Breadcrumbs refer to a secondary navigation scheme that displays the user’s location within a website or application. They typically appear near the top of a page, just below the primary navigation menu, and consist of a series of clickable links that represent the hierarchical structure of the site.
The term is derived from the famous fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel, where the protagonists leave a trail of breadcrumbs behind to find their way back home. In a similar fashion, website secondary navigation scheme acts as a digital trail, guiding users back to their starting point or helping them explore related content.
There are three main types of breadcrumbs commonly used in web design:
- Location-based: This type of breadcrumb trail displays the user’s current location within the website’s hierarchy. It shows the user’s path from the homepage to the current page, making it easy to backtrack or navigate to higher-level pages. For example, a location-based breadcrumb might appear as Home > Products > Category > Subcategory > Current Page.
- Attribute-based: Attribute-based breadcrumbs focus on the characteristics or attributes of the current page. They provide additional context and filtering options for users who want to refine their search or explore related content. For instance, an attribute-based breadcrumb for a product page might look like Home > Category > Brand > Color > Current Page.
- Path-based: Path-based breadcrumbs show the complete route that users have taken to reach the current page. They are especially useful when the user has gone through multiple steps or filters to arrive at a specific result. Path-based breadcrumbs can be represented as a series of clickable links, such as Home > Step 1 > Step 2 > Step 3 > Current Page.
Now that we understand the different types of breadcrumbs, let’s explore why they are essential for a seamless user experience:
- Improved Navigation: Breadcrumbs provide users with a clear path to navigate through a website’s structure. They eliminate the frustration of getting lost or having to rely solely on the back button. With breadcrumbs, users can effortlessly explore different sections of a site and find their way back to their desired destination.
- Contextual Understanding: Breadcrumbs offer valuable context and orientation within a website’s hierarchy. They help users understand where they are in relation to the overall structure of the site, making it easier to comprehend the content and its relevance.
- Time-saving and Efficiency: Breadcrumbs save users time by offering quick access to higher-level pages. Instead of retracing their steps or going back to the homepage, users can simply click on the desired breadcrumb link to jump to the desired section.
- SEO Benefits: Breadcrumbs can also have a positive impact on search engine optimization (SEO) efforts. By incorporating keywords into the breadcrumb links, website owners can enhance the relevance and visibility of their pages in search engine results.