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The Importance of a Breadcrumbs Trail

Navigation is one of the biggest web design factors to consider for a website. Where is the navigation going to be? Will it be on top, on the left, on the right, vertical, or horizontal? Your visitors need to be able to easily find their way around your site. They also need to be able to follow clear and concise links that get them where they think that link will take them, more importantly, where they want to go. Wikipedia says,

[b]readcrumbs typically appear horizontally across the top of a webpage, usually below any title bars or headers. They provide links back to each previous page that the user navigated through in order to get to the current page, for hierarchical structures usually the parent pages of the current one. Breadcrumbs provide a trail for the user to follow back to the starting/entry point of a website (Wikipedia).

Breadcrumbs are so important because they allow a visitor to easily find their way back one or even multiple pages without going all the way back to the original link from the main navigation menu. Some website features, or applications, allow a visitor to go several levels (drill down) into the website. This “drill down” technique is very useful and user friendly, but creates a need for breadcrumbs, to allow for easy backwards navigation, or navigation out of an application. No matter whether your breadcrumbs are implemented on your site statically or dynamically, or use a scripting or programming language, like PHP, Perl, or ASP, to name a few, they definitely need to be there.

Resources

  • conVerge Church – This page has an example of a breadcrumbs implementation.
  • useit.com – Here is a great article by Jakob Nielsen on the use of breadcrumbs.
  • About.com – Overview of the what, why, when, and where of breadcrumbs.
  • Wikipedia – Wikipedia entry for breadcrumbs navigation on web pages.


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