Home, or Not to Home
Yesterday, while coding a rough design for a site, I had a quick discussion with a former coworker. It played out like this, paraphrased:
ME: Is a hover on the logo enough for less savvy users to know it’s a link to home?
Coworker: In most cases, no. There needs to be “home” somewhere; people are programmed to look for it.
CW: Yep, that lesson was taught to me the hard way a few years back.
ME: But that’s a few years back. ::sigh::
CW: Still the case today. Hell, people are still hooked on Internet Explorer 6.
ME: Best Buy doesn’t have one, [former employer] doesn’t have one… ha. I refuse to design for IE6, PNGs aren’t even supported. Also, it’s a decade old running on ’94 assumptions.
CW: Ha. Well, I see your point about BB and [FE]. Give it a shot, see after a few weeks.
ME: I appreciate your flexibility.
Pure user experience tells us there must be a “home” link within the navigation. This because they tried to make the internet as useful as possible for those unfamiliar. Most are now familiar. The fundamentals of user experience are shifting.
Major sites are dropping the redundant, near-useless “home” link, thankfully. More and more sites are moving away from explicit links home, for good reason. I didn’t use a “home” link for a few reasons but essentially it comes down to this:
The longer we build the Web for those that don’t understand it, the longer we wait to advance it for everyone. Any site built catering to IE6 slows that progress.
Small business, while likely to request these things, are most hurt by catering to a slower-adopting crowd. If you’re a smaller company, you can’t afford to slow the Internet’s momentum. Instead, you need to be at the forefront of changes because you can more easily adapt.
Instead of making your site backward compatible, provide helpful and thoughtful navigation so any user will find it useful. Provide a message for those, despite all odds and sense, still using IE6 that encourages them to upgrade. If you’re redesigning an existing site, carefully explain any changes to navigation and point them to new content, blog, social accounts, etc.
There are dozens of ways to create an online presence that anyone at any level of adopting. Cater your site to Web-familiar users. If only because that crowd is growing and who wants to direct efforts toward a dwindling customer base?