I'm working on a large, content-heavy website with multiple levels of navigation and was having a discussion with the designer about selected states in navigation. She said that since we have breadcrumbs at the top of the page, it's unnecessary to show a selected state on the main navigation item, since the breadcrumbs can help orient the user to which main nav section they're in. I agree with her, but wanted to see if there was any recent research out there around this. I feel like this was a best practice awhile ago that has fallen out of favor in more modern designs.

So, what are your thoughts: is providing a visual change of selected state to the user still necessary?

2 Answers 2


It's just important that the where am I? question can be easily answered.

Your solution could be highlighting a navigation element (like Apple), showing breadcrumbs, showing the current "department" as the first item in a second level of navigation (like Amazon), or some other solution.

It depends on the project and—like most things—would ideally be tested with real users to validate its effectiveness.

Without seeing your actual project, I'd probably agree with the designer you talked to. If you're already showing breadcrumbs, I wouldn't expect that you also need to highlight the item in the navigation. It's up to you.

amazon.com navigation and apple.com navigation


If the selected page is listed in the nav menu it should be visually distinguished. The redundant information isn't harmful and it could be confusing to some if the nav menu and the breadcrumbs don't agree.

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