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Traditional role:

Home buttons are somewhat of a traditional staple for web design. For years they have provided a level of comfort for users. Regardless of confidence levels of navigating unfamiliar websites, the home button has offered that chance to regroup, to make it back to the comfort of a home page, no matter where in a web sites navigation we have ended up.

 

home button

As many of us are becoming increasingly tech-savvy there is an argument that the home button is no longer needed. This argument assumes that the majority of web users can navigate an average website without it. Generally, the actual functionality of the page is contained elsewhere on the website.  So is the home button actually wasting a link that could be used by a page with more functionality?

Those more in favour of the home button’s role acknowledge that not all of us are tech savvy. Web users have a varying amount of experience. Some users can get easily distracted, and lose their way. A home button provides a one-click solution to returning to familiar territory, rather than relying on the back button. When users feel lost or frustrated, they will leave the site entirely, and if you’re an e-commerce site this could mean lower conversion rates and revenues.

There is of course a middle ground, and here are some of the other options:

Clickable logos:

Clickable logos are the most popular of the alternatives to the traditional home button. Literally clicking on the logo will return you to the homepage. Here is an example of Slate’s clickable logo:

clickable logo

Websites that have replaced their home button with a clickable logo include Apple, eBay, Wikipedia and YouTube. However, research shows that a clickable logo is still not a universally understood way of returning home. So important considerations to take into account are which demographics form your user base? And how tech-savvy are they?

Breadcrumb navigation:

The term according to Wikipedia comes from the trail of breadcrumbs left by Hansel and Gretel (awww). You normally find breadcrumbs on websites that have a large amount of content. It acts as a visual reminder of how you got to the page you are viewing. This makes returning to that link you meant to follow easier without having to necessarily return to the home page and start over again.

A good example can be seen on the gov.uk website:

breadcrumbs navigation

 

As with all website design, finding that balance is key. Think about your audience. Are they tech savvy, or do they need that extra guidance? You can always test the home button and see if your web visitors actually use it, or prefer clicking the logo. The joy of websites is they can always be changed!