All facets of digital accessibility contribute to the greater good of everyone. But it’s especially meaningful for people with disabilities. That said, integrating breadcrumbs in web design is one of the necessary strategies to help support accessibility. And that’s something every company should hope to achieve.

Breadcrumbs are crucial for inclusivity, SEO performance, and enhancing the UX experience. This article provides tips for using them effectively, beginning with a basic definition. 

What Are Breadcrumbs & How Did They Get Their Name?

Web breadcrumbs are a type of navigational aid commonly used in web design to help visitors locate their current position within a website. They’re 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.  

See the breadcrumbs example below:

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. 

And how does this all relate to helping people with disabilities? 

Breadcrumb Navigation & Digital Accessibility

In addition to helping visitors navigate a website, breadcrumbs can also play an essential role in ensuring digital accessibility for everyone. Accessibility is a critical factor in UX design that helps assure all people—including those with disabilities—can access and use a website. 

Breadcrumbs provide a clear path for those who need help reading web page content or understanding your website’s structure. Likewise, those who use screen readers can easily benefit from a visible trail of links to find their way around your site. 

Remember, a poor user experience can repel any site visitor, regardless of background or ability level. By making it easier to find the content they want, users are more likely to stay on your website and continue using it.

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

Breadcrumbs in SEO: Why They Matter for Your Website

Breadcrumbs tell people where they are on your website, but they also help Google and other search engines understand your site structure. So, 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 make it easier for people with disabilities to get the most out of your website experience. Ready to get started? The tips below will point you in the right direction.

5 Tips For Integrating Breadcrumbs 

  • Don’t Replace the Navigation Bars with Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs should augment the global navigation bar, which expands the width of every webpage page. The same principle applies to local navigation bars that usually reside on the left side of a web page. However, breadcrumbs should enhance but never supplant these primary forms of navigation.

  • Only Include Them On Your Website Pages

Every step of a breadcrumb trail must link to the ancestor page unless it corresponds to the current page. So, for example, subcategory labels that don’t have a dedicated page should never be part of the breadcrumb trail.

  • Use Appropriate Styles for Readability

Each marker in a breadcrumb trail needs clear labeling. Using underlines, italics, and colors appropriately tell end users what’s clickable and what isn’t. For instance, the current page they’re visiting should never be clickable.

  • Avoid Multiple Wrapping Lines of Text

Longer breadcrumb text may wrap to more than one line, especially on mobile websites. Therefore, ensure your breadcrumb character counts are short enough to stay on one line. This is the best UX strategy for readability on mobile sites.

  • Avoid Crowding With Your Breadcrumbs

Don’t economize space by crowding your breadcrumb links. Unfortunately, this won’t work on touchscreens because they have a minimum 1cm X 1cm requirement for tap targets.

Summary: Follow the Breadcrumbs to Support 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, assistive tech 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. 

See how UserWay can work with you to achieve accessibility and conformance. 

UserWay: Your First Choice for Digital Accessibility

Look no further than UserWay for all of your digital accessibility solutions. UserWay can help your site be more inclusive and conform with all necessary compliance laws, from AI tools to enterprise solutions. Learn how working together can help create a better digital world for all people. 


Why are Breadcrumbs Essential for Websites?

First, they let end users know where they are on your website. Second, they help Google and other search engines surmise your website structure, which supports SEO. Third, perhaps most importantly, they help people with disabilities have a better user experience. 

What Are the Three Common Kinds of Breadcrumbs?

1. Hierarchy or Location-Based (Most Common)

These let users know where they are on a website and how to make it back to the homepage.  

2. Attribute-Based

E-commerce sites commonly use these breadcrumbs to show users the categories or tags their current page falls under.

3. History-Based

These are similar to browser history and tell users about the other website pages they have visited. 

What’s The Most Important Rule Concerning Breadcrumbs?

Every link should point somewhere. However, the final breadcrumb in the trail represents the current page and shouldn’t be a link. And here’s an excellent tip to prevent confusion for end users: use underlines or blue text to distinguish the current page from preceding linked breadcrumb items.