Breadcrumb navigation

Timo Gierse

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Definition

Breadcrumb navigation is a type of navigation on a website. According to the principle of the breadcrumbs from the fairy tale “Hansel and Gretel” the path of visited pages is shown here. This allows visitors to the site to view their visitor history and conveniently jump to previously visited levels via the breadcrumb links. The breadcrumb navigation is often visible at the top of the page.

Breadcrumb navigation

Breadcrumbs: The different types

In most cases, breadcrumbs are used to display the logical path. This means that the subpages displayed are based on the logical page structure starting from the start page. The user can thus trace the actual page hierarchy in the so-called breadcrumbs.

The designation of a logical path can be further differentiated into two subtypes due to the structure of a website.

  1. Location-based Breadcrumb:

Here, the hierarchy of the page becomes clear based on the next larger, logical subpage. The prerequisite is that the page is structured according to a unique page tree.

  1. Attribute-based breadcrumb:

This variant makes sense especially for online shops or blogs. The basis for this is the structure according to thematic categories. Often, this type of breadcrumbs according to the personalization and search features in the user’s mind. The display of breadcrumbs is therefore often tied to the product database, which is structured according to categories, making implementation much more complex.

The third, very little used option for breadcrumbs, shows the real visitor history of the pages. In this case, it is called a circular click path (Path). Due to the possible length of the breadcrumb path, this variant only makes sense for websites with flat structures and few subpages.

When are breadcrumbs useful?

Especially for very large websites with a correspondingly complex page structure, breadcrumb navigation is helpful in terms of user experience and usability. However, for navigation to be useful to the user, there should be a clear page hierarchy.

If this is not the case, breadcrumbs on large pages can confuse rather than help the user, as there is no discernible logic to the navigation.

Conversion and implementation of breadcrumbs

In order to determine the exact structure of a page, it is worthwhile to create a sitemap. This is a structured overview of the website with all subpages. Based on this visualization, a breadcrumb navigation can be created, as this navigation reflects the existing page structure in the best case.

To get the breadcrumbs onto the website afterwards, you can follow different procedures:

  • Implementation by plug-in:

If you use a common CMS such as WordPress, it is very likely that there are already various breadcrumb plug-ins. Often these plug-ins are equipped with the function to automatically play out the existing category or page structure as breadcrumbs.

The automatic integration of breadcrumbs in the SERPs by the plug-in is also helpful.

  • PHP and JavaScript:

By including appropriate code parts in the source code of the page, functions can also be programmed to enable breadcrumb navigation in the frontend.

  • Own option in CMS:

Depending on the shop system or CMS, there is already the possibility to activate a breadcrumb navigation in the options in the backend. In this case, the installation of a plug-in or the use of programming languages is no longer necessary.

  • HTML:

With this option, the links that are to be designated as breadcrumbs are combined in a div. Since the design in this case is determined by the CSS, the appearance of the breadcrumbs is automatically adapted to the page.

Relevance for SEO

A breadcrumb navigation can help the user a lot from a usability point of view. Accordingly, it can be assumed that the resulting ease of use positively influences factors such as page dwell time. This makes breadcrumbs at least indirectly important for SEO in terms of user-friendliness.

Since the breadcrumbs are displayed as rich snippets in the URL line of the SERPs, it can be assumed that Google also takes the breadcrumb navigation into account in the algorithm for calculating the SERPs.

Conclusion

All in all, implementing breadcrumbs is not only useful for SEO purposes. The site visitor is thus offered a helpful navigation, which can be implemented with comparatively little effort. It should also be noted that this type of navigation is now standard on well-structured websites.

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