Back to the home page: text or icon?

Not everyone knows to click the logo at the top or in the upper left corner of a page to get to the home page.

In a recent study, some people were confused by the lack of an explicit Home link in the navigation bar. Whether the nav bar is horizontal or vertical, it’s helpful to have Home as the first link. Even though the Web has been around for so long, this is still necessary.

Two ways back to the home page: the Home link, and the company's logo

I tell my clients that it’s always interesting, and sometimes humbling, to watch real users work with their products. Little problems like this are exactly why we have to continue doing usability studies.

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7 Responses to Back to the home page: text or icon?

  1. Excellent info, Hal, and I’m so happy you’re sharing it!

  2. Nice piece Hal! Quick question, do you have a reference for the “recent study” you mentioned?

    • Hal Shubin says:

      Michele: The product is still under development, so I don’t want to give out too much information. There was a tall dark banner with secondary links (e.g., Sign In and Support) at the top of the page, then the nav bar. The nav bar started with the logo and a tag line, then showed five text links. Then there was a fair amount of whitespace before the page’s content started.

      Together, these items took up quite a bit of vertical space, which is something I’ll comment on in a later post.

  3. Mary says:

    I agree. I’ve seen this, too, in test sessions.

  4. Carolyn Snyder says:

    I also saw this problem, ~10 years ago, so it’s interesting to hear that it’s still true. Drives a stake through the heart of the wishful thinking “As people learn to use the web…” argument.

  5. Jess McIsaac says:

    Hal, we just saw the same thing in testing for our site redesign — we ended up using a home icon in the primary nav (as opposed to the word “home”), and that worked for us.

    Thanks for all the great work you’ve done for us over the years at Carbonite — we’re very excited that you’ve decided to share your copious UX knowledge with the world in this blog!

    • Hal Shubin says:

      Good point. An icon of a house is probably recognizable and just as good as the word “Home”. It may be better because it’s there, but more subtle than another text link. (And thanks for the compliment!)

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