Hansel and Gretel where are you! – A lesson in breadcrumbs.

Remember the story of Hansel Gretel, they were misled into Forest by the evil step mother and a father (who needed a smack around the head) due to not having enough food to eat.

The step mother thought it would be more convenient to leave the children in the forest to die and save on the grocery bills. Hansel (the son) aware of the plan, leaves a trail of pebbles so they can get back home.

When the children get home, the wicked step mother locks them and the next day and get their loving father to do the same thing again. This occurs a couple of time till the step-mother ( I bet she was ugly) is cranky and locks the two kids up for the night with a loaf of bread and water.

The next night, the dad ( who really is confused, probably more interested in his own needs than his children) triess the same plan again; this time Hansel leaves a trail of bread-crumbs, however they are eaten by the birds of the forest and the two children finally are lost in the woods. it’s hard to believe that people read these stories to their children, it’s so sad.

The main thing about the breadcrumb was the route to get them out of the forest back to home.

With the introduction of the Intranet and Internet web design came up with the concept of the breadcrumb, a way to get back to where you started or find out where you are in a structure.

If you’re not familiar with a breadcrumb they can sometimes look like this,

Acme Widgets Homepage -> Widgets Types -> Blue Widgets

This translated means:

Company Homepage->Subject->Topic

In reality could be:

Company Homepage.html ->Subject 1.html->Topic Page.html

Each part of the breadcrumb can be linked to a page thus allowing you to navigate back to the homepage.

One organisation I worked used this structure to navigate its organisation.

Acme Co Homepage -> Organisational Unit -> Sub-Organisation Unit -> Topic

Ultimately the Home page led back to the CEO and each link led to a responsible person in the organisation, neat eh!

I’ve also seen another organisation where they used organisation unit pages as the end point of the breadcrumb and there was no breadcrumb to the pages that connected the organisation link

Acme Co Homepage -> Organisational Unit -> Sub-Organisation Unit ??

This was one of many navigational challenges they had. As you can appreciate, this organisation had a low commitment of use to the Intranet.

So what’s the point of this conversation?

It’s so important to provide adequate navigational tools if you want to allows people to navigate a website and not leave it. Some sites provide adequate navigation which means they don’t need breadcrumbs. Their page name, their URL all lead to meaningful navigation.

Whatever navigation you use, make sure it’s clear, meaningful and concise. If you use Breadcrumbs, ensure that all the names in the breadcrumbs link to a page. That way you have traceability back across the site. For more reading go to

I hope you find this useful.


Leave a comment

Chris Mundy