I'm sorry for the mysterious question, I'll do my best to explain here. I do get the idea of breadcrumbs in general. But what should I do, if there a few ways for the user to get to one location? For example: the user can get to the FAQ page through Homepage --> Support --> FAQ, but they can also go there through the footer, so it is then Homepage --> FAQ.

The question is: whast should I do? Is there a universal rule for something like this? Should I display the breadcrumbs depending on the way the user has travelled each time (it doesn't feel right to do it differently every time) or should I keep one "style", but then they come across Homepage>Support>FAQ, when they've entered through the footer, which can be confusing as well.

  • 1
    Choosing between 'historical' or 'hierarchical' breadcrumbs depends on your use case - If you have a site where all information can be freely associated with all other information, then you might argue for a 'historical' breadcrumb. However, if there is a strict hierarchy to the information then you might argue for a 'hierarchical' breadcrumb. You also need to ask what happens when a user is deep-linked into a page from another source. And what happens to pages shared between sections. Feb 20 '18 at 11:44

Yea, I second Rob's recommendation, above.

The breadcrumbs are an ancillary navigation tool and a guidepost for visitors dropping into the site hierarchy from search. So, they should accurately reflect the user's position in the hierarchy and show the whole hierarchy.

Most often the breadcrumbs will mimic the folder structure of the site, or an idealized folder structure, if you have an f'ed-up CMS.

Don't attempt to base breadcrumbs on the individual user's path through the site, because:

  1. The browser back button already does that
  2. It's really hard to implement; see Google search case above.

An example format for a product catalog would be: Home > All Products > Category > Subcategory > Product Line > Product Detail Page. BTW, the last item in the breadcrumbs is NOT linked as that is usually the current page. Some patterns omit the last item in the interests of brevity.

Also, many responsive sites will strip out the breadcrumbs for the mobile view. Another way to handle that in mobile is only include a link to the parent page where the breadcrumbs would normally go.

  • Quality name. Quality answer! Feb 21 '18 at 7:20
  • @RobC All right, thanks a lot. But I just thought of another question: If I have Home>Support>FAQ, should I still show the breadcrumbs on the middle (Support) page? It is the second level so users won't be lost, but it is not the last level, so if I show breadcrumbs on all the Support subpages, should I also include them on the parent page (Support here), like this: Home>Support? Feb 21 '18 at 10:26
  • @RobC Pricing page is probably a better example, as some user might just go there to get some answers and the general idea, but not go into details. (On a Pricing page you can click "Apply" and then there is a form to fill to narrow some options). (on Support page people usually go to go somewhere deeper and not stay there, however on this Pricing page they have enough info to just go back, so then thet have only 2 levels.) Feb 21 '18 at 10:30
  • Yup, breadcrumbs usually grab the page title (H1) for the link name, so "Home > Support" would be the pattern for Support page. If you have room, showing the whole path -- from home to detail page -- is more instructive.
    – RobC
    Feb 21 '18 at 15:27

One option is to keep your breadcrumbs based on the original hierarchy of the site.

Inside the project folder of the site you should have an original hierarchy of folders and pages (if your layout is good). You could stick to that. This is an old but old example of what your site hierarchy might look like:

enter image description here

What I would do:

Short cuts are nice but, I would save yourself some time and provide the longest route breadcrumb. That way, even if they get to FAQ via the footer on the homepage they have the opportunity to check out the Support link in your page.

You should also consider that users might come from a search engine and land straight to the FAQ page.

My answer: Homepage / Support / FAQ (regardless of where they come from).


Nielsen Norman Group advise that:

"For polyhierarchical sites, breadcrumbs should show a single pathway in the site’s polyhierarchy.

Breadcrumbs pose an inherent tension with polyhierarchical sites (in which a page has more than one parent). In such situations, we do not recommend showing two or more breadcrumb trails reflecting the different paths in the polyhierarchy, because they will confuse users and take a lot of space at the top of the page.

If a page has multiple different parents, identify a canonical path to it in the site hierarchy and show that path in the breadcrumb trail. Don’t attempt to personalize the breadcrumb trail so that it will reflect each user’s individual path within the site hierarchy, because you will end up sending mixed signals to search engines. And you will still need to designate one path in the hierarchy as the primary trail for those visitors coming from an external link."

source: https://www.nngroup.com/articles/breadcrumbs

I personally disagree with "we do not recommend showing two or more breadcrumb trails reflecting the different paths in the polyhierarchy". Showing only one of a few possible, may also confuse users. In a complex site, I'd try to show all the possible trails, in a visually clean way and test that of course. I do not see any reference to empirical research in the Nielsen Norman Group's quoted statement.

Another approach relevant for complex sites is to take the "linked data" approach, described in the second half of this article: https://derivadow.com/2010/02/18/the-problem-with-breadcrumb-trails. I think the same concept would be easier to grasp if you acquaint yourself "Object-oriented UX" (https://uxdesign.cc/an-introduction-to-object-oriented-ux-and-how-to-do-it-829bf6b248a1).

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