What are Breadcrumbs?

As a child, you may have heard the age-old Hansel and Gretel fairy tale in which the two children drop breadcrumbs so they could find their way back home. Interestingly, the breadcrumbs, we will talk about, took their name from this story, but these are no ordinary breadcrumbs. 

A “breadcrumb” or “breadcrumb trail” is a type of secondary navigation system that helps marketers to track users when they’re browsing through a website or web application. Just like in the Hansel and Gretel tale, these so-called breadcrumbs offer users an easy way to track their digital pathway back to where they may have started. In fact, breadcrumbs are often used in online applications to help users with easy navigation.

For example, when you click on a landing page link that leads you to another page, and then perhaps another link from there leads you to another specific page, you can go back by clicking on the “back” button on your browser. Sound familiar?

Now suppose you were browsing an online shopping website and you go from ‘Home’ to ‘Clothes’ and then to ‘T-shirts.’ These three steps are your breadcrumb trail and are often displayed at the top of the web page as you’re switching between pages. 

Usually, these are arranged hierarchically on websites, and now you can go back to any of those pages without clicking any extra buttons.

Intriguing, right?

So, let’s explore how breadcrumbs can be helpful to us.

When Should You Use Breadcrumbs?

As a web designer or marketer, you should use breadcrumb navigation for large websites or web pages that may need to be hierarchically arranged. For instance, E-commerce websites. This kind of site usually has a wide variety of products. Group these products into logical categories, leaving a breadcrumb trail will help users to find their way around and keep track of the products they find most interesting. 

On the other hand, single-level websites with no logical set of categories don’t need breadcrumbs. 

A great way to determine whether a website should have a breadcrumb trail is to construct a map or diagram outlining the website’s navigation structure and then analyze whether breadcrumbs would be beneficial to users to help them navigate through categories.

It’s important to remember that breadcrumb navigation should be added as an extra feature and site organization and structure should also be a key focus. Breadcrumbs are a convenience feature, a secondary navigation system that will let site users navigate their way around your site quicker.

Benefits Of Using Breadcrumbs

Here are just some of the benefits of using a breadcrumb trail.

1. They Improve The User Experience

For the most part, breadcrumbs are utilized to give users a secondary means of finding their way through a big website such as an e-commerce hub. Taking help from this breadcrumb trail of all the pages - especially on a large multi-level website - users can quickly locate their way to higher-level categories.

2. They Make Navigating a Website Easier

A breadcrumb trail significantly reduces the number of clicks or actions needed to return to a landing or ‘Home’ page. Instead of using the browser’s ‘Back’ button, users can now use the breadcrumbs with fewer clicks and clearer visibility.

3. Doesn’t Take Up Screen Space

As they’re frequently horizontally constructed and simple in style, breadcrumb trails don’t take up a lot of space on a site or page. Meaning they won’t cause content overload.

4. Reduces Bounce Rates

Breadcrumb trails can be a brilliant way to make websites easy for first-time users to navigate through and keep them coming back.

For instance, if a user were to arrive on a page through a Google search, viewing a breadcrumb trail in plain sight may entice that user to click to higher-level pages so they can explore related topics of interest. 

Key Takeaway

Overall, breadcrumb trails are like secondary navigation systems for web users and help make a viewer’s web experience smoother and cleaner. They can be a simple way to attract more people to your web pages, allowing them to access your content quickly and effectively.