Understanding Breadcrumbs and When They Should Be Used in Web Design


Breadcrumbs, or breadcrumb trails, are forms of secondary navigation scheme. They show the web user’s location on a website or application. The name was derived from the “Hansel and Gretel” fairy tale. In this tale, these two youngsters scatter breadcrumbs to create a trail leading back to their home. Online, breadcrumbs provide web users with a method of tracking the path back to their initial landing point.

You will often locate breadcrumbs on websites with a large volume of content that is arranged in a hierarchical style. Breadcrumbs are also found in web applications with more than one step. In these apps, they act much like a progress bar. In simple form, breadcrumbs are text links that are arranged horizontally and divided by the “greater than” symbol (>). This symbol reveals the level of the page in relation to the page links appearing besides it.

When You Should Use Breadcrumbs

You should use breadcrumb navigation for large-size websites and sites with pages that are arranged hierarchically. A good example is an e-commerce site on which a wide array of different products is organised into logical categories.

Breadcrumb navigation should be considered as an extra feature. It should not replace primary navigation menus that are efficient and effective. It is actually a convenience option or a secondary navigation scheme. It enables users to determine their location, and it is an alternative method of navigating through the pages of your website.

The Three Types of Breadcrumbs

The three types of breadcrumbs are the following:

 Location-based Breadcrumbs. This type of breadcrumb reveals to the user exactly where they are located in the website hierarchy. They are commonly used as navigation schemes with at least two levels.

Attribute-based Breadcrumbs. Trails of these breadcrumbs exhibit the attributes of a specific web page.

Path-based Breadcrumbs. Trails of these breadcrumbs show site users what steps they have made to arrive on a certain web page. Path-based breadcrumbs are dynamic since they exhibit the pages that the site user has visited prior to landing on the current site page.

Major Benefits of Using a Breadcrumb Trail

Primary benefits of using a breadcrumb trail include the following:

Convenience. Breadcrumbs are convenient for users since they provide an alternate way of navigating a website. When you provide a breadcrumb trail for each page on a sizable multi-level website, it is possible for site users to navigate to higher-level categories with greater ease.

Reduction of Clicks. Using breadcrumb trails reduces the number of clicks or related actions for returning to higher-level pages rather than using the “Back” browser button or the site’s primary navigation features. Breadcrumbs are simpler and easier to use.

Lack of Negative Impact on Content Overload. Breadcrumbs typically do not hog screen space. Breadcrumb trails do not require excess space on a web page since they are usually horizontally oriented with plain styling.

Lowered Bounce Rates. Using breadcrumb trails is a great option for coaxing first-time site visitors to examine all pages of a website. If a user lands on a site page via a Google search, a visible breadcrumb trail may entice the user to visit higher-level pages and review relevant topics of interest. This reduces the bounce rate for the website as a whole.

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