Getting to Know Technology: Breadcrumbs

In the fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel, the titular characters decided to leave a trail of breadcrumbs behind them, so they could find their way back home. While this strategy didn’t work out very well for the siblings, the same concept is used in computing today. We even refer to it as breadcrumb navigation in honor of the German fairy tale.

What is Breadcrumb Navigation?
Breadcrumb navigation is more or less what the fairy tale would suggest it is: a path that leads back home (or in this case, the homepage). It is effectively an easier way to keep track of the path to and from a certain page (or area of an application) and is often displayed at the top of the viewed page. Each step provides a link that navigates back to the page in question.

So, let’s say that you were looking at a service page on some website. If the path to that page led from the homepage, to the second menu on the homepage, to the fifth menu item in that menu, the breadcrumbs would look something like this:

Home > [Menu 2] > [Menu Item 5]

Because these breadcrumbs serve as links, clicking on the [Menu 2] breadcrumb would bring you to that menu’s page, allowing you to continue browsing from there.

More Than Just Websites
You may also recognize this style of navigation from the toolbars of the folders and files saved to your system. This just makes it easier to find certain files again later and can be shared with another user if they need to know where a file is located.

Again, breadcrumbs are specifically meant to make navigation and organization easier for the user. Can you think of any other features that do the same? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

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