When Hansel and Gretel laid down a bread crumb trail, the birds ate it and they got lost. The pebble trail is what got them home.

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    Why is it called a link? One link can't connect two distant objects. It needs to be called a chain. Why is it called an icon? Marylin Monroe is an icon, it needs to be called a matrix of pixels. Commented Apr 13, 2011 at 19:32
  • I say it bears some similarity because you can metaphorically eat the breadcrumbs with mouse clicks. You could take the last breadcrumb away, which is more like picking up a pebble but when you eat the first breadcrumb the internet crows eat all the ones that were after it!
    – saybeano
    Commented Apr 13, 2011 at 23:24
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    link = part of a chain connecting two parts. HTML link links two pages. Icon = read the etymology on that. It's rather interesting. As for breadcrumbs, my opinion below...
    – DA01
    Commented Apr 13, 2011 at 23:52
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    @Vitaly. I can understand that some folks might not be interested in this topic, but a "this sucks" response brings nothing to the table. The OP asked for info on how a standard UX term came into being - seems reasonable to me. Just as the stories that exist behind some commonly used fonts can shed light on their design, the backstory here might bring insight into the development of a common design pattern.
    – gef05
    Commented Apr 14, 2011 at 13:39
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    @Gary, it wasn't a "this sucks" response - I'm actually very interested in how terms come into being. It's just that it doesn't seem to me like a question at all. The "why" sounds rhetorical and the question sounds like a nitpicky correct-a-common-misconception thing - why do they call it the 100 year war? It lasted 116 years! Commented Apr 14, 2011 at 14:49

2 Answers 2


Well, it's a catchy term. Some UXer started using it and it stuck. The problem I have with it is that rarely are breadcrumbs using the metaphor of 'path you took'.

That said, they do tend to be 'the path home' so I guess the analogy works.


That's a great question - I have a post I've been working on for a while where the intro is:

The Brothers Grimm's Hansel and Gretel is a story of a brother and sister who are sent into the forest to look for food. The children leave breadcrumbs on the ground as a means of trying to create a trail to follow home.

Ironically, the breadcrumbs are eaten by birds and do not serve as a navigation guide for Hansel and Gretel. Are the web version of breadcrumbs any better in aiding navigation?

I tend to over-analyze so I have sources and other info I'm still coalescing. Most of it is still in note form. I hope to publish it within a month of relaunching my site.

Here are some of the sources I have put together.

I try to look at items like breadcrumbs from 3 aspects: UX, IA, & SEO. The article is more heavily biased in terms of SEO vs UX. Meaning - you can provide breadcrumbs and should, but beyond the basic text breadcrumb and location. Architecting your breadcrumb should be about IA and SEO.

Having said that - I have no clue when I will relaunch my site, but the most important information can be found in those links.


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