28 Things Everybody Should Know, Part III

Third-person testimonials don’t fool anyone.

Personal websites serve many functions, from expressing ideas to sharing images to merely being able to say, “Yeah, I have a website.” One great reason for having a personal site, especially as a designer or developer, is to cheaply promote your own skills and play up your abilities relatively uncontested.

The idea of the personal website is not a new concept, and for the most part, visitors will not only accept that the content is written in your own words, but they’ll expect that you’ve gone through the trouble of coming up with a few paragraphs to describe yourself. And nothing says “I wrote this” like writing in the first person. (Literally. That’s actually the definition and most basic use of the term.)

Third-person descriptions are wonderful for introducing guests at a panel discussion, preempting the presentation of an award to someone who’s worked hard to earn it, or in the About the Author section at the end of a novel. What makes these seem natural is that they’re presumably written by others as an homage to their lives and accomplishments; if the person in question gave the same account using the first person, it would come across as egotistical self-praise.

But a personal website is one of those places where a little self-praise belongs. Rarely do people write descriptive paragraphs about designers, and you can bet the kid who sat next to you in HTML class didn’t lift his blurb from a magazine article detailing how he’s been exploring Web 2.0 practices and cross-browser compatibility. Because magazines don’t generally report on things like that.

People can have a hard time talking about themselves. When they do, they like to show a side of modesty and self-control, so it’s easy to understand the desire to express themselves as if somebody else had pre-approved the message. But visitors want to know what you do, and if they’re visiting your site, chances are they want you to tell them without hiding behind someone else’s words. Besides, the meaty part of the site–the portfolio, resume and client lists–these should speak volumes more than your introductory text, and that’s where you’re just as likely to overstate your achievements.

So speak up. Nobody else will say it the way you want, so don’t pretend they are.


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