How can digital accessibility benefit everyone, especially those with disabilities? One key approach is incorporating breadcrumbs in web design, a strategy essential for supporting digital accessibility. It’s a goal every company should aspire to. This article provides best practice for breadcrumb navigation and tips for using breadcrumbs in web design effectively. So let’s begin with a basic definition.

What Are Breadcrumbs in Web Design? 

Website breadcrumbs are a type of navigational aid. They’re commonly used in web design to help visitors locate their current position within a website. Website breadcrumbs are small pieces of text that appear at the top of a web page and typically link back to the home page. 

Breadcrumbs are usually a horizontal path of links, with the current page being the last link in the chain. This site navigation helps end users retrace their steps and reminds them where they are on your site.  

So, why are they called breadcrumbs? Remember the story of Hansel and Gretel? Hansel dropped bread pieces on the ground so they could trace their steps home if they got lost in the woods. That’s what inspired the breadcrumbs on websites today. 

So what exactly is breadcrumb navigation? And how does this all relate to helping people with disabilities? 

Breadcrumb Navigation Examples: The UX Factor

Breadcrumb navigation is a vital element in user experience (UX) design, guiding users through a website’s hierarchy without confusion. 

When designing user interfaces (UI), many websites incorporate breadcrumbs to enhance user navigation and experience. Here are three examples of breadcrumb navigation. These examples will illustrate how breadcrumbs are used in the UI design of different types of websites:

1. E-Commerce Sites

Example: A customer browsing an online clothing store.

Breadcrumb Navigation: Home > Women’s Clothing > Dresses > Summer Dresses

Description: This breadcrumb helps users track their shopping journey from the homepage, through the broad category of women’s clothing, down to a specific type of dress, making it easy to navigate back to a previous section or the home page.

2. Educational Institution Websites

Example: A student accessing course material on a university website.

Breadcrumb Navigation: Home > Undergraduate Programs > Department of Biology > Courses > Genetics 101

Description: This breadcrumb trail assists students in navigating from the university’s homepage to a specific course within a department, allowing for easy backtracking to broader categories or direct access to related courses.

3. Healthcare Information Portals

Example: A user seeking health advice on a medical information website.

Breadcrumb Navigation: Home > Health Topics > Mental Health > Anxiety Disorders > Treatment Options

Description: The breadcrumbs help users move from general health topics to more specific information about a particular condition, providing a clear path back to broader categories or the home page for further exploration.

Now, let’s look at another way breadcrumbs can improve your website performance. 

Breadcrumbs in SEO: Why They Matter for Your Website

As we’ve mentioned, breadcrumbs tell people where they are on your website, they also help Google and other search engines understand your site structure. They can also help improve SEO performance by enabling search engines to index a website quickly, resulting in higher rankings on a Search Engine Results Page (SERP). 

Optimizing SEO drives greater visibility, which can help attract more visitors and enhance your online sales efforts—an excellent example of supporting digital accessibility to drive superior business strategies. In addition, a superb UX experience can also increase repeat visitation, encourage word-of-mouth consumer endorsement, and elevate your company image. 

Even better, elements like breadcrumbs significantly enhance accessibility, making it easier for people with disabilities to fully engage with your website. The integration of breadcrumb links further strengthens this inclusive approach, offering a clear and simple navigational path that benefits all users.

In addition to all the benefits of breadcrumbs in web design, there’s another small yet significant component of website breadcrumbs that warrants attention. Let’s take a look.

Breadcrumb Links: The Small But Mighty Tool of Accessibility

Breadcrumb links are more than just a navigational tool; they are an art form in web design, balancing functionality and aesthetics. Skillfully implemented breadcrumb links enhance user navigation without cluttering the interface. 

Seemingly small features like breadcrumb links can make such a big difference in web accessibility, especially for people with disabilities. These simple navigational aids do more than just improve the overall experience; these links are power-packed tools, guiding users effortlessly through your site. 

Implementing breadcrumb links is not just a smart design choice, it’s a step towards creating a more accessible and welcoming digital space for everyone. 

Ready to get started with implementing breadcrumbs in your web design? The tips below will help get you started.

7 Best Practices For Breadcrumb Navigation

Here are 7 best practices that will take your web design breadcrumbs to a higher level. From avoiding common pitfalls to smart design choices, these tips will make sure that all of your website users – regardless of their disabilities – can glide through your site with ease:

1. Clarify the Role of Breadcrumbs: You might want to start by briefly explaining the purpose of breadcrumbs in web navigation. This sets the context for the best practices and helps readers understand why these practices are important.

2. Expand on Linking to Ancestor Pages: In the point about including breadcrumbs only on website pages, consider adding a sentence to explain why it’s crucial to link back to ancestor pages. This helps readers understand the logic behind maintaining a coherent and navigable breadcrumb trail.

3. Visual Examples: Including visual examples or a screenshot of well-implemented breadcrumbs can be incredibly helpful. This gives readers a visual reference for what effective breadcrumb navigation looks like.

4. Accessibility Considerations: You might add a point about ensuring that breadcrumb navigation is accessible to users with disabilities. This could include using appropriate ARIA labels or ensuring contrast ratios for readability.

5. Consistency Across Pages: Emphasize the importance of maintaining consistency in breadcrumb implementation across all pages of a website. Consistent design and placement enhance user familiarity and ease of navigation.

6. Testing on Different Devices: Encourage testing breadcrumbs on various devices and screen sizes to ensure they appear and function correctly, especially given the varying screen sizes of mobile devices and tablets.

7. Breadcrumb Placement: A brief note on the optimal placement of breadcrumbs on a webpage can be useful. Typically, they are placed at the top of a page, below the navigation bar but above the main content.

Follow the Breadcrumbs For Accessibility

Accessibility takes a multi-pronged approach, and breadcrumbs are crucial to that strategy. But they’re just part of the bigger picture to create a more inclusive digital world for everyone. For example, §ch tools can help your company attract, serve, and retain people with disabilities. And that’s not only better for your business and better for legal compliance. It’s better for the world.

breadcrumbs and inclusive ux

UserWay: Your First Choice for Digital Accessibility

Ready to leave a trail of  accessible breadcrumbs on your website? UserWay is your go-to ally in the digital world. Our suite of AI tools and enterprise solutions ensures that your site isn’t just compliant with accessibility laws, but also promotes inclusivity. Get in touch and let’s build a more accessible and user-friendly digital world, one breadcrumb at a time. 


Can breadcrumbs be integrated into a website’s UI?

Yes, breadcrumbs are vital in UI design, effectively enhancing navigation and user experience on a website.

Are breadcrumbs good for accessibility?

Breadcrumbs are excellent for accessibility as they provide a clear and easy-to-follow path for navigation, greatly enhancing the user experience for individuals with disabilities.

What does ‘breadcrumb structure’ mean?

“Breadcrumb structure” refers to the way breadcrumb navigation is organized and displayed on a website. It typically follows a hierarchical format, showing the path from the home page to the current page in a linear sequence.