servant rather than mimicking you. I prefer the second way.

However I think it would be great to display username, or real name somewhere in the top bar / side bar. If you use e.g. Facebook login, you can even display a photo. It works better due to security reasons - people will treat it more privately and will tend to log out on shared machines. Besides, you can build a nifty "Welcome, Jack Smith - go to your account, - log out" - you refer to the user as in conversation, so the choice becomes simple.

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I believe it depend on the way you think. for me when a user logged into the system/site i wont the user to think that he is part of the system, so i prefer "My Account". but if you can add users first name or user name and make it with that(e.g: "Hulk's Account","ncw's Account") then that way is also better.

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