What are Breadcrumbs?

Panko, unseasoned, Italian style, and . . .text trails? We’re not talking about cooking, we’re talking about breadcrumbs for your website. While I doubt that most people are using literal breadcrumbs to find their way home (thanks, smartphones), utilizing breadcrumbs when browsing a site can keep us from becoming disoriented and lost, with no idea where we started, or how we got there.

What are Breadcrumbs, and What do They do?

Named after Hansel and Gretel’s infamous breadcrumb trail, breadcrumbs are a text path, showing you where you are on someone’s site. Every step is clickable in the text path, so you can go back to the beginning, if needed. There are three major types of breadcrumbs :

  • Hierarchy-based : these show you where a page is located in a website.
  • Attribute-based : these are often used on e-commerce sites. They display the attributes that you’ve already searched for, which has led you to your current location.
  • History-based : these show you where you’ve been, and how to get back to the beginning.

For example, attribute-based breadcrumbs are often used in e-commerce sites, to help you refine your purchasing search. Searching for black formal women’s shoes with a 2″ heel would all be part of that text path. That path would look something like women’s>shoes>formal>black>2″ heel.

Do You Need Breadcrumbs?

You don’t have to have them, but you should have them. Breadcrumbs create a trail to where you started. They can help someone navigate your site, and guide them to a desired page or section. They’re also great when you’re updating your website. If there’s a problem resulting from an update or fix, the breadcrumbs can help you retrace your steps and discover the source of the problem. But without breadcrumbs, you’re left wondering where to start, and even worse, your site isn’t functioning properly. Just like the actual breadcrumbs those industrious siblings sprinkled on the forest floor, these help show you where you are on a site, and how to get back.

Trying to find your beginning point can be complicated, and it’s easy to get lost. Without a breadcrumb trail, a user is forced to go allll the way back to where they started. And I don’t mean to the homepage of your website. I’m talking back to the original Google search. If they’re going that far back just to find their place, they’re not coming back to your site. As a result, your bounce rate will increase, your SEO score will decrease, and finding you in a search will be that much more challenging.

Not Just a Fairytale

Unlike those crafty kids, we’re not trying to find our way through the woods. We’re just trying to navigate a website. Breadcrumbs make it easier to do that, and improve your SEO rating. Basically, if it’s easy to find explore your site, it’s easier to find your site in the first place. Happy searching, and avoid the candy constructed houses.

About Curious Minds
We are a web development firm in New York and Chicago, providing development resources and consulting for websites and mobile apps since 2004.