We have been collecting usage data on the home button from about 750 websites we manage across North America in an effort to try to determine if it is necessary or not. While each website is different and much of the data is statistically insignificant, we have started to operate based on a few general assumptions.
1.) Most users, particularly younger users, recognize the logo as a way to get to the home page.
2.) Websites without home buttons seem to get a comparable amount of traffic to the home page as those that do not. We don’t see a significant difference between having a home button or not.
3.) Websites without a home button often will see an increase in direct traffic from returning users during a session indicating that users who do not know the logo is a route to the home page will instead clear the address bar back to the root domain to get back home.
Based on our research, we have decided to omit the home button in most instances. Although when it is present, it is often used, most users seem to understand how to get to the home page regardless of the inclusion of a home button. With the complexity of modern websites, we are usually pressed for space in the header and can better use the real estate that would be dedicated to the home button for other UI elements. That said, if the audience for our website skews older, we will still include the home button. Our research has indicated older users are less familiar with the concept of the logo being a home button.