In an ideal world, creating a good looking, functional website would be more than enough to improve the splash that your business is making in the business world.
Unfortunately, no matter how hard you try, some of your visitors simply ‘won’t get’ your design, which will cause them to leave it for something else, rather than try and figure it out. Needless to say, the best way around this would be to try and leave the digital breadcrumbs for them to follow. Still, creating a truly intuitive and self-explanatory user interface is no short of an art.
Intuitive Navigation and Breadcrumbs are Not The Same Thing
First thing first, in the introduction, we used the term intuitive navigation as a sort of a synonymous term for breadcrumb navigation, however, this isn’t necessarily the case.
Intuitive navigation is usually the one that drives you forward, still, it doesn’t necessarily allow you a simple return path to where you were before. On the other hand, this particular service might be exactly what your customers need, due to the fact that they might want to buy products from several categories.
When Do You Need a Breadcrumb Navigation?
Imagine a scenario where you visit an e-store and see several item categories that you like. For instance, you enter a sports gear retailer’s website and look for boxing equipment.
Here, you have separate categories for gloves, mouth guards and punching bags. Under the bag category, you have small, medium and heavy bag sub-categories. So, what happens once you’ve bought the bag you need and now you want to get to the glove section? Do you just click the home button and go back to the beginning?
Well, even though this is a common practice, it is definitely not the best one. This is why you need breadcrumb navigation.
More than one step back
Seeing as how you need items from all of these categories, you need to give people an easy way to return to some of the previous pages. However, they need to be able to leap more than one step back if they need to.
Therefore, it might be a good idea to arrange previous pages in a horizontal line, preferably with an arrow system from left to right. In this way, your audience will have an easy job retracing their activity on your website.
Of course, some of the more internet-savvy users might handle this issue by opening multiple tabs instead of following the thread, however, this is not a risk that pays off for you to take. Some of the older internet users aren’t that keen on the idea of multitasking and, although, opening tabs isn’t rocket science, a lot of people still aren’t practicing it. Therefore, the above-described system might work as a perfect alternative or, better yet, a perfect backup plan.
Thinking about mobile users
In the era of mobile devices, it is vital to ensure that your navigation is as mobile-friendly as possible. The greatest challenge in pulling this off lies in the fact that mobile screens have much less available space, which means that you’ll have to be extra crafty in order to squeeze all of these handles in their place.
According to every successful web designer, for this, you need a fully customized website.
Discovery is a powerful motivator
Another major advantage that you gain from implementing the breadcrumb system is the fact that it gives a much more user-centric website interaction. Namely, by guiding your audience every step of the way, you are stripping them of the standard create-your-own-adventure experience, that will allow them a much greater immersion into their interaction with your brand. On the other hand, by giving them the full freedom to explore your website, endorsed with the idea that they can go back at any time, you will give them a much more organic way to see what you are all about.
Bringing It All Together
At the end of the day, it is more than clear that having a great breadcrumb navigation system does much more than help your visitors go through your website or your e-store. The main thing it does is gives them an easier way to see more of your website.
In a situation where they notice several threads they would like to explore, they get a chance to do so without having to worry about whether they will be able to find the simplest or the most efficient way to hop categories.
Furthermore, it creates an overwhelmingly positive UX, which increases the odds that your first-time visitors will come back. Needless to say, this is great for your customer retention efforts since it creates a much easier transition from one stage of buying cycle to another.
Overall, learning how to properly implement breadcrumbs to your website is a skill that is definitely worth mastering.