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Are there any studies that show whether a path based breadcrumb works better or worse than a hierarchical breadcrumb? Do users find one easier to use than the other?

For example, I have a school admin dashboard that display a number of useful widgets that are lists of data. A user can click a student name in a widget named 'Latest students' to open that students record/profile. (And there might be more similar named widgets, eg: unpaid students, absent students, etc). The path based breadcrumb might read:

Dashboard > Latest Students > Joe Bloggs

As we have more than one way to slice up the student data, there is also a list called 'All Students', and at the moment our breadcrumbs are hierarchical and read as below, no matter which list you come from:

Dashboard > All Students > Joe Bloggs

So even if you come through one of your dashboard widgets to a student record, we always display the 'All students' path in the breadcrumb instead of 'Latest students' as the user might expect, when that is not where you have come from. If you have come from Latest Students, you would click the 'All students' link in the breadcrumb and go to a complete list of students, not the list you were looking at on your dashboard.

Obviously I will be testing this, but has anyone had any experience with this?

  • At least on desktop browsers, click-and-hold the back button already gives the dynamic option. As separate breadcrumbs it would be somewhat redundant - but easier accessible. – peterchen Sep 7 '16 at 15:10
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Short answer. Static vs Dynamic. If your site is made of static path then you can have a static breadcrumbs. If your site is dynamic meaning a page can be categorize multiple ways then you can have a dynamic breadcrumbs. You cannot mix the two.

Long answer. You can use hierarchy based if user is coming from your hierarchy or sets of catalog. You can use path based if you would like to show some sort of goal or completion as guide.

To put things into perspective, we are looking on four sets of use cases.

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