Can We Kill Off The Home Nav Item Yet?

22 Nov 2013 by Gordon
4 Comments
Crime scene tape

CSI: Navigation

If you’re reading this blog post then you’re probably familiar with the new Primate site we launched a couple of months ago (no doubt having it firmly affixed to your bookmarks bar) and may or may not have noticed that it lacks a ‘Home’ item in its main navigation. This was a purposeful decision and a result of a multitude of in-depth conversations. Well, passionate discussions. Heated debates, really. Arguments, actually.

Even though I’m a pretty steadfast logo-to-return-to-home page clicker, I was actually in the camp of assuming other users wouldn’t know to do this and thus wanted to include a nice juicy Home link for Primate visitors to click on. I was overruled in the end, mainly based on the arguments of ‘industry standards and expectations’, ‘learned usability’, and ‘shut the hell up’. The latter wasn’t exactly their most informed argument, granted.

Given we attempted to replicate this approach on a new site we launched recently, foregoing the home link, but ultimately had to reinstate it because myself and the client were worried about it causing confusion with users (I eventually got to play my argument of ‘better safe than sorry’), it really got me wondering. Is using a company logo as the only means to return to the home page on a site the industry standard yet? Are we just treating users like idiots and wasting navigation real estate by including a redundant home link? Or are we actually hurting genuine usability by removing it?

I figured I would check out some of the most popular sites on the ‘Net and see what the big boys were doing about it.

Facebook

Facebook nav

Nope, no ‘Home’ nav item here. If you want to get back to your Facebook home page, you need to click on the small ‘F’ logo.

Google

Google navigation

No obvious home link here either. The logo suffices instead.

Twitter

Twitter nav

Well, well, a big old fat ‘Home’ nav item complete with a cute little house icon. What could be more obvious that that? Interestingly enough, no Twitter logo.

Amazon

Amazon navigation

I honestly thought Amazon would have a home nav item but they don’t. Curiously, I never even thought about it before now even though I’m pretty big Amazon user (our postman hates me). If you want to get back to their home page, you click the logo. ‘Natch.

BBC

BBC navigation

The BBC is an odd one. On the their main home page, they don’t have a home item and instead use only the logo. However, as soon as you go into sub-pages such as News or Sport, they do have one. I wonder if this is a conscious decision or just a legacy from an old design?

Dead or still kicking?

Although this was just a very quick and simple exercise and only represents a handful of sites with no actual user testing behind it (I would’ve thought sites like Google and Facebook wouldn’t have been able to get away with dodgy usability for long, however) it does certainly look like the home nav item is slowly going to the way of dinosaur in favour of the simple logo click instead. It’s by no means conclusive but we’re not alone in our removal of the home link on the Primate site, at least.

Now, I’m no usability guru but there does seem to be some fine lines between clear usability paths, following expected standards and learned usability. Overall, I’m genuinely not sure where this entire situation falls. I’m personally so used to clicking on logos to go to home screens that I would’ve probably called it an industry standard by now, just like how coloured or underlined words in content usually represent hyperlinks. It’s hard to tell though.

I do wonder how many of us (me) worry about clarity and usability without actual informed feedback. Will a user really throw a wobbly, close their browser and never return to a site if they can’t see an immediate home link? Or will they take the two seconds it requires to click on the logo, find their desired result, and then remember it from then on? Apple’s a great example of how they have introduced new methods of usability on their devices by letting users explore and discover them for themselves. Still, as a crafter of client products, we have to be consciences of not following fads and forcing users into our own unjustified notions of what we think is best.

So I’m still on the fence. We’re currently trying out both approaches in a variety of forms and will be monitoring user feedback closely, hopefully with some sort of view of making a conclusion decision. If such a thing is even possible.

Have you killed off your home nav item yet?

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Author: Gordon McLachlan

Gordon is uncomfortably good looking.

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  1. Will Wright 22 Nov 2013 at 7:00 pm

    Hi Primates! I had a similar debate about this with a client a few weeks ago, and I pointed out how I feel most people “just know” to click on the logo to go to the home page. I guess plenty of designers (and clients) don’t really worry about this and simply stick to the plain old “Home” link.
    I have been noticing how many high-traffic websites have been A/B testing and experimenting with this for some time now. Facebook, as you mentioned, moves this around every now and then, and you can see they track where the click originated: if you click on the “F” logo you get “facebook.com/?ref=logo” but if you click on the “Home” link next to the notifications “globe” you get “facebook.com/?ref=tn_tnmn”. You might not have this other “Home” link, as they experiment with different regions and languages, which probably gives them a pretty good insight as to “who clicks where”, leading to a highly informed design decision.

    Curiosity: Apple.com has had the “logo-to-return-to-home” as far back as 1998! You can see their rainbow logo aligned to the right (!) of the menu bar here: http://web.archive.org/web/19980509035420/http://www.apple.com/

    Cheers!

    • Gordon 04 Dec 2013 at 1:56 pm

      I didn’t know that about Facebook – it’s very interesting and makes a lot of sense. In many ways FB is the perfect test bed for these things as it has, I imagine, have a very large and diverse user base. Having said that, my mum isn’t on FB and she was the one that struggled with our lack of a home link on the Primate site ;)

  2. Will 26 Nov 2013 at 6:06 pm

    A lot of home pages serve little purpose other than communicating the who, what and why of a particular company or service. So you can see the logic in not having a home button.

    But you should witness my mum trying to navigate facebook. Confusion, some panic and then ‘how do I get back to home’.

    If you do kill it off for style or space saving, why not put a nice tooltip over the logo highlighting the fact that it links to home?

    P.S. Gordon. If those design dudes give you any more grief tell them your Uncle Will will be having words with them.

    • Gordon 04 Dec 2013 at 1:54 pm

      I think removing the homepage links on mobile views makes a lot of sense and screen real estate is usually a precious commodity then. On desktop, I’m less convinced.

      And yes, if you fancy coming round and giving designers a stern talking to then just let me know ;)

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