Whose website is it, anyways?

March 3, 2016

Whos website

I like this tweet, and not only because it afforded me the opportunity to Photoshop Fabio’s face on MC Hammer’s body.

Fabio brings up a good point in his traditionally sarcastic way.

A lot of designers, developers, marketers, and whatevers struggle with writing on their own sites. They’re not struggling with blog posts, articles, or tutorials. They’re struggling with basic copy. They’re struggling with showing people who they are in an genuine, human way.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve referred to myself in the third person in past iterations of my website. And it’s something that we see everywhere. But why do people refer to themselves using third person on their personal sites and portfolios? Where does it come from? And how can we get over it?

I think it comes from a fear of appearing small.

The internet is a massive place, with important people and real opportunities around every corner. In an attempt to fit into this impressive environment, we try to make ourselves look impressive, too. By using third person, it appears that someone is writing about us, that we matter enough for someone to write glowing things about us and put it on the web. It inflates our sense of worth and makes us look important and worthy of the web.

It makes sense.

Except when it doesn’t.

That kind of writing makes sense for organizations, actual groups of people. The problem with using the third person on your personal or portfolio site is that we all know that it’s just you who maintains the website. You (most likely) don’t have a team of copywriters, strategists, and marketers working on your behalf. When you write in third person on your own site, it sounds awkward. There’s a disconnect between what you’re trying to portray and what we know to be true.

It’s fine that it’s just you working on your site, great even. Without those other people, it gives you the opportunity to show everyone who you are.

But you need to do that using first person. We need to read something and understand that it’s coming from you, that you’re sharing a part of yourself with us—inviting us into a human relationship.

It’s fine to want to look important and show your value. Using third person isn’t the way to do that. You show your value in the work you do, the articles you write, the thoughts and opinions you share with everyone. If you really need that third person voice, then you get an actual third person to write for you. You get clients to speak on your behalf, let them tell everyone how great you are—don’t try to fake it on your own.