Imagine that we have the following example:

We have a customer that has documents and accounts and we provide two ways to reach the documents or accounts, either from:

MAIN -> CUSTOMER -> Documents -> View Document with ID

MAIN -> CUSTOMER -> Accounts -> View Accounts with ID


MAIN -> View all Documents -> View Document with ID

MAIN -> View all Accounts -> View Accounts with ID

My question is, shall we use different breadcrumbs for each view in order for the user to be able to go back to the previous view without using the browser's back button?


Main / Customer / Customer ID / Document / Document ID for the first case and

Main / Document / Document ID for the second case?

Is this correct?

2 Answers 2


What do breadcrumbs do?

  • Show how the user navigated to a particular page
  • Show the hierarchy of a page

NNGroup says:

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

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,

But, keep edge cases in mind

If there's change in the breadcrumb trail due to access restrictions, you have to change it to some extent. You can't be showing a guest user the path of a logged in or a admin-level user

  • 8
    Yes. Just like in the fairy-tale, breadcrumbs don't serve the purpose of showing how you got to that part of the forest. That's useless, because you're already there. They show you how to get out.
    – JonW
    Commented Aug 12, 2019 at 13:06

Nielsen Norman group has done a study on breadcrumbs and has set out some basic guidelines.

Can be found here: https://www.nngroup.com/articles/breadcrumbs/

I think especially the 2nd point applies to your situation.

I personally feel that you should just use the same breadcrumb for both and figure out which of the two options is best for the user through some testing. The way I understand it is that a user who views his/her documents will be logged in from because ID is required to view the document. It might be logical to have the document page of the user profile as the last link in the breadcrumb.

Taking all this into account you could end up with a breadcrumb like this:

Home -> Customer ID -> Documents -> Document ID

Hope this helps.

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