As a web consulting firm, we are often asked the question whether or not to add a link to the homepage in a website’s navigation.
Our typical response is that users are conditioned to return to the homepage by clicking the site logo; adding a link to home is optional and may be extraneous. We refer to sites like Google and Amazon as examples of websites that have opted to leave it out of their top navigation bar.
Advising clients to leave it out simply because sites X, Y and Z are doing so did not sit well with us. We wanted to find out more about the subject. We wanted to know the answer to a simple question:
What percentage of the Web uses a home button in their navigation, and what percentage of sites leave it up to the user to figure out?
We were unable to find any recent relevant data to answer our question (thank you @kim_cre8pc and @elisabethos for your help!). Thus we conducted a research study Promediacorp style – using Amazon Mechanical Turks to help us find the answer.
We decided to use Amazon’s Alexa top 500 sites* in the US as our sample. Workers were asked to visit the websites and report back “yes” or “no” if a home button appears in the site’s navigation. We used multiple workers to review each site.
What constitutes a home button? The most obvious use is the actual text “Home”. However, some sites use different text (Mashable uses “All”, Huffington Post uses “Front Page”). We counted this as a home button as it is fulfilling the same purpose, taking up site navigation real estate and being redundant to the site title/logo. Some other sites, such as Apple and IGN, chose to use a home icon in place of text. This let them minimize the space taken up by the redundancy but avoid any confusion from an untrained user.
The survey yielded the following result:
Of the websites checked, 37.4% of them link to the homepage in their site navigation, while 62.6% do not.
*Only 436 of the Alexa top 500 returned data.