I recently posted about breadcrumb trails. In a nutshell, breadcrumb trails have gotten a bad rap because, as navigation mechanisms, they aren’t really used that much. At least that’s what some studies have shown.
But we’re starting to see a new type of breadcrumb trail emerging, one that integrates with the main navigation of the site. I point to a couple of examples in that post (above).
The main navigation changes with your first selection, so you only get a Home tab plus the option(s) you picked. The home tab then provides access to all the top-level categories via a dynamic menu (fly-out menu). The selected node of the breadcrumb (one level down from the homepage) then has a static horiztonal local navigation beneath it.
The screen above shows how it works three levels down with the fly-out menu for the Home tab open. This provides a pretty extensible navigation scheme and can handle a deep IA. Overall, this provides a great deal of focus on the level and topic your are currently viewing, but also allows quick access to all other topics quickly without cluttering the page.
The only thing I was missing was a dynamic menu for all levels (i.e., for the second node in the above screen shot) so you can get to sub-options there too, not just for the Home tab.