I was recently advised that the term "breadcumbs" was not understood globally by all readers of our documentation explaining how to develop UIs. The thought behinds this claim was that "breadcrumbs" required some insight into the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale. Preferred terms for the UI widget would be navigator links or locator links. My view is that the context of use and globalization of technology has made "breadcrumbs" universally acceptable as a term to communicate UI/UX concepts. Wondering if anyone else had experience where "breadcrumbs" was not acceptable, perhaps a probem for localization?


Among developers and designers, English terms are widely understood and often used as such or as adapted to different languages. Widely, but not universally. To end users, the first problem is that the very concept is not as familiar as many designers think; and even if the concept is known, it might be known under some other name. But normally, such a concept should not be used in communicating with end users; you can refer to a breadcrumb or items in it without calling it anything.

Check out the different language versions linked to the Wikipedia page Breadcrumb (navigation). There is a large variety of terms used, including e.g. “hilo de Ariadna” and “navegação estrutural”, based on rather different looks at the topic. And this reflects just some people’s views; even within a language, different terms are used.

  • Just yesterday, I was reminded by my wife in this way. "You know, half the time we don't know what the #%$! you're talking about!"
    – Rob
    Feb 10 '13 at 15:03

Within the User Experience field, breadcrumbs are widely accepted. Peter Morville (who wrote the "bible" on Information Architecture) and Steve Krug (author of Don't make me think) is often mentioned when searching for breadcrumbs and navigation.

It is so widely accepted that there are also best practices for breadcrumb design:

Breadcrumbs themselves are considered a best practice in website navigation, but Steve Krug, author of Don’t Make Me Think, claims that these are the best practices for breadcrumbs themselves:

  • Put the crumbs at the top
    • Keeping the breadcrumbs at the top the page make for an effortless non-confusing way of navigation. It is also the most common quadrant to find breadcrumbs, so users looking for this navigation will be able to find yours easily.
  • Use (>) between levels
    • According to Krug, trial and error seems to have shown that the best separator between levels is the ‘greater than’ character.
  • Use tiny Type
    • To make it apparent that the breadcrumbs are simply an accessory and not part of your content.
  • Use the words “You are here”
    • Even though the type is small it cannot hurt to make it self-explanatory.
  • Boldface the last item
    • The boldness will make it obvious to the user where they are on your website.
  • Don’t use them instead of a page name
    • Do not make the last item double as page name and navigation location. If you are going to use breadcrumbs use both.

Reference: Breadcrumb Navigation Best Practices


It really doesn't matter. The point of the documentation you are creating is to create a shared vocabulary amongst everyone in the organization that has to work from it.

You could call it 'nav widget 23-b' if you wanted to. I wouldn't necessarily recommend that, but if you have it labeled, defined, and documented, that is the key...everyone should then understand what anyone else is referring to if that is the term used.

All that said, though we've debated the term 'breadcrumbs' over and over in this industry, it is the industry term for navigation that shows the content hierarchy of a site.

  • Except that, if the guy chooses the name “nav widget 23‑b”, it will not be adopted, it will not be shared. Choosing good meaningful names is key. Feb 10 '13 at 14:42
  • I don't necessarily agree that the particular name used has much bearing. In fact, I could argue a obscure name might benefit as it actually forces people to go look it up rather than make assumptions as to what its referring to.
    – DA01
    Feb 10 '13 at 17:19

No, the word “breadcrumbs” is not globally understood.

Proof is you. :-) These breadcrumbs do not come from the fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel. They do come from the tale “le Petit Poucet”, the little boy dropped breadcrumbs behind him in order to find his way back.

In french, one does not say “breadcrumbs”, one says “chemin de fer” (railway) or — my favourite — “fil d'Ariane” (Ariadnê's thread).

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