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Home Isn't Where the Start Is

"Home" as a single entry point to the site isn't really valid for most sites. However, it's hard to get beyond the idea that "home" is where you begin your quest to find something. Even Christina Wodtke, in her highly recommended book Information Architecture: Blueprints for the Web (New Riders, 2002, ISBN 0735712506), talks about typing in top-level domains to begin her searches. This is perfectly fine for her examples, but I question how common this behavior is now. For most things, I start with a search on Google or a local search engine.

Think about this. For many sites, most people enter the site via some page other than the home page (that is, if they see the site at all, with the rise in syndication and alternate ways to access web content). For my own site, Asterisk, most people come in via individual archive pages. Any large content site would have similar entry points. It's important to have a "home" or "hub" page, but it's equally important to address a visitor's navigational needs from more common entry points.

If you think of your web site as a maze (which, to your visitors, might be a very apt metaphor) with Start being the home page and End being the content they're seeking, most people are dropped in somewhere in the middle. It's important to get these people back to the Start, but more important to get them to what they're looking for. Consider Apple. I'd imagine that they have quite a few people arriving from Google via searches for iPod and MP3 player. Now, ideally the user would land on the desired page directly from Google, but if not, it's important for him to be able not only to get back to "home," but to continue searching from the page on which he landed.

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