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when I buy home computers the salesman never takes me to one side and tells me what Yahoo did or didn't do in 1995.
I find that irrelevant. The question was whether the main logo of a site need to contain a link back to the homepage (the way webmasterworld's logo is linked), and do visitors care?
The answer is yes many visitors do expect that, and as Brett mentioned above,it is also vital to have an explicit link to the home page clearly stating that it is linked to the home page.
[edited by: Habtom at 1:29 pm (utc) on Sep. 5, 2007]
Way back we were Beta testing a new ecommerce website, we would bring in a friend or family member to surf the site. We would sit them down at a computer and tell them to "shop" while we looked over their shoulder. Not giving them any clues. It is amazing how much information you can pick up in that experiment. Things that we thought were intuitive, was actually difficult to figure out for our test surfers. I think that is when we discovered we needed a link called "home" right below the logo.
The average man or woman on the street doesn't know this, doesn't care and will not even think of passing the cursor over random images to see if they are linked.
These aren't random images or clicks though - it's learned behaviour. If a logo in the top left hand corner links to the logo on all of the 'big' websites that users visit when they are starting to use the internet (think Google, Yahoo, Hotmail, Amazon etc.), then visitors learn that this is the behaviour to expect, and this is reinforced when they find that the new sites they use do this also. I would expect more usability problems with a logo in the top left that didn't link to the homepage.
learn about navigation by trial and error
The less trial and error you foist on your users, the better. Do your best to go with the flow of the conventions they've learned elsewhere.
The easier and smoother you make it for users to do what you want them to do, the better the chance that they'll do it. That usually means working WITH user expectations, not against them.
People are lazy - they don't like to think
Lorax, that statement reflects a lack of respect for users' time (and comfort).
If you're going to make them think, save it for the aspects of your site that are truly unique and genuinely require focused thought. Make most things as routine as possble.
Never, ever forget how easy it is for users to click away to someone else's site.
That usually means working WITH user expectations, not against them.
I strongly feel that redundancy has its place, even within the scope of standards and expectations, to insure that the desired effect is achieved.
Specifically when talking about crucial basic navigation such as a link back to the index of a site - this is not something that should be left to chance given the visitor frustration that may possibly result and the simplicity of the corrective measure – a simple text link.
Standards are wonderful, but sometimes they make me think of a horse wearing blinders.
[edited by: justgowithit at 3:42 pm (utc) on Sep. 5, 2007]
The only time it has varied was when a client wanted the logo as a rotating flash thingy that offered different things to click.
Unless the logo is begging to be clicked with some animation or otherwise many users will simply not know to click it.
It would be an interesting thing to track on a site.... have both a logo and a home link and see which people click more. In fact I am going to set up a test for my own curiosity.
I will post the results in a couple days.
I'm really big on simple clean designs and just wonder what percentage of users am I catering to by adding that "Home" link. Maybe if the logo were just a text-graphic with an underline it would be more obvious as a link.
Perhaps I should have narrowed my disdain. I do have a lack of respect for the abilities of some users. I've worked with too many clueless users as a help-desk tech and wasted many hours trying to help people too lazy to learn even when they were spoon fed the information. This doesn't mean that I don't respect those that do try. And certainly, in both cases I try hard to make their experience as quick and pleasant as possible. But I do base my navigation on the lazy user.
None of our sites have the logo linked back to the home page. In fact, the logo is always a CSS background image, as is the rest of the header.
There is an interesting concurrent thread about source ordered content taking place right now. Why have images and logos unrelated to the content of the page taking up space in the markup?
A "Home" link is clear to even the most obtuse visitor. A linked logo may or may not be.
Oh, breadcrumbs can be good too, depending on the design...
First.. always link the logo to the site URL, include title="Return to site home page" attribute in the link.
Third.. IF the content on the front of the site is relevant then always link in the main nav.
WWMC - "what would mom click?"
That being said, do not assume that people know this, always provide a home link somewhere obvious in addition to the logo link.
I agree 100%, some people could literally get trapped in their own fart bubble let alone being able to get around easily on any website...it is truly amazing to watch people at times. I have seen stuff right smack in people's faces and they ask me how to do or go to such and such...aargh. Make it for dummies, there are PLENTY out there (sounds mean, but true). The last thing you want, in an e-commerce site, is for people to get "stuck" or frustrated...give them all the options you can and do NOT (for the love of all that is holy) make them think for one second...