A freelance designer we’re currently working with asked me if she could design the site without a home button, feeling that the company logo could serve that purpose.
A few years ago I would have said yes. If there’s no home button and the company name and/or logo is by the navbar, it’s widely understood that it will link you to the home page.
However, from a usability standpoint, I’ve changed my mind. First off, it requires you to scan all the navigation. Although I recommend as few buttons as you can get away with, I’ve seen plenty of Web sites that offer a plethora of navigational choices. Not finding a home button might take a few seconds, which is a lifetime on the Web.
Secondly, some of your prospects may not be as Web-savvy as you are; they may not know that a logo is expected to take you home. Yes, they may ultimately discover it, but how many will give up while trying?
Strictly from a design perspective, I believe that if you’re running out of room the home button can be sacrificed. However, realize that you are making a trade-off in usability.
On the flip side, regardless of whether you have a home button, your company name and logo should always link to your home page…after all, it’s expected.
And one pet peeve: don’t relegate your home button to the bottom (or far right) of your navigation; put it at the top. You start at the home page, you don’t finish there. It would be as ridiculous as clicking on a start button to shut down your computer.