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I'm developing a web app to be used on mobile devices. I use a home button in our status bar to return to our "home" page. When on this page however, the button will have no function. My question then is what is the best way to handle this now unusable home button? A few options I've considered:

  • making the home button invisible or removing it on this screen, though I don't like the idea of something that's there 95% of the time magically disappearing on users.
  • Changing the appearance of the button to have some sort of indication that it's disabled, perhaps an X through it or have it greyed out.
  • Just leaving it there, and letting users realize that when they are already on the home screen, this button has no function.

EDIT: I'm aware that the common convention now is to use the site/company logo as a "home" button. Without diving into specifics, this simply doesn't make sense for my application. Thanks for all of the input so far.

30

Imagine this for a second.

The UX logo for this site disappears on the home page, but then appears again when you're on any other page other than the homepage. It wouldn't be a good experience.

So, keep it, people are accustomed to the "home" button being there constantly. Especially if your homepage has dynamically generated content, because people use it sometimes as a "refresh" function.

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    +1 Off the top of my head, I can't think of any site that still has a home button labeled as "home" or styled as a home-shaped icon. It's a fairly widespread convention to just use the logo as an implicit Home button. – Graham Herrli Sep 12 '14 at 16:31
  • I feel this solution will fit most properly with my application, thanks! – RhinoFeeder Sep 12 '14 at 17:16
  • Happy to help @RhinoFeeder! – Majo0od Sep 12 '14 at 18:28
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    I agree with this, except in the case where the home screen has a different layout than the rest of the app. If your home screen is significantly different (such as it doesn't have a menu bar at all), then hiding a "go to home" button makes much more sense. – Bobson Sep 12 '14 at 18:58
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    Discourse definitely uses the home button as a refresh, as another voice chiming in. – Riking Sep 13 '14 at 6:18
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The home button should stay, for reasons already listed. But users find controls which are disabled confusing. One could argue that it's an example of inconsistent design.

It would be more effective, and easier for users to understand, to create another enabled state for your home button, like Axure's Selected state or CSS3's active state. That would show users that the current page they are on is the homepage, and that would help with wayfinding. Similarly, the other pages/sections in the app should have selected states to help show users where they are. Historically, Amazon.com has done this with their tabs. This, when paralleled with breadcrumbs, works great on larger sites.

I should also mention another reason: users don't always start your app from its homescreen. Often, users will keep apps running on their device for an indefinite period. Therefore, the navigation should help them to remember where they are in the app so that, at first glance, they'll know how to get wherever they need to go in it.

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Right answer depends on what's on your "home button".

If it's your company logo (or another kind of logo, used as home button to save space) then I strongly suggest to don't hide it. Changes trigger attention and may confuse users (especially navigation panels are often an anchor where users can go back where they don't know where they are). Of course if you don't hide it you must make it passive, do not trigger a refresh clicking on logo (unless you have a very good reason to do so and anything else isn't viable). If you're in the home page and you click home button/logo what should happen? Nothing, exactly nothing (as nothing happens when you select twice same TV channel on your remote control).

If "home button" is made of text and it's visually styled as a button then you should simply disable it. It'll make clear they're in the home page (assuming you always disable button for current page) and it won't trigger any action when clicked (see previous paragraph about this).

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couple of rules in usability heuristic evaluation support the idea of keeping the home icon. 1.improving recognition rather than recall 2.enhancing user control and freedom (navigation)

it always a good idea to clearly marks where the person is and where they can go by generating some sort of a feedback.

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the home button doesn't matter if has no function on that page(home), btw it has one, "reload" the page, and that is cool. But if you want to spend time and make it disappear, you may dig on jQuery interacions, etc.

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    This doesn't appear to answer the OP's question. You write "the home button doesn't matter if it has no function on that page," but that's the reason the OP asked the question. You write "you may dig into jQuery interactions" but the OP isn't asking for implementation suggestions; he's asking whether the Home button should appear, be disabled, or be invisible. – Graham Herrli Sep 12 '14 at 16:26

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