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How much Breadcrumbs are useful

In general, breadcrumbs demonstrates that where the user is within the hierarchy of a website and provide a way to explore other areas. Depending on the type of breadcrumb it can also be used to show a user where they have originated from and give another way to them to go "back".

A simple example of this could be:

HomeProducts > Furniture > Oak Chair

A problem arises when a page can appear in more than one place. So in my example, there might be a single page “Oak Chairs” but the website hierarchy means it could live in multiple places:

HomeProducts > Furniture Oak Chair


Home > Products > Oak > Oak Chair

Here the simple hierarchy no longer applies as it is no longer location/folder based.

What are the options?

1) Have multiple pages (So the physical page “Oak Chairs” appears at multiple URLs ).

Best avoided as it may be seen as duplicate content and confuse users.

2) Display multiple breadcrumbs

Although Google is OK with this, I’ve never seen a tidy implementation and it’s potentially confusing for users.

3) Choose it’s rightful place and always show that in the breadcrumb

Here you decide that the ‘Oak Chairs’ page lives in a certain location. So for example structurally it lives in the “Oak” folder. No matter which path the user took, the breadcrumb always shows the “Oak” link.

The main issue here is that a user might have followed a path that is different to the one shown in the breadcrumb.

4) Choose a breadcrumb that isn’t hierarchical

Here we accept that the hierarchical breadcrumb (based off a folder structure) doesn’t make sense. Instead, we decide on something else that makes sense such as

Home >  Products  > Oak Chair

Or maybe even:

Home >  Products  > Wooden Furniture > Oak Chair

Here the last part (“products” or “Wooden Furniture”) are less to do with the actual path and more to do with giving the user somewhere sensible to go, no matter their journey into the page.

5) Use a path or “history” based breadcrumb

Here you log each user’s actual path through the site, building up the breadcrumb dynamically based on which path they have come through. So, for example, one user might see:

Home >  Products > Furniture > Oak Chair

And another might see

Home > Products > Oak > Oak Chair

Aside from specialized issues, it can in any case be mistaking for guests as the progression of the page may not be what's normal and doesn't get around the issue of individuals coming to it straightforwardly (from an internet searcher for instance).

As an aside, when the last page a client visits was an outcomes page, an adaption of this is include a history based connection back to the outcomes. That way they can go ahead to a page and back to the outcomes without utilizing the back catch.

< Back to Results | Home > Products > Oak > Oak Chair

6) Attribute-based breadcrumb

As soon as you have a page that could potentially live in two places, it is no longer hierarchy based. As the breadcrumb/URL are divorced you could use something based around attributes. E.g.

Home > Products > Oak Chair Appears in "Oak" and "Furniture" Article

Another attribute based breadcrumb often appears on results pages so that you can build up a breadcrumb here too:

Home > Products > Oak[x] or Furniture[x] > Results

Think clearly about each use case

Breadcrumbs have been around since the beginning of the web when most destinations were basic and included placing records in organizers on a server. With substantially more mind-boggling destinations and structures, it's essential to ponder each utilization case and comprehend the reason it's there and how it can encourage the client.

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