Artemy Lebedev

§ 75. On home and self-linking

November 8, 2001

Push a button… My home is gone.

C. Palahniuk. Fight Club

The metaphor of home first appeared in hypertext systems long before the advent of the World Wide Web. Back then, the “log cabin” pictogram denoted a return to the zero point—the contents (or the main directory).

Years have since passed.

In every browser and on the same place—on the navigation bar—there is the HOME button. Home has been disassociated from its original function, and even the name of the place where the button earlier took the user—the home page—is no longer related with the HOME button. The number of homes has grown dramatically, which is exactly what makes the Web worldwide.

Before, things used to be different. Having made your own home page, you got a springboard to the external (or internal) world. The relevant button was always at hand and took you to none other place but home. These days the button saying “HOME” has become a convenient bookmark available on the navigation bar, not to be picked from the list of the most favored locations. Avaricious providers supplying browsers to beginners make their addresses the browser’s home address. Websites are vying for the place under the button, each of them wishing to be the user’s sweet home.

Obiter dictum

The Forward and Back buttons are used to simplify navigation throughout the website. Pushing the Refresh button, you will reload the current page only. The buttons used to print a page, change the font size and the Stop button are all applicable to the currently opened page.

The HOME button is virtually the only one on the browser’s navigation bar whose function is not associated with the page the user is working with.

In an ideal browser interface the button with a home should take the user to the main page of a site he is browsing. This button should be disabled if the user has come to the main page.

Is there a way to do it? A piece of cake. In a few years, this will be the convention. (Additionally, there will be the “INFO” button to provide the user with the data on a particular website—the button users are really missing now).

But with browser developers still on their way to perfection, website builders have found an alternative—a logo at the top of the page. It has become a de facto world standard.

Attaching a link to the main (“home”) page to the logo is a good and nice thing to do. But then a frequent mistake has to be avoided (a mistake that actually caused this section to be written): if you are at home, there should be no link “to the main page”. The latter also applies to other locations of a website.

Any link means relocation. One of the primary laws of hypertext navigation: nothing should have a link to its own self.

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