Should You Include a “Home” Link in Your Website Navigation?

You and I know that clicking the site logo takes us home — but is that “general knowledge”? We ran an experiment to settle it once and for all!

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Strategy

Kyle Van Deusen

The Admin Bar

Born in California and raised in Texas, Kyle is a husband and proud father of three. After spending 15 years as a graphic designer and earning a business degree, he launched OGAL Web Design in 2017, The Admin Bar community with Matt Sebert in 2018, and Docket WP with Andre Gagnon in 2020.

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A couple weeks back I published a small research project on what links are most (and least) common in the navigation of agency’s websites.

One thing people took note of immediately was the use of “home” as a link in the navigation — and there were people on both sides of the argument.

Those saying that it’s common knowledge that clicking the site’s logo will take you to the home page, and that including a home link in the navigation is redundant and unnecessary.

And others arguing that while we (as web developers) know that to be standard practice, our cognitive bias (the “curse of knowledge”) could have us overlooking the fact that the general population probably hasn’t put much thought into it.

With an element as important as your navigation (arguably one of the most crucial elements of any website), I felt unsatisfied with either of these answers.

So, I decided to run a little experiment to see if data could give us anything conclusive.

If you’d prefer to skip all the preamble and get right to the results and conclusion, you can do so by clicking here.

Wait, do people even really need to go “home”?

The purpose of this survey completely hinges on whether or not you think it’s important for the user to be able to go “home” when they want to.

For an answer to this question, I turned to one of my favorite books; “Don’t Make Me Think” by Steve Krug.

Don’t Make Me Think” has been widely referenced in college and online courses on usability, and speaks directly to this topic:

One of the most crucial items in the persistent navigation is a button or link that takes me to the site’s Home page.

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 I tend to agree.

While your Home page might not be your highest converting page (and therefore less valuable to the website owner), it doesn’t mean it doesn’t serve a significant role in making a website easy to navigate.

It’s important to consider what your visitors need, and the presence of a “reset button” (as Steve put it), can put users at ease knowing they can “start over” anytime they get lost.

And, perhaps your visitor enters your website through a blog article or another sub-page on your website and doesn’t “convert” (whatever conversion that page has). Giving them the opportunity to go “home” and explore everything you have to offer gives you a second chance at giving them something they are interested in.

Other than in the case of a squeeze page, I can’t think of a good argument for restricting visitors’ ability to go home.

So, I think the answer is pretty simple; yes, we do want to give users the option to go home.

The Experiment

The aim of this experiment is to determine the importance of having a “home” link in the main navigation of websites. To answer this, three questions will be addressed:

  1. What percentage of visitors will go to the home page when the only option is to click the website's logo?
  2. What percentage of visitors will go to the home page when they have the option to click either the logo or a “home” link in the navigation?
  3. Which option is more popular among users, the site logo or the “home” link in the navigation, when both are provided?

To gather the necessary data, I setup goals in Fathom Analytics using UTM parameters to track the number of website views and clicks to return to the home page. The experiment involved tracking 4 websites for one week with only the logo as the option to return to the home page, and another week with the addition of a “home” link in the primary navigation.

By analyzing the results, I can determine the percentage of users who return to the home page with only the logo as an option and with the presence of a “home” link in the navigation. With the data obtained, I can also compare which option, the logo or the “home” link, is preferred by users when both are available.

Choosing the websites for the experiment

One of my hypotheses, and something that came up in our original conversations about the home link, is that more tech-savvy users would know to click the site’s logo, while people less comfortable using computers might not understand that intuitively.

So, it was important to pick several websites, all with enough traffic to give us reliable data, and with a vastly different user base.

Site #1 has a very tech-savvy audience (mostly web developers themselves.

Site #2’s visitors lean towards more tech-savvy.

Site #3’s visitors lean towards less tech-savvy.

And Site #4’s visitors are unlikely to be tech-savvy.

By using sites from all ends of the spectrum, we can see if the data supports being able to forego a home link if the site’s target audience is more technologically proficient.

Separating desktop and mobile traffic

Another hypothesis I had before starting this experiment is that the introduction of mobile navigation, specifically the “hamburger menu”, could skew the results.

When a user is on a mobile device, the navigation links won’t always be visible — therefore they might be less likely to be clicked.

It might also be easier to get “lost” on a web site on mobile where you can’t see as much of the website at one time.

To account for this variable, I’ve parsed the results into 3 different segments;

  1. All Devices
  2. Desktop Only
  3. Mobile Only

By separating this data, we can account for this variable in case it has any effect on the results.

The Results

There are a lot of different angles you can use to examine this data, but in an attempt to stay as unbiased as possible, you can see all the raw data below.

As a reminder, during Week #1 the only option to go to the Home page was to click the website’s logo. During Week #2, I introduced a “Home” link in the primary navigation, giving the user the ability to click it or the website’s logo to take them home.

All Devices – Website #1 (Highly Technical Audience)

Total ViewsClicks to HomeGo Home %Logo ClickNav Link Click
Week 1 (logo only)3573651.73%
Week 2 (logo & nav link)40501112.74%53.15%46.85%

All Devices – Website #2 (Mostly Technical Audience)

Total ViewsClicks to HomeGo Home %Logo ClickNav Link Click
Week 1 (logo only)1380453.26%
Week 2 (logo & nav link)1155494.24%65.31%34.88%

All Devices – Website #3 (Mostly Non-Technical Audience)

Total ViewsClicks to HomeGo Home %Logo ClickNav Link Click
Week 1 (logo only)1494140.94%
Week 2 (logo & nav link)152970.46%42.86%57.14%

All Devices – Website #4 (Non-Technical Audience)

Total ViewsClicks to HomeGo Home %Logo ClickNav Link Click
Week 1 (logo only)4788210.44%
Week 2 (logo & nav link)5421961.77%12.5%87.5%

Desktop Only – Website #1 (Highly Technical Audience)

Total ViewsClicks to HomeGo Home %Logo ClickNav Link Click
Week 1 (logo only)2829572.01%
Week 2 (logo & nav link)908434.47%65.12%34.88%

Desktop Only – Website #2 (Mostly Technical Audience)

Total ViewsClicks to HomeGo Home %Logo ClickNav Link Click
Week 1 (logo only)1211433.84%
Week 2 (logo & nav link)908434.47%65.12%34.88%

Desktop Only – Website #3 (Mostly Non-Technical Audience)

Total ViewsClicks to HomeGo Home %Logo ClickNav Link Click
Week 1 (logo only)37751.33%
Week 2 (logo & nav link)37261.61%33.33%66.66%

Desktop Only – Website #4 (Non-Technical Audience)

Total ViewsClicks to HomeGo Home %Logo ClickNav Link Click
Week 1 (logo only)130170.54%
Week 2 (logo & nav link)1434433%9.9%90.7%

Mobile Only – Website #1 (Highly Technical Audience)

Total ViewsClicks to HomeGo Home %Logo ClickNav Link Click
Week 1 (logo only)89880.89%
Week 2 (logo & nav link)1081211.94%57.14%42.86%

Mobile Only – Website #2 (Mostly Technical Audience)

Total ViewsClicks to HomeGo Home %Logo ClickNav Link Click
Week 1 (logo only)25720.78%
Week 2 (logo & nav link)23641.69%100%0%

Mobile Only – Website #3 (Mostly Non-Technical Audience)

Total ViewsClicks to HomeGo Home %Logo ClickNav Link Click
Week 1 (logo only)108490.83%
Week 2 (logo & nav link)112510.09%100%0%

Mobile Only – Website #4 (Non-Technical Audience)

Total ViewsClicks to HomeGo Home %Logo ClickNav Link Click
Week 1 (logo only)3377140.41%
Week 2 (logo & nav link)3865531.37%15.09%84.91%

What the data says

To fulfill this experiment’s purpose, we need to go back to the 3 original questions we wanted answered and see what the data says…

What percentage of visitors will go to the home page when the only option is to click the website's logo?

The percentage of users who decided to “go home” when the only option was the logo (week 1) was between 0.44% and 3.26% with an average of 1.59%

What percentage of visitors will go to the home page when they have the option to click either the logo or a “home” link in the navigation?

The percentage of users who decided to “go home” when given the choice of a nav link and the logo (week 2) was between 0.46% – 4.24% with an average of 2.31% (slightly higher).

Which option is more popular among users, the site logo or the “home” link in the navigation, when both are provided?

This one is a little bit trickier… Both of the more technical audiences preferred the logo (59.23% to 40.77%) , while the non-technical audiences overwhelmingly preferred the nav link (72.32% to 27.68%).

However, when all the data is combined, the nav link slightly edges out the logo 56.545% to 43.455%.

My takeaways

Here are a few things this experiment made me realize…

  • If you have a non-technical audience, you really need to fit that “home” link in your navigation. On Site #4 (the least technical audience of the bunch) there was a 302% increase in visits to the home page once the home link was introduced to the navigation.
  • While technical audiences had an easier time finding their way home with just the logo, there was still an increase in the percentage of visits to home in every case once the nav link was introduced. Site #1 (the most technical audience) had an increase of 42% of people going home once the nav link was introduced, while Site #2 had an increase of 30%.
  • The menu style certainly had an effect on the results. Once the home nav link was hidden behind a hamburger menu toggle, the split between logo clicks and nav link clicks changed pretty dramatically (except for Site 4, which still split 84.91% to 15.09% in favor of the nav link).
  • There is a portion of the world that really doesn’t know clicking the logo takes you home. Site #4 was a great example of this, which had the most dramatic split between logo and nav link clicks (87.5% to 12.5%) and saw a 302% increase in visits home once given the home nav link option. With this kind of audience, the home link is almost mandatory.
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Kyle Van Deusen

The Admin Bar

Born in California and raised in Texas, Kyle is a husband and proud father of three. After spending 15 years as a graphic designer and earning a business degree, he launched OGAL Web Design in 2017, The Admin Bar community with Matt Sebert in 2018, and Docket WP with Andre Gagnon in 2020.

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