I'm trying to figure out a way to allow contextual navigation to nearby items in a large hierarchy. For example, say my hierarchy is countries, states, counties and citites.

When viewing a county, you should be able to navigate up a level to the state, or down a level to one of the cities in that county.

Breadcrumbs are an established UI that takes care of the up direction of this problem:

USA   —>  California   —>  Los Angeles County

But it wouldn't make sense to put all the cities in LA county into a breadcrumb trail. I was thinking of a vertical layout with the containing item above, and the contained items below, but it makes it difficult to know which one is the "current" item.

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Plus, as you can see, it quickly gets out of hand if there are a lot of sub-items (especially if they have long names), and will look empty if there are very few.

1 Answer 1


An idea - did you consider putting dropdown menus into the breadcrumbs?

It could look like this:


download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

  • I think the breadcrumbs convention is that the last item is the current item. Violating that convention seems too confusing. You > Are > Here > Not here Commented Apr 10, 2014 at 19:41

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