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Outstanding Website Menus



What are breadcrumbs?

A breadcrumb, or breadcrumb trail, is a secondary website navigation scheme that displays the location of a page in relation to the rest of the site or web application. Similar but more complex than a status bar, this higher-level of specification allows users to understand and explore a webpage, and makes it possible for them to easily navigate through the different related pages and levels. For web developers and designers, understanding how to effectively utilize breadcrumbs means recognizing their role not just in navigation, but also in contributing to the site's SEO strategy.

When building a website, it's crucial to structure the breadcrumb trail in a way that mirrors the site's hierarchy, making it intuitive for users to move through levels of content.

Breadcrumb trails are most commonly presented across the top of a page as a series of horizontal links separated by the “greater than” (>) symbol. In certain cases, this sign may be replaced by a small arrow or a slash in order to keep in line with the site’s visual language. Furthermore, when displayed on mobile devices with smaller screens, breadcrumb trails often show only the page immediately before the current one.

Main types of breadcrumbs in web design

1. Location-based

Location-based breadcrumbs show the hierarchical relation between the page currently viewed by the user and those at a higher level. This is the most popular type of breadcrumb navigation, and is most commonly seen in online stores with several categories, subcategories and product pages linked from their homepage.

2. Attribute-based

Attribute-based breadcrumbs present the different attributes users select on a page. Also known as history-based breadcrumb trails, these are almost exclusively seen in eCommerce websites with filtering capabilities.

3. Path-based

Path-based breadcrumbs display the different pages users clicked on in chronological order, allowing them to easily go back to one of the previous pages they visited. The most often-used application of path-based breadcrumb trails is the “Back to results” link.

What is breadcrumb navigation?

Breadcrumb navigation is a critical component of user interface design that enhances usability and accessibility within websites and applications. By providing a clear pathway back to the starting or entry point of a site, breadcrumbs enable users to understand their current location without losing context or navigating extensively. This system of navigation is especially crucial in complex websites with multiple levels of content organization, such as eCommerce platforms, educational sites, and large-scale blogs. It serves not just as a navigational aid but also as a tool to improve search engine optimization (SEO), as it helps search engines understand the structure of your site, contributing to better indexing. Implementing breadcrumb navigation effectively requires a thoughtful approach to its design and placement, ensuring it complements the overall user experience while being minimally intrusive.


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Benefits of using breadcrumbs for website navigation

Improved user experience

The main purpose of breadcrumb trails is to offer an alternative way of navigating multi-level websites and provide them with better access to the different categories. Beyond just facilitating navigation, breadcrumbs significantly enhance the user experience by reducing the number of actions a user must take to return to a higher-level page. Instead of relying solely on the back button or the website’s main menu, users can directly jump to the section or page they wish to visit, making the exploration of the website more intuitive and less time-consuming.

Reduced bounce rate

Encouraging web visitors to explore related pages or easily navigate back to their initial point of interest not only enhances user engagement but also reduces the likelihood of them exiting the site prematurely. By providing seamless transitions and intuitive pathways, users are more likely to stay longer on the website, increasing the chances of conversion or achieving the desired interaction goals.

Structured internal linking

Categorizing a site hierarchically makes it easier to connect webpages to higher-level pages immediately above them and ensure the entire platform follows the same internal strategy, which facilitates and paves the way for smoother web navigation.

Optimized SEO crawling

Search engines use breadcrumbs to crawl sites and categorize its content. By providing them with a breadcrumb trail to follow, your site can be indexed faster and thus might be more likely to rank higher on the search results, leading to improved SEO performance.

Enhanced SERP presence

In 2015, Google replaced the URL on its site results with the site name and breadcrumb trail of the page. Since then, defining a breadcrumb trail for your site gives you more control over how your website or web application is perceived by potential visitors and offers the opportunity to further optimize your SERP presence.

Best practices for breadcrumbs

Enhance primary navigation with breadcrumbs

The incorporation of breadcrumbs supports the primary navigation of a website by providing an enhanced user experience. Breadcrumbs complement the primary navigation by offering precise, context-based guidance. To maximize usability, breadcrumbs are subtly positioned just below the primary navigation bar, blending subtly with the site's design while remaining visible.

Use separators for better readability

Using separators between each link in a breadcrumb trail significantly improves readability by clearly distinguishing between the different levels of navigation without causing cognitive overload. Separators, such as slashes (/), arrows (>) or bullets (•), act as visual cues that guide the user's eye from one link to the next, facilitating quick navigation decisions. Furthermore, these separators provide a cleaner and more organized appearance to the breadcrumb trail, making it easier for users to follow the path back to their starting point or jump to a higher level within the website's structure.

Make sure breadcrumb titles match page titles

Ensuring that breadcrumb titles match page titles maintains a consistency level that aids users in quickly understanding their current location within your website. When there is alignment between the breadcrumb and page titles, it eliminates any potential confusion, making the navigation more intuitive. Furthermore, this consistency ensures a better mapping of your website's structure in terms of SEO. By helping search engines understand the structure and content of your site more effectively, it can enhance your site's visibility in search results.

Maintain a cohesive design

Maintaining a cohesive design across the breadcrumb navigation ensures a unified and professional appearance that enhances the overall aesthetic of your website. This involves using a consistent color scheme, typography, and spacing that aligns with the site’s design principles. By doing so, breadcrumbs not only serve their functional purpose but also become an integral part of the visual identity of the site. Additionally, a well-designed breadcrumb trail can subtly reinforce brand recognition, as users become familiar with the visual cues associated with navigating your website.

Check for internal linking issues

Regularly auditing your website for internal linking issues is crucial to maintaining optimal web performance. Broken or inefficient internal links can result in a frustrating user experience and harm your site's SEO performance. By conducting frequent checks, you ensure that all links direct users to the correct pages. This proactive approach helps prevent potential decreases in traffic and engagement.

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Related Term

User Experience Design (UXD)

Related Term

User Interface (UI)

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