What a 200 Year Old Fairy Tale Can Teach You about Blog Navigation

Everyone has heard of Hansel and Gretel. The two protagonists of the world-famous fairy tale that is now nearly two centuries old. They left a trail of breadcrumbs from their house into the woods so that they could find their way back. Unfortunately, birds ate the breadcrumbs and they got lost. Aint nature a bitch?

Anyway – you are probably wondering what on earth this has to do with WordPress. Well, these days, “breadcrumbs” are not just an intrinsically flawed method of getting yourself out of forests. They are also a widely-used type of navigational aid.

You will have seen them plenty of times before:

The Apple Store
The Apple Store
Warrior Forum
Warrior Forum

If the big boys are using them, it might be time to sit up and take note.

What Are The Benefits of Using Breadcrumbs?

Breadcrumbs are only ever intended as a secondary source of navigation. In fact, you might argue that the main benefit of using breadcrumbs is in giving your visitor a sense of where they are on your blog.

If you have a site with many hierarchical layers, not having breadcrumbs is like dropping someone off in the middle of the desert and giving them a compass and globe with which to get back to civilization. If you use breadcrumbs, it’s like you have handed them a GPS device with which to find their way home.

Should I Use Breadcrumbs?

Breadcrumbs are most effectively used on sites where the visitor can drill down through many layers of navigation. They are commonly used by e-commerce stores (as demonstrated above by Apple and Target).

If you have read my recent article on why your blog frustrates your visitors and are really struggling with concept of consolidating your blog’s categories into a manageable number, breadcrumbs may be ideal for you. One way or the other, you’ve got to get your visitors into a position where they never feel overwhelmed  by the number of options that they have. If you have a huge amount of content spread over various hierarchical categories, breadcrumbs may be your savior.

How To Implement Breadcrumbs On Your WordPress Blog

As is usually the case, the WordPress plugin repository comes to your rescue with Breadcrumb NavXT, a breadcrumbs plugin with a vast number of customization options.

Breadcrumb NavXT
A small example of Breadcrumb NavXT's customization options

Once you have installed and activated the plugin, you will have breadcrumbs up and running on your WordPress blog in no time at all.

Creative commons photo courtesy of flrnt