Saturday, February 19, 2011

Where is My Home?

This year we released our much awaited Intranet Project. We had engaged the best Usability Consultants to provide us designs and believe me they had done pretty good job. But one of the usability feedback that we received was "Where is My Home?" link.

People tend to use "Home" link as their panic button. Whenever they feel they are lost somewhere in the site they feel like clicking the "Home Link" and starting all over again. So a very prominent "Home" link somewhere near the header makes sense. Our site used the generic pattern of making the company's logo link to Home page and to make it more obvious we also provided a Hover over tooltip that says “Home Page” very much like one my favorite site’s link http://www.smashingmagazine.com/ .


The logo is a link to home page and also shows tooltip about what it is.

                                                     
But if your user’s don’t spent much time on Internet and are not accustomed to this behavior they will probably have the same question.  We wanted to dig more into this so we observed few of the popular sites to see where they have kept there Home link.






On “Facebook” both Logo and Home Link points to “Home Page”.
               



When you are on Amazon’s Home page it shows normal “amazon” logo. As soon as you go on any other page and roll over Amazon.com it shows a hover behavior and a Homepage link.
                                                           


                                                       
Accenture Uses Logo as well as its breadcrumb's starting point as Home Link (Also notice the small image)
  


UPS includes Home Link in its global footer
  


HBO is having home link in its Side Links Utilities Menu.
  

Over this journey of digging in we found this link http://www.webdesignpractices.com/navigation/globalhome.html

The link talks about various pages and the presence of Home Link although the study has been done in 2002 it is still very much valid.

After all this digging in we can conclude on following things.

  1. User definitely looks for a Home Link in your site.
  2. The intuitive design of making Site’s Logo as a link to Sites Home page is well understood by many users and should be carried forward to avoid confusions.
  3. Breadcrumbs on the site should start with “Home Link” they can augment the cause but never should be present alone as a link to Home Page.


Best Buy’s Breadcrumb the initial link to Home Page.
                                              
  1. If your “main Navigation” where “traditional users” will most probably be looking for the Home page link allows (in terms of space) the placement of link it should be very well a part of it. But if you have space crunches find an alternative.



Home Link on LinkedIn is available on the main navigation.
 

  1. If you do not have space in your “main Navigation” place your Home Link somewhere at the top and if possible use a Home image as well.
  2. Users very well receive the Hover over effect. If you are making your sites logo as a link to home page make something change on Hover of the Logo image.A very good example of this is with Amazon’s Logo.

4 comments:

  1. Amazon's pattern is the best way to navigate for Home page. If user is already on home page then its not essential. But, in case of inner pages, Home link must display on top of the page. Home link should be easier to locate for the users. It also depends upon the visitor of the website, how much proficient are the users! In the inner page, breadcrumbs is also a common pattern to show the home page link. It would be better if we provide home link is except the company logo.
    Sushil, thank you for providing all the way of representing Home link on a single page.

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  2. "The most important thing you can do to make sure your web site is easy for people to use is not to make them think" -- Steve Krug.
    Logo to me seems as a better choice between "Home Link" and "Breadcrumb" when you usually have a space crunch on the page in keeping with the asthetics. I believe more user experience on the internet will make logo as intuitive for home page.

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  3. Spot on!
    Thanks Sushil, I believe everyone, building a meaningful enterprise web application face this issue at some point of time. Upto some extent it's matter of taste, both approach have some merits and demerits.

    Thanks
    Prateek

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  4. Amazon's implementation makes sense in the context they use it as the logo shows .com after the branded name. For a user this is a natural extension of thought to click it as it creates the impression that it will function as a link.
    Not all visitors get this when the logo/site branding does not use this approach. Feedback that comes in from users reflects this.

    I like to test users when they need assistance using the intranet to complete a task. I ask them to go back to the home page and see how they achieve this. If you watch them carefully their eyes and often the mouse move first to the sites main navigation far left. No doubt eye tracking studies of a formal nature have been done, but this is usually the first port of call for them. When no home link exists a moment of hesitation occurs where one of the following happens:

    • They ask you what to do (usually greeted by a smile and a nod of encouragement at the screen)
    • They look around the header area, using the mouse and their eyes. Some hit on the logo mouse over, but this tends to be by chance.
    • They give up and start using the browser back button to take them back to the home page.
    • They type “home” in the search field (rarely happens and no result returned matches).

    Finding 5 in the blog article sums it up well. “If you do not have space in your “main Navigation” place your Home Link somewhere at the top and if possible use a Home image as well.”

    It actually mirrors the findings of a report Nielsen Norman Group (NN/g) published circa 2009 called Intranet Usability Guidelines. It was based on usability studies of 27 corporate intranets, with employees from each company participating as usability testers. The seventh volume provides two useful guidelines and several useful findings based on user observations:

    50. Provide an identifiable and consistent link to the intranet homepage in the upper left-hand corner of the page.

    51. Ideally, name the link to the intranet homepage Home.

    In my mind it comes down to space. The logic I would follow is this:

    1. If you have space for it then you should show “Home” loud and proud in the main navigation.

    2. If you are constrained then either make every effort to remove the constraint by renaming existing navigation succinctly such as “Resources” rather than “Employee Resources” .

    3. If after exhaustively trying to accommodate it, no space can be found in your main navigation only then look at placing it in the top left corner in a manner that does not detract from the sites branding.

    I met with one of the authors, Kara Pernice in Edinburgh at a training session, and remember well the various anicdotes and findings from the extensive benchmarking they carry out. Keep it simple, clean and intuitive were a constant thread in the discussion.

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