4 Key benefits of website breadcrumbs
Breadcrumbs improve user experience
Jakob Nielsen’s 10 Usability Heuristics for User Interface Design are widely used by UX professionals as a standard for measuring the quality of a product’s design and user experience. Here are a few of the ways breadcrumbs can help web designers meet Nielsen’s heuristics and create a highly-usable design:
User control and freedom
According to Nielsen, prospects need a clearly marked “emergency exit” to leave in case they make a mistake. Breadcrumbs provide this “emergency exit”. If prospects accidentally click on an item, they may use the menu to easily return to the previous section, without losing their place on the site.
Consistency and standards
Breadcrumbs use the same terms as the categories and subcategories of the site. The micro-copy used for breadcrumbs should be simple, colloquial, and easy to understand. Who wouldn’t know what to expect when clicking on a button labeled “sunglasses” or “laptops”?
Aesthetic and minimalist design
Breadcrumbs are small and can fit into a narrow area of the website. They don’t take up much space, and don’t clutter the site’s design with text.
Breadcrumbs reduce bounce rate
A “bounce” is when a user clicks on your site, decides right away that you don’t have what they’re looking for, and leaves. It’s the equivalent of someone browsing in a shop for a few minutes and then walking out the door right away.
So why is it bad to have a high bounce rate? If you have an e-commerce site, a high bounce rate means lost sales. And there could be SEO consequences as well, since there is some evidence that bounce rate may be used as a Google ranking factor.
The user experience benefits of breadcrumbs are directly connected to bounce rate. Because prospects can navigate around the website and find what they’re looking for more easily, they are less likely to bounce. Using the breadcrumb trail will allow them to navigate in fewer clicks than they otherwise would have. This also leads them to have a better overall experience.
Breadcrumbs improve SEO performance
SEO professionals commonly cite breadcrumb trails as a search engine optimization technique for websites. There are several ways breadcrumbs can have a positive impact on SEO, besides lowering the site’s bounce rate.
Just as users benefit from having an easy way to navigate around a site, so do search engine robots (also known as crawlers or spiders). These robots discover content for the search engine by following links around the web. A hierarchy of breadcrumb links creates a clear path for the robots to follow.
As of 2019, Google Search Console has added a new structured data report for breadcrumbs. Google now displays breadcrumb information directly in the search results, and also uses breadcrumbs as a way of categorizing information. It’s clear that search engines value breadcrumbs, especially when they’ve been correctly implemented with structured data markup.
Breadcrumbs may improve conversions
All of the factors above (UX, bounce rate, and SEO) can ultimately lead to an impact on conversions. Sites that are easy to find in the search results, easy to navigate around, and provide a good user experience are more attractive destinations for online purchases. Breadcrumbs are an important part of any conversion rate optimization (CRO) or online marketing strategy.