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I have a habit of placing the home link in my navigation menus at the end of the menu, rather than at the beginning (i.e. at the bottom of a vertical list, or at the far right of a horizontal list).

I've had a couple people question this choice, since most home links appear at the beginning of the nav menu.

My reasoning is that users are more likely to start from the home page and step through the navigation, and then use the home link to return home later in their browsing experience.

However, this could be a tidy concept that doesn't play out in reality, especially if people expect to see the home link appear first in the nav menu.

Thoughts?

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Your rationale is sensible, but I'm inclined to think that its effectiveness may indeed not play out in reality. Other designers have been putting the home link on the left or top for a long, long time, quite possibly with no rationale or consideration of task performance as you offer here. While that didn't start as a convention, you get questions because it has become one as user expectations for websites jell around the most common designs.

I did a casual search for any studies on navigation design and home link placement in particular. Most of the articles I found talked about navigation as a block rather than placement of links within that block. The most relevant article was Jakob Nielsen's Top 10 Mistakes in Web Design, #8 Violating Design Conventions, where he makes the following point:

"Jakob's Law of the Web User Experience states that 'users spend most of their time on other websites.'

This means that they form their expectations for your site based on what's commonly done on most other sites. If you deviate, your site will be harder to use and users will leave."

For this to be relevant, we should find that most other sites place home links at the left/top. Again, I hardly did an exhaustive research, but did take a quick tour of sites for and about user experience design. Where they have an explicit Home link (or reiterated their site name or main content title in lieu of the word "home"), most place it on the left or top. Of course, there's also the convention that places the company/site logo in the top left corner and links it to the home page, further reinforcing the expectation for where to find your way home.

One notable exception to this is Redish & Associates, Ginny Redish's website, where the home link is at the bottom of the sidebar navigation. I didn't ask her rationale before posting this response, but certainly, this is definitely a point or three in favor of your approach.

I'll be interested other experiences of other members and especially any more pointed research or guidelines that anyone has found.
Hi Beth - although this is late getting to you, I wanted to share something I just read this morning from a Wiley book I'm using for some of my classes: Web Design: a complete introduction (Nigel/jenny Chapman).

As the authors point out, " the navbar is an excellent example of gestalt principles (our brains seek to organize and establish pattern)...designers seeking to make the links that define the top-level structure of a site conspicuous and easy to find...came up with the idea of grouping them together in a distinctive style and consistent position."

Now the navbar has emerged as a convention to make it easier to comprehend. Has placement/location of the Home link on the navbar a convention? Hum, it depends on the context of interactive product and the user. Also, shape and color factor into how the user interprets the navbar links. Suggestion if you haven't already: contact 2 folks/users who represent the intended audience, get some fast/free input. Then, design accordingly.

Good luck! Lisa
Hi Beth,

A nice little experiment would be to draw a blank nav bar, and ask then a bunch of users to indicate where they would expect the "home" item to be. Or you could do an A/B test on a live site to see what the effect is on your metrics.

I'd suggest that the only time you should ignore user expectations is when you are inventing something groundbreaking that will bring benefits way beyond the pain of the learning curve.
When you start from Home and navigate to anything after that, returning to the Home page is like retracing your steps, or moving backwards. And since we are used to reading from left to right and from top to bottom, the intuitive place for the Home link is top left. This is even true if you're entering a website from a direct link to another page: the Home link is supposed to be the starting point of the site, and the starting point in our culture is top left. In other cultures, where reading order is from right to left, the Home menu most often appears top right.

Another advantage of placing the Home menu at the beginning is that it stays in exactly the same spot even if more menus and links are added below it, or if dynamic links are shown and hidden according to where the user of the website has navigated to.
Thanks to everyone for the useful feedback -- I'll continue testing this and considering my approach.

Good point about a top-placed Home item remaining stable through navigation changes/dynamic links.

And of course, the weight placed on precedence in users' expectations of a site.

I'll post with any further results I get from my investigations.

Thanks again!
When I was working on projects for graduate school (masters in HCI), a group of us would look at each other and say, " Lets do something innovative!" "Something different!" One professor in particular repeated this statement over and over again " If you are going to go against "standards" for navigation, you better have a good reason with data tested in the field."

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