We have a client for whom we assist in maintaining/designing their web based application. Their system is very robust, it's a matrix I can't even understand. Because of the multitude of entry points, language requirements and accessibility, it's really difficult to come up with a 'one-size-fits-all' type of solution to their user experience.

After years of trying, we've finally convinced them to go responsive (shocking, i know). We've been planning an off-canvas navigation (accessed via hamburger) with 'accordion' sections. The client is asking if we can save the user's position in the navigation so that when they click back in to it, they don't have to drill back down (potentially) 3 levels to find their place again.

I've never done this. Does anyone have any insight? Is this bad UX? Is this done in web-based applications? Do you have any examples or alternative solutions? The client is a fan of bread crumbs. I am not.



1 Answer 1


The browsers back button can support browing history (its primary function), while breadcrumbs support showing users where they are in the domain hierarchy of the application.

Since you have complex navigation, is there a reason you are against breadcrumbs for orientation? Since there are multiple entry points, this may be even more of a reason for breadcrumbs. The user still has the back button if they need it.

From Breadcrumb navigation increasingly useful by Nielsen Norman Group:

Breadcrumbs show people their current location relative to higher-level concepts, helping them understand where they are in relation to the rest of the site.

As far as what breadcrumbs can't do:

Breadcrumbs won't help a site answer users' questions or fix a hopelessly confused information architecture. All that breadcrumbs do is make it easier for users to move around the site, assuming its content and overall structure make sense. That's sufficient contribution for something that takes up only one line in the design.

Breadcrumbs are also helpful because users can land in an application from a link, which means there's no real browsing history. The breadcrumb helps them orient from the spot they find themselves in.

Barring a complete redesign of the navigation, breadcrumbs will help orient the user relative to the organizing principle of the domain, and let the < button reveal their history of browsing.

UPDATE: Pinning an element in a nav

Here's an example of GCP, where users can hover over a node to pin:

enter image description here

When you pin, it duplicates the label link above the products section.

  • Thank you, Mike M. I guess I've been against breadrumbs because often clients ask for them for no useful reason or simply because they don't understand, themselves, how to navigate the web. Thank you for your insight - it seems you might be right that, in this instance, breadcrumbs should stay. Does your reply then suggest that you don't recommend saving the user's position in the off-canvas navigation? Sep 11, 2019 at 16:01
  • Have you looked into a 'recent' section for the nav? There's also the possibility to 'pin' a node into a top favorites section. Google Cloud Console does this. They have a ton of product offerings and nested pages. You can at least pin the top level node, and it appears above the rest of the nav, which is an off-canvas nav made visible by a hamburger menu.
    – Mike M
    Sep 11, 2019 at 22:18
  • No - i haven't looked in to that. I'll look in to it. On another note, here's an example of an off-canvas nav (on mobile) that does save the users position. What do you think? gapcanada.ca/browse/… Sep 16, 2019 at 19:44
  • do you have any examples of this top level pinned node? Sep 16, 2019 at 20:21
  • @annie2bananie just added a screenshot.
    – Mike M
    Sep 16, 2019 at 20:50

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