The answer may be unsatisfying: it depends entirely on your audience. But, chances are you probably don’t.
First, let it be addressed; for a majority of websites, there must be a path ‘home’ but, where the debate rages regards exactly what that path should be.
In the year 2000, Steve Krug published Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability. For a long time this book was regarded as the bible of web usability. In it Krug addresses the importance of the home button: “Having a home button in sight at all times offers reassurance that no matter how lost I may get, I can always start over, like pressing a reset button or using a ‘Get out of jail free’ card.” And for a while this was true.
There is only one problem—the Internet has changed. A lot.
The web today is very different than the web of 2000. We have developed different expectations for how website navigation should function. We have increased our techsavviness by an astronomical amount.
As a general rule, we no longer need a little button in the navigation that says ‘home.’ We have other ways of going back home.
How do we tell people where home is?
- The Logo
On the majority of websites the logo serves as a link back to the homepage. Many users have come to expect this interaction. In fact, if your logo does not return the user to the homepage they are more likely to become confused than anything else. This has become a required interaction in modern day web design.
Another method that has gained popularity is the use of breadcrumbs (Click here for more info). Breadcrumbs offer users multiple advantages, including the ability to return to the homepage and the ability to see exactly where they are in the website’s hierarchy.
Why all the home button hate.
Simple: the home button takes up a lot of valuable real estate on the navigation. Why would you have something cluttering up an already cluttered navigation system if you don’t have to?
So, when do you need a home button?
One of the most important rules of web design is “know your audience.” If the bulk of your audience is not very familiar with using the web, then a homepage button may be the right course of action in order to add clarity.
But, if you really want to know you need some real-life user testing.
The best way to know if you need a home button is to test it. Try multiple versions of your website’s navigation with an accurate sample set of users and ask them what they like, don’t like and are having problems with. Better yet, bring in a skilled research team, like ours, who can conduct an eye-tracking study of your website.
You may be surprised with what they learn about your website, and your users.