Friday, November 13, 2015

CASE STUDY: Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumb trails on a page indicate the page's position in the site hierarchy. A user can navigate all the way up in the site hierarchy, one level at a time, by starting from the last breadcrumb in the breadcrumb trail. For complex or deep websites, the correct type of breadcrumbs are extremely helpful. There are three types of breadcrumbs: location-based, path-based, and attribute-based. Share Thurow from Marketing Land does a good job summarizing the types of breadcrumbs and when to use them. I've modified them to Library world examples.  

Location-based breadcrumbs help the user understand the websites structure by identifying your current page and linking to pages above in the hierarchy.  

Home > Services > Book Kits  
The structure is pretty obvious here. The user is on the Book Kits page that resides under Services and Services resides under Home. This type of breadcrumb supports usability, findability, and accessibility to improve the user experience. Findability is an important part of how I define User Experience and it often gets left off of many User Experience diagrams.  
User Experience Honeycomb  
User Experience Honeycomb by Peter Morville. Used with Permission.  
Path-based breadcrumbs are pointless. I'm not sure why they were ever invented, but they essentially create a trail for you of every page you've been to on the website.   

Home > Services > Book Kits > About Us > Home > Contact Us > Catalog  
There is no structure here that helps navigation. It duplicates the function of the back button, it confuses a user who might want to reference where they are in the website hierarchy compared to home, it displays a creepy tracking history trail is not helpful, and it confuses search engines by showing duplicate content links with endless variations for robots to find.  
Attribute-based is what every good e-commerce website should have implemented for filtering and faceted searching. This is the most complicated type of breadcrumb to implement correctly because with search engines it is extremely important not to portray duplicate content. So making sure you setup correct redirects (.htaccess or proxy level) to ensure the order of the filters doesn't matter is critical.  

| Fiction x | Adult x | War x | History x  
When using Attribute-based breadcrumbs it may or may not be helpful to include Location-based breadcrumbs. In the next example, I've mixed Location-based breadcrumbs and Attribute-based breadcrumbs. The first 3 items are Location-based and the last 4 are Attribute-based.  
Home > Services > Book Kits | Fiction x | Adult x | War x | History x  
Breadcrumbs aren't aiding the user significantly and taking up valuable space.  

Home Button: 1,555
First Tier: 190
Second Tier: 0

Total Users: 235,986
There is an article from Google on Structured Data and using breadcrumbs in searches which should put down all arguments about breadcrumbs being dated and pointless. They use structured data and breadcrumbs to directly impact search results allowing user to not hit the desired landing page, but navigate to a subset of that page whether it is location or attribute based. If the big G uses it to help you tailor searches better for your audience, you better get on board.   
Structured Data  
Un-Structured Data  
Having trouble finding the structure? Pay close attention to the URL.  

While the 2009 study from Jakob Nielson and Kara Pernice is ancient in regards to breadcrumb tracking, the large amount of data there is definitely one reason we still have breadcrumbs. The book Eyetracking Web Usability summarized the data and concluded that "People look at breadcrumbs 30% of the time". Now realize that number has changed over 6 years, but the study combined with Google using structured data and you have a really hard argument to discredit. 


  1. I am reading your post from the beginning, it was so interesting to read & I feel thanks to you for posting such a good blog, keep updates regularly.
    SAP training in chennai|SAP Course in Chennai|SAP Training

  2. Awesome Post! I like writing style, how you describing the topics throughout the post. I hope many web reader will keep reading your post at the end, Thanks for sharing your view.
    Angularjs training in chennai|Angularjs training chennai|Angularjs course in chennai

  3. thank you for sharing such a nice and interesting blog with us. i have seen that all will say the same thing repeatedly. But in your blog, I had a chance to get some useful and unique information. I would like to suggest your blog in my dude circle. please keep on updates. hope it might be much useful for us. keep on updating...
    Android training in chennai

  4. Good job! Fruitful article. I like this very much. It is very useful for my research. It shows your interest in this topic very well. I hope you will post some more information about the software. Please keep sharing!!
    German Classes in Chennai
    German Language Classes in Chennai
    Angularjs Training in Chennai
    Selenium Training in Chennai
    Software Testing Training in Chennai
    German classes in Anna Nagar
    German classes in Velachery