Breadcrumbs are Not Just for Birds

I personally see tremendous value in breadcrumb navigation. Foremost, breadcrumbs should be easily seen. Breadcrumbs typically should be placed toward the left-hand side of the page and below the global navigation, why? Because that is where most web sites present them. Successful User Interaction (UI) is taking advantage of existing design conventions (which are user-friendly) that users are familiar with. Breadcrumbs are not the functionality to get creative with. Just think about it, when have you most frequently used breadcrumbs? My guess, when what we were looking for was not found, but we have a sense that part of our path was successful. So there could be some sense of frustration on the part of the user to have to take steps backwards. This is the time, to be nice, smile and offer to help. Since we are not physically with our user, we need to make this process as easy as possible. As you can see on my web site, I use a common icon with regards to navigation which is a cross between a graphic representation of a web page and the famous turned up corner. Adding a small icon next to the breadcrumb calls additional attention to it, thus making it easier to find. I also have set the font-weight on the active page to be bold. This focuses the user’s attention on where they currently are. Kind of like the map with an “X” on it and the caption “You are here”.

The reason I call myself a User Experience Visual Designer in stead of a User Interaction Visual Designer is that draw from the larger container of experiences we as users are exposed to. Anytime I can adopt conventions that are successfully used outside of the web I do. Our experiences as web site users is only part of our total experiences, so l always look outside of our web site experiences for conventions to use whenever possible.

An excellent source of information on the treatment of breadcrumbs is “Don’t Make Me Think” by Steve Krug which can be found at Amazon.com.

Editors note, as always, I write to explore ideas and process applying concepts to situations. Reading what I write could involve tremendous resources of cognitive multitasking and require a desire to embrace ambiguity and ambivalence.

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