Mobile Sites and Breadcrumb Navigation

18 Jul 2010 - 10:12am
4 years ago
4 replies
7770 reads
Katie Ware

Hi all -
Wondering if anyone has any insight or can point me to information on use of breadcrumb nav with mobile sites. Some sites use it, others appear to rely on a back link (or browser back) and a home link as a hub. Don't want to muck up the small space, but seems like it might be more useful than on a full web site where there are other navigational paths.
We are building primarily for smart phone use.

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18 Jul 2010 - 7:01pm
Jared M. Spool

Hi Katie,

Can't speak specifically to mobile, but I'd suggest that you not think in terms of breadcrumbs. Instead, you should think of local "what would I like to get to next" navigation.

I believe that breadcrumbs only fix a symptom of a bigger problem (the user was in the wrong place to start with). I think you're better off focusing your energy on getting the user to the right place instead of coming up with a fix.

I wrote about this in an article called Design Copout #2: Breadcrumbs. (Design copout #1 is site maps.)

Hope that's helpful.


Jared M. Spool
User Interface Engineering
510 Turnpike St., Suite 102, North Andover, MA 01845
e: p: +1 978 327 5561  Blog:  Twitter: @jmspool

18 Jul 2010 - 8:05pm
Wendy Fischer

A couple of questions you need to ask yourself or tell the IXDA audience:

1) What type of mobile site is it?
2) What design problem are you trying to solve by using a breadcrumb?
3) What task is the user trying to perform?
So without knowing the 3 answers to these questions, it is hard to generalize use of breadcrumbs in mobile websites.

I think on the whole you should stay away from breadcrumbs and try to design for the problem or task at hand.


19 Jul 2010 - 11:45am

Hi Katie,

Don't know how to answer your mobile breadcrumb question specifically, but I've always found Paul Hibbitts Mobile Design links a good resource:

Hope this helps,


27 Apr 2012 - 12:14am

I was thinking about this very thing today and while Jared makes a number of valid points, I believe they are an important consideration on a mobile websites.

On a mobile device, screen space is limited (duh),  and in a lot of cases, the navigation menus are being replaced by links / buttons.  When a person taps the menu link/button in most cases the page dissapears or slides out of view and the site's navigation is presented.

If the site's navigation has this pattern, when people land on your web page from search engines/referrers, they can't immediatley see what navigation item is selected nor a sub navigation item.  In other words, they can't easily see where they are.  

By having the breadcrumbs visible, people can not only see where they are in context to the site, they can also see what's near-by.  And if they feel they may be in a complete wrong area, they have the "reset" of the home link.

From what I've seen recently, people using our desktop site rely on breadcrumbs more often when navigation menus aren't as visible/obvious as they should be.  I've yet to confirm this on mobile, as we are currently in development.

Using breadcrumbs would fall apart on mobile if you have lengthy, unwieldy labels and site structures.  But that'd perhaps indicate something else to work on and in some cases you probably couldn't do anything about it.

In anycase, incuding breadcrumbs on mobile sites I believe is an important consideration.

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