Breadcrumb Navigation

Seeing Breadcrumb Navigation Examined (via The Hot Strudel) reminded me that I’d been meaning to write a post about breadcrumb trails for a while now. The post contains a quite survey of various uses of breadcrumbs. It’s worth a peek.

First of all, here’s what I conclude about breadcrumbs in DWN:


Breadcrumb trails are popularly believed to increase the user’s understanding of site content and structure
by providing greater context. Studies have shown, however, that breadcrumb trails are infrequently used,
don’t necessarily increase navigational efficiency, and may not increase understanding of the site structure.
They are therefore usually supplemental to some other mechanism and often not the only way to navigate.


Bonnie Lida, Sping Hull, & Katie Pilcher, “Breadcrumb Navigation: An Exploratory Study of Usages,” Usability News 5.1 (2003).

Bonnie Lida Rogers & Barbara Chaparro, “Breadcrumb Navigation: Further Investigation of Usage,” Usability News 5.2 (2003).

Since then, however, I’ve been see new, innovative uses of breadcrumb trails. In particular, they can be part of the main navigation, as with WalMart:


Or, with the German site the breadcrumb trail is the main navigation:


Unlike WalMart, Manufaktum also allows for direct access to other levels of the nodes of the hierarchy represented in the breadcrumb via a dynamic menu (aka fly-out menu), shown in the image above (open for Leuchten).

Overall, this provides both a great deal of focus to navigation–the breadcrumb shows a single path–but also provides access to the entire site from a single mechanism. Here the breadcrumb isn’t a supplemental type of navigation, but instead is recast as a primary navigation means.

So maybe breadcrumbs aren’t just quite dead yet. It really depends on how they are implemented. Perhaps we’ll see even more innovative uses of the mechanism in the future.



About Jim Kalbach

Head of Customer Experience at MURAL


  1. My Opinion as a web designer Breadcrumbs used in the proper way with a ‘Clever Design’ will always help users with navigating, finding what they need and understanding your site better.
    Perfect example is the Wal-Mart version mentioned above (which I really like), another version would be who uses2 breadcrumbs, top of page and in their left nav.

  2. Pingback: Faceted Navigation: Integrated Faceted Breadcrumbs (IFB), by Greg Nudelman « Experiencing Information

  3. Hi James,
    they have relaunched Walmart :-)
    Now they they have a kind of way-splitting-navigation to browse the navigation. it feels like a vertical breadcrumb.. what ist your opinion?
    and: second question: i just tried (searching for a good pattern to browse hierarchical organized content) manufacum. it still feels exellent. to you have any other suggestion?
    cheers, Marcel

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