Using Breadcrumbs as a Navigational Aid
Kellie Mecham

Q: Breadcrumb trails seem to be common navigation aids. But in which ways and how often are they really used? Is it enough to rely only on the breadcrumb trail to tell the user where she is in the site hierarchy (for example when she arrives via a deep link), or do you still need to do that with headings, etc.?

First, it’s important to note that there are three kinds of breadcrumbs:

Note that with the path breadcrumb trails, the user cannot rely on the breadcrumb to understand the site’s structure or hierarchy. This can cause usability issues as users may mistake the breadcrumb trail for a site’s navigational structure. In most cases, the second kind of breadcrumb can cause user confusion, and should be avoided.

However, a location breadcrumb trail can be a useful tool to aid in navigation. If you choose to use a location breadcrumb trail in your site, follow these guidelines: