Breadcrumbs – The Unsung Heroes of Navigating Online
Most of us have heard of breadcrumbs before, even if we don’t know exactly what it is. Or we may have seen them on a website while having no idea what purpose they serve. Breadcrumbs have become an essential part of navigating around the wide expanse of the internet. If you’ve used a website or app lately then you’ve probably encountered a breadcrumb path at some point and may have wondered what they are. So let’s dive in and take a look at what exactly breadcrumbs are and why they are so important.
Breadcrumbs initially began as a metaphoric concept derived from a Hansel and Gretel fairytale. In this famous story, the two children drop pieces of bread along the way to help them find their way home in the forest. Breadcrumbs on websites serve the same purpose, helping visitors navigate through the web and find their way back to the main pages. Unfortunately, breadcrumbs aren’t always easy to recognize. They are typically located in the top-right corner of a web page, near the title of the page or in a navigation bar. Breadcrumbs are usually identified as a trail of or trails of interconnected links all separated by arrows, starting with the home page and drilling down through categories, subcategories and pages of content.
So why are breadcrumbs so important? Are they really that useful? The answer is an emphatic “yes!” Breadcrumbs are great for helping search engine optimization, as they give search engine spiders clues and hints as to what terms to associate with your web page, and hence make it more visible to online searches. They also provide a way for visitors to quickly and easily navigate deep into a website—and back out again. Users can reach the deep links or internal pages with a few clicks of the mouse, meaning they don’t have to waste time searching through menus or memorizing URLs.
To further improve user experience, some websites now offer ‘smart’ breadcrumb paths where the information is automatically generated based on user activities. For example, if a user visits the ‘shoes’ category page, they will have the option to click on a certain type of shoe. After they select a specific type, the breadcrumbs path will automatically change in order to show the updated page name. This helps ensure the visitor won’t lose their place in the website and it also enables webmasters to create powerful analytics dashboards to measure and record user activity.
Another key use of breadcrumbs is to allow search engine crawlers to better understand a website’s structure, what each page is about and how to index the content. Breadcrumbs also provide textual clues to help improve crawlability and relevance by including relevant keywords and present a more coherent website structure and content.
It’s easy to see why breadcrumbs are such an invaluable part of website navigation. They provide instant feedback for users so that anyone can find their way around a complicated website, and they help search engine crawlers better process and categorize webpages. Breadcrumbs are a great way to make finding information easier and improve user experience on websites and apps. So, next time you’re browsing the web, take a minute to thank those unsung heroes, the humble breadcrumbs.