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To Breadcrumb Or Not To Breadcrumb


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9 replies to this topic

#1 eteare

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Posted 13 October 2009 - 01:08 PM

The managing editor of my site does not like breadcrumbs (in general and he thinks no one uses them). I like breadcrumbs for their SEO value (lots of internal links pointing to top level content), I think they help users understand where they are on the site, and I think about 10-20% of users do use breadcrumbs, and finally what's wrong with giving users multiple ways to navigate the site.

Do you know of any recent studies on the worth of breadcrumbs? Any studies showing they are worthless?

Curious what you all think, but mostly, I want hard evidence that would make my editor get over his dislike of them.

#2 qwerty

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Posted 13 October 2009 - 01:30 PM

I remember an old study (too old to bother looking up) indicating that given the option of using them, most people don't.

As far as internal links go, a lot of people are saying that if you've already got one link to a page on a given page (say in your main navigation), then a second link will be ignored by the search engines. My own testing so far indicates that at least Yahoo is counting the second link, but I haven't found that to be true for Google or Bing yet.

But I agree with you. I think it makes a lot of sense to make them part of a site's design, even if only a minority of users make use of them. I feel the same way about site maps (the HTML kind). Somebody's likely to find it useful, so why not do it?

#3 Randy

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Posted 13 October 2009 - 03:17 PM

I've not seen any really recent studies, however if you perform a Google search for something like "breadcrumb navigation accessibility study" it'll turn up several from what look to be in the circa 2006 range.

The only issues I'm aware of with breadcrumb navigation is that some users get the mistaken impression that the pages listed there are pages they've recently visited, which is often not the case. Especially if they first land somewhere within a site instead of on its home page, or if the site is outfitted with a good site search feature.

The advantages, some of which you've duly pointed out, are numerous. And good breadcrumbs don't take up that much screen space for that to count as a negative. So even for those people who don't use them it's not a negative for them to be part of the picture, as long as the site isn't relying exclusively on breadcrumbs to provide normal navigation.

If you want to try to put some in place and test when they're used you can always tag our breadcrumb vs other types of links via a little javascript routine that records basic click data somewhere. That's really the only way I know of to figure out how useful the visitors of any given site find them to be.

Though I'm 100% sure it's not instructive because I'm far from a typical 'Net user, I do make use of breadcrumb navigation all the time. Assuming it's provided to me as a way to move around within something I've already narrowed my hunt down to. Though I can tell you I actively avoid using breadcrumb navigation if I'm changing my thought process or what I'm looking for entirely. It's never seemed to be all that useful until I've already narrowed things down fairly significantly.

#4 adibranch

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Posted 14 October 2009 - 03:51 AM

i took some breadcrumbs off an e-commerce site a few weeks back, just for an experiement. Withouth them i found it difficult to navigate the site, and wasnt really sure where i was within the menu structure when i was looking at products. I put them back in shortly after.

Incredibly helpful little things.. if a visitor doesn't know what they are then you're already fighting a losing battle anyway.

#5 eteare

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Posted 14 October 2009 - 10:48 AM

In the case I am thinking about, there really are few ways to get back to the place you came from.

In the main navigation there is a link to Home and Product Type, but not a link to the product.

home > product type > specific product > discussion board about product

The URLs are like root.com/discussion-about-product.htm, so there is no directory structure to help a user get back to Specific Product pages.

I feel that even if a user doesn't click on the breadcrumbs, just there visibilty helps users get around.

Anyway, I will keep digging for data, thanks. Erin

#6 BBCoach

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Posted 14 October 2009 - 10:51 AM

I personally recommend bread crumbs when the site has more than two levels of categorization not so much for SEO purposes, but for user convenience so they can quickly navigate within a parent category. I think it just makes sense for a large site.

#7 eteare

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Posted 14 October 2009 - 11:42 AM

But any data? Studies? Tests?

I agree that it's a good idea. But I am in the convincing stage. Frustrating for me.

#8 qwerty

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Posted 14 October 2009 - 02:06 PM

Here's the study I described before. It's from 2003 and as I mentioned, it's not a strong endorsement of breadcrumbs, at least as regards the question of whether people use them.

Here's some more recent (2007) information from Jakob Nielsen (Mr. Usability himself). He doesn't offer any hard numbers, but it's a much more positive view (and a stupid pun):

QUOTE
The case against breadcrumbs is crumbling. Every year we see more people use breadcrumbs in our studies. Because breadcrumbs are not important enough for a dedicated study, I don't have an exact number for the current percentage of breadcrumb users. But it's definitely growing over time.

In testing an e-commerce site last month, for example, one user complained: "This is missing a feature to go back to the previous page."

I found this apparent request for a Back button puzzling, since the button was featured prominently in the browser and the person had easily used it earlier in the test session. Also, for six years, it's been an established guideline to avoid duplicating browser functionality in the page design.

It quickly became clear, however, that the user wasn't asking for a duplicate Back button. Elaborating on the previous complaint, she pointed to the place on the page where breadcrumbs typically appear and said she wanted the list of links to higher-level pages.

In other words, the user wanted breadcrumbs. She'd seen them before, but didn't know what they were called, so she asked for them using words that if taken literally would have been easily misinterpreted.


#9 Andy_Seo

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 03:05 AM

I'm sure you're aware as well that Google have been including a breadcrumb trail within the SERPs (noticed at the end of August):



Some designers/developers have an issue with the relationship between usability and SEO, this is usual a good example to show them to highlight the point that Google looks at the relationship between pages and the navigation of a user from that page.

I'm a big fan of breadcrumbs.

#10 rolf

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 05:30 AM

as a user, I'm a fan of breadcrumbs too, from a design and an SEO point of view I think they're one of many decent options.

QUOTE
I'm sure you're aware as well that Google have been including a breadcrumb trail within the SERPs (noticed at the end of August):


Any ideas how to let google know the structure here? My first thought was file structure, but I'm sure citroen don't have a folder called ' Cars - the range '. My next thought is xml sitemaps - is this something I've missed or forgotten about in xml sitemaps? There are definitely a couple of places that I think it would help visitors if I could get the breadcrumbs displayed in the serps.




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