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    These is my log of professional, political and sometimes personal thoughts and observations. I am Bettina Walter, a Senior Information Architect (IA), Interaction Designer and Usability Professional.
    I am co-owner of PunkLogic.

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    Interaction Design

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IA Musings: When do you loose the breadcrumb trail?

The breadcrumb metaphor is misleading – I agree with Chris Fahey who calls it ‘crummy’ on a related SIGIA-L thread.

Breadcrumbs don’t follow a user’s movements. A breadcrumb navigation is really more like a GPS, indicating where you are in relation to the nearest info landmarks. On retail sites this would be most likely a department info sign – to stick with the offline model.

Example Freemans:

The breadcrumb navigation is kept very simple and aids jumping back into either top level category OR to search results depending on customer behavior:

  • searching for ‘Item 1’ – breadcrumb displays:
    home > Search for “item 1”

    select department (main category):

    home > main category > Search for “item 1”
  • navigating via global nav – breadcrumb displays:
    home > main category > sub category level 1 > sub category level 2

The breadcrumb generally leaves off at the 2nd level sub category. Facets then guide navigation.
Note the nifty ‘remove facet’ functionality (or dimension as it were – since this is driven by Endeca) – to widen search.
This is one of the most sophisticated faceted (guided) navigation examples for retail I know.

Freemans retail site is an Endeca implementation – which is pricey but very effective. Freemans is part of the Otto Group – a huge Retailer – mail order and online – ‘the world’s second largest’ according to Endeca.

To summarize:
The term ‘Breadcrumb navigation’ leads us up the garden path but has a rich information scent – like freshly baked bread … I get my coat!


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