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Why breadcrumbs are as useful as ever

If your website has a pyramid structure, with categories and sub-categories leading to the final content, breadcrumbs are a very good way to let people know where they are. These are the ‘trails’ showing the route from the home page, such as:

Home > Products > Widgets > Blue Widgets > BW1

Although this type of presentation dates back 20 or 30 years, it’s become increasingly common, and not just on website navigation. It appears in Windows File Explorer and as the path name on every Google result, for example. On websites, by making the breadcrumb components live links, it’s an easy way for users to get back up the pyramid.

However, what I like most about having breadcrumbs, or a ‘breadcrumb trail’, is what this little line of text offers to website visitors who arrive at a low level on the website, such as directly at a product page. At a glance, a first-time visitor can see that the BW1 widget above is probably not the only blue widget the company offers; indeed, blue widgets probably aren’t the only type of widget; and widgets probably aren’t the only type of product! A website’s main menu and navigation system may not show this.

What’s more, Google has said that it likes breadcrumbs and uses them in working out the ‘PageRank’ which contributes to page ranking.

You’ll see examples of breadcrumbs on most retail websites, such as John Lewis or Sainsbury’s. What you may not know is that most content management systems can add these to pages automatically, sometimes by just ticking a box. And what’s not to like about something that adds to a website’s usability, helps with SEO, updates itself, and costs very little to implement?