Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Think the home button is unnecessary? Think again.

There has been a trend over the years, which is not particularly new, to remove the home button from website navigation. I’m not sure why this is, maybe it is to free up some space for other navigation options or maybe it is because there is an assumption that users understand the convention of making the company logo a link to the homepage. Regardless of why it is done, countless usability test sessions I have observed and run strongly indicate that this simply doesn’t work.

I recognise that a large number of users understand the logo convention however time and time again participants turn up who are not familiar with it. Usually their only way of getting back to the homepage is to use the back button – which can be a real pain if they have been on the site for a while or the back button acts as an undo for in-page functionality (think search filters). While it may seem trivial, getting back to the homepage is a fundamental aspect of user behavior when navigating websites.  This remains true today even when we know that less traffic arrives in the homepage ( The homepage is commonly used by people to orient themselves on a site. Something along the lines of: the information I was seeking wasn’t there, so I’ll go back to the homepage to look elsewhere for it. Ironically it can be the users who are less experienced or confident online who get lost and need to get to the homepage to re-orient themselves.

LinkedIn uses a very conventional home link which will almost certainly be understood by users:

If there is a genuine need to deviate from a conventional home link, below are two examples of sites which take a slightly different approach however are likely to be effective.

Both sites place the link in the top left of the screen, a conventional location. Asos saves space by using an icon while The Iconic avoids having to include a home link on their homepage by using prominent bread crumbs.

The humble home link plays an important role in assisting people to navigate and use a website effectively. If there is a need to avoid a conventional home link consider a creative approach, but keep in mind that usability testing with real users remains important when deviating from known and established conventions.  

No comments:

Post a Comment