A non-Web Developer friend writes with this question:
Why do home pages of a web site have HOME buttons/link on them that just reload the page?
The basic answer is that the site uses a template, a generic page upon which all others are built. This is a very good thing. When a site has thousands of pages–or even ten–it becomes a chore to update each one with changes. In college my senior thesis was on templating and I’ve since written a couple articles about it (PHP’s Smarty and ASP.NET Master Pages). If you don’t have some sort of template system in place, you’re making too much work for yourself.
A common fallout of a template is that even the front page (assuming it runs off the same template) links to itself. This can be confusing. Derek Powazek takes it a step farther in an AListApart article and says to never, ever link to the page you’re on. That means for every piece of global navigation, make sure the page it links to doesn’t have that item linkable in the global navigation. That’s a lot of work, especially when some templating systems aren’t built to be dynamic.
One problem that crops up when people try to follow this rule is that sometimes global navigation isn’t available when I want it. In order to simplify their template-making, sometimes webmasters will make all pages in a section not link to that section in the global nav.
Say I click on a global link to “Farm Animals,” on the following page, Farm Animals would not be clickable. Then I dig deeper and click on “Horses.” On this, the third page, I am still unable to click on Farm Animals and return myself to the parent menu.
Finally, a worse problem in trying to obey the law of not linking a page to itself, is when templates get mixed up between sections. Though I’m in the Tractors section, something happened that leaves Tractors clickable, but the “Fruits and Vegetables” section is not. This is easy to do while moving content around a site or making quick updates.
All the trouble can be avoided by just using one master template. The downside is pages sometimes link to themselves, but the upside is fewer headaches. Indeed, AListApart links pages to themselves all over the place. I say don’t worry about it.