Farewell 'Home', We Hardly Knew You

I've been noticing that the inclusion of the 'Home' link in web site navigation is no longer a given. Sites are increasingly relegating it to a subordinate position or even removing this once standard web page element altogether.

Some sites, such as Sony, Parenting, eBay and US News & World Report have axed it altogether.

While others — BP, child.com, USA.gov — have relegated it to the utility navbar above the main navigation.

There seems to be an increasing recognition that users understand that the logo is a link back to the home page, with a number of sites incorporating the logo into their main navigation in order to maximize the use of this element (and presumably the real estate it occupies).

Apple, Motorola and Nintendo exemplify this convention.

Of course, many other sites, such as WebMD, CNN and IBM, still stick with the traditional 'Home" tab.

So, while it's clear that more and more sites are dispensing with the traditional 'Home' link, what's less clear is the reasoning behind this decision.

It doesn't seem to be audience-based from what I can tell. Personally, I wouldn't miss the absence of the 'Home' link as I am trained to use the logo to get back. However, I would never base any design decisions on my own web proclivities.

I can see how you might consider removing the home page link if real estate was at a premium in your main nav. However, in the examples above that doesn't seem to an issue (and CNN, with their 19 tab navbar, still managed to include it).

There's an old saying, "No one ever got fired for including a link to the home page." Well, actually there isn't, but it's probably not a bad maxim to follow.

I'd love to hear what anyone else thinks. Is the 'Home' link becoming a relic of a bygone era?

Posted on: June 10, 2007 | 14 Comments

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14 Comments Posted

I still think you should include the home link, at least at this moment in time anyway. All sites I develop have a link in the main nav, most done without even thinking about it to be honest.

The 'home' tab was something we'd deliberated on removing for our projects. However, after some user-testing on an existing website, it was evident that not many people recognised the logo convention of linking to the homepage. And the majority of uses looked for and clicked on the 'home' link in the navigation.

From this study, it is obvious you should 100% keep the 'home' tab in your navigation. You mention about real-estate in navigation, and this could be a problem, but if you've got a silly-amount of links on a top level already, I think the site probably has other major issues with respect to hierarchy.

I think it depends on the site's target audience. If you have a web site for web designers, then you're dealing with a group of people who understand this medium pretty well. We don't necessarily need a home link to find our way around.

Most sites are targeting the general public, though, or at the very least a demographic with a wide range of web-savvy. Who wants to lose a mildly technophobic visitor for want of something as simple as a home link?

Ben & trovster — I'm inclined to agree. After all, what's the downside? No one can legitimitately complain about including this link in your nav.

trovster — Did your testing show any feedback about moving the 'Home' link into the utility navigation? I wonder if that would be an acceptable alternative?

Clay — I would think so too. However, sites like Parenting and eBay, which have very diverse audiences, have done away with 'Home' altogether.

Nor does Yahoo! have a 'Home' link and they have some of the best UI designers in the world. So, what gives?

I did a usability study for a catalog site with a "home" category and no "home" link to the homepage, just a reliance on users knowing to click the logo. A staggering amount of users clicked the "Home" category to get to the homepage, even though it was smack in the middle of the nav bar, surrounded by things like "Apparel" and "Clearance." We ended up renaming the category to "For the Home" and adding a homepage link.

I'd echo the previous comments about the intended audience for your website. For the general public, knowledge about the company logo as a home link varies greatly in my experience. In fact, when discussing a web site redesign with a potential client, I had to point out to them that their existing website company logo was a link to the home page! I always include a home link.

I actually just have had this very discussion with myself for a new website I have almost finished (sneak peak hear).

The reason I was thinking of getting rid of the "home" link was because the list of menu links was to long and I wanted to bring the exclusive listing up above the fold more....

Interesting observation. I would say that on large sites like eBay, the home page link is probably not needed as there isn't any vital information on the home page that you would need to return to. Whereas on smaller sites the home page probably has a decent amount of information and therefore you would be more likely to need to return there.

Good points Neubreed and that makes sense...

We try to eliminate the Home link since clicking the company logo always brings you back to the home page. Unfortunately most customers regardless if web novices or Marketing VP's don't know about this.

i do both my logo links to my homepage and i also include a home link best to cover your bases

Part of Web 2.0 is innovation and change, this topic is a product of that. Here's a related article; The future of web design

I've written an article on basic web usability which mentions about using the 'Home' link, as well as linking the logo to the homepage. Also a few other very basic tips.

I have always thought the "home" page should by the "about" page, unless you have a site where the "home" page is the #1 landing page and you need to put a big call to action on it. Since most of our sites are optimized for specific landing pages the "home" page is rarely viewed, but most users like the comfort of a familiar navigation that is constant throughout the web… AHHH!

I forgot where I was going with this.

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