What are “Bread Crumbs” in Web Design.

The expression “bread crumb” is often used in web designing. In context of web pages, the term “bread crumb” is a technique which reveals how the searchers locate a particular page, the section to which the page belongs and how to get back from that page. Normally “bread crumbs” are displayed in the top left hand of a web page. It works like a browser’s button, at times it is able to locate the page and sometimes it navigates the browser to a web page via a cross link. In general, “bread crumbs” are meant to be informative pointers in order to identify the section where the page belongs and where else to look for while trying to identify similar materials. This term is also used to describe the quest whose sole purpose is to lead the web user to a new area or zone for them to explore.


In web sites with numerous pages, “bread crumb” navigation enhances the way by which a user navigates around the page. It reduces the number of actions a web visitor needs to be involved in to get to a higher level page. It also improves and quickens the process of identification and searcheability of any web site page or sections. “Bread crumbs” also provide effective visual aid as it indicates the location of the user within the website’s hierarchy. This feature makes this technique a great source of contextual information for landing pages. In this manner, a “bread crumb trail” acts as a type of secondary navigation scheme and effectively reveals the user’s location in the website. Its application offers users the chance to trace the path back to their original landing page.


Usually “bread crumb” application is associated with websites having a large amount of content that needs to be organized in a hierarchal manner. It is also noticed in web applications where their function is similar to a progress bar. In their simplest form, “bread crumbs” are horizontally arranged text links separated by a symbol that indicates the level of that particular page. Certain guidelines have been suggested herein where “bread crumb” application in websites is imperative :

01)      Confining the use of “bread crumb” navigation to larger websites that are hierarchically arranged pages. An example being the e-Commerce websites.

02)      Avoid using “bread crumbs” for single level websites which does not have a grouping system.

03)      The navigability aspect of “bread crumbs” needs to be regarded as an additional feature and should in no way replace the primary navigation measures. Though its induction makes it a convenient feature, but it should always remain as a secondary navigation scheme. This allows the users to establish their location in their website while providing them an alternative way of navigating around the website.


“Bread crumbs” are of three main types :

(a)     “Location based” – where it reveals to web user their position in the website’s hierarchy. This type of “bread crumb” is usually found in the navigation schemes of multiple layered websites where each text link denotes a page that is higher in rank.

(b)    “Attribute based” – “bread crumb trails” display the attributes of a particular web page like the items on display where it mentions the manufacturers’ name and the essential features of the products / services.

(c)     “Path based” – “bread crumb” shows the users the steps they have taken to arrive at a particular page. This sort of “bread crumb” is dynamic as they display the pages the users have already visited prior to arriving on the current site.

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