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The default view template shows bread crumbs at the top of the page so that users see where the current topic is in the parent-child topic hierarchy. This feature was introduced in TWikiRelease01Feb2003.

Example breadcrumb:

  • TWiki > Codev > FeatureEnhancementRequest > HowToShowParentTopics > BreadCrumbs

The bread crumbs improve the navigation experience because you see where you are and you can go back to any parent topic quickly.

The parent of a topic is set automatically when you click on a question mark link; that topic will be the parent. If you use a form that leads you into edit of a new topic you can set the parent with a topicparent URL parameter. You can also re-parent a topic, see the More screen.

The term bread crumbs originates from the story where children drop bread crumbs on the ground to find the way back out of the forest.

There are actually two types of bread crumbs.

The one used here indicates the topic hierarchy based on the parent-child relationship of topics.

The bread crumb feature is not so much of value on a site that has lots of content with little context between topics, but it does help where content needs to be structured hierarchically.

-- PeterThoeny - 16 May 2003

There are at least two ways to structure content hierarchically:

  • the parent --> child (--> subchild ...) approach
  • the web --> subweb (--> subweb ...) approach

Do you anticipate supporting both, or have you decided that the parent --> child approach will be the one TWiki way?

If you decide to support both, will it be an either/or situation, or could both be used in the same TWiki?

Note that (IMHO) opinion, TWiki has already started down the road to supporting both simply by having multiple webs (Codev, TWiki, Main, Support, etc.) and having the bread crumb trail.

Can we have some discussion on the pluses and minuses of each approach?

(Two things about the current implementation of the bread crumb trail:

  • the bread crumb trail is (IMHO) the wrong name for this feature — above, you mention two types of bread crumb trail — if you do a survey of typical users, I think you will find that almost all of them expect it to be the path that was followed to get to this page — if we keep the current type of bread crumb trail it should be named something different — maybe "PageHierarchy" (for those that prefer "Topic", "TopicHierarchy")?
    • A bread crumb trail that follows pages visited is of little value since it duplicates the browser history function -- PeterThoeny - 17 May 2003
  • I find it disconcerting (or something??) that the bread crumb trail can cross webs (in other words, you could have a bread crumb trail that lists pages in this web, then that web, then some other web, ... . If we combine multiple webs and a PageHierarchy, I think the there should be a two level approach to the hierarchy, with web at the top, and the PageHierarchy at the bottom. In other words, the PageHierarchy should only be allowed within a single web.
    • The bread crumb trail can cross webs after a topic move. I consider this a bug that needs to be fixed. The trail should stop at the web boundary. -- PeterThoeny - 17 May 2003

I think, overall, that if limited to one mechanism for hierarchy, I prefer the web approach rather than the PageHierarchy approach. On the other hand, it would be nice if any page (topic) can also be a subweb.

Sorry, I guess I'm not contributing anything (or much) new, mostly just repeating comments I've made elsewhere on twiki.org.

-- RandyKramer - 16 May 2003

Idea of breadcrumbs is interesting and I found it usefull. But:

  • Too many links in page header confuses hell out of poor newbie user. It's poweruser feature - so belongs to the footer, IMHO. Especially if parents are not set correctly.
  • I object to the name. Something relevant more closely that through german fairy tale (no offense, wink we have a variant of it too and I like it). Like ParentLink?
  • Another nice wiki feature I've seen was subpages in modwiki. Each page could have subpages, ie. discussion: pro con, conclusion, talk has own subpages. Easier to refactor. Of course completely different and need so go to separate page do die off. wink

-- PeterMasiar - 16 May 2003

It's poweruser feature

Bread crumb navigation is not for power users per se. It can be a useful tool for anyone. But what is important is that it should not be presented as primary information.

The term Bread crumb navigation is perfectly clear for interaction designers, but I agree that it is jargon and confusing. Especially coders seem to take the term literally, probably because some scripts exist that keep track of your visited pages. A breadcrumb should point backwards to the homepage, and show all the pages in between. Therefore I prefer to use the term Homeward path, but that is something I made up so noone else uses it.

Bread crumb navigation is useful in sites with more than 3 levels of information.

-- ArthurClemens - 16 May 2003

In my experience the term breadcrumbs is used more often to represent a sites hierarchy than it is as of visited pages history. In any case the name doesn't matter as much as what it represents. Don't get hung up on it. (I do wish for a more accurate phrase, but don't know of one)

For better usability it would be nice if the [breadcrumbs | topic lineage] were someplace else in the page. It is getting awfully crowded up there.

However all criticism aside, I think the breadcumb trail is a very useful addition. Thank you for adding it Peter!

-- MattWilkie - 16 May 2003

I am not saying that BreadCrumb is bad. It's great! What I am saying is that my newbie users specifically asked BreadCrumb to be removed from page header, they found it distracting. Maybe put it into less prominent space, like in the footer? And I'll also ask my users how to call it user-friendly. Ask yours, too wink

-- PeterMasiar - 17 May 2003

If there is a breadcrumb trail, then I would expect it on top of the page. 3 levels sounds like a good rule of thumb.
And yes, I mean the hierarchy up to home. (I don't know one single website, which can display my personal trail, so I guess, this is not a very common feature.)
And no, the implementation parent/sub/web/ twiki/whatever-area does not matter, it's all part of the route down to the page. See samples provided in HowToShowParentTopics.

2 ¢ by PeterKlausner - 18 May 2003

I wrote a pattern about BreadCrumbs. Recent literature about the usage of breadcrumbs:

  • The study in the article Breadcrumb Navigation: An Exploratory Study of Usage (Feb 2003, publ. May 2003) shows that usage of the breadcrumb is low, and that users using breadcrumbs did not navigate more efficiently. The usability research was limited in scale and needs to be expanded to reach definite conclusions.
    • The follow-up research confirms that users are using the breadcrumb sparingly, if at all, and that "no differences were found in the efficiency measures of total pages visited, navigation bar clicks, embedded link clicks, or time to complete the search tasks". "Future studies should investigate whether a simple understanding of the purpose of the breadcrumb trail or minimal training impacts usage and/or efficiency". The research does show increasing usage if the breadcrumb is positioned near the content. Exposure to a breadcrumb does let users form a hierarchical mental model of the site.

-- ArthurClemens - 03 Sep 2003

Interesting result of the study. I would have expected a better navigation experience. At work some people don't "get it" immediately and just ignore it. But I get positive feedback from those who are aware of the breadcrumb, aka homeward path (very logical name smile ).

-- PeterThoeny - 04 Sep 2003

The other one indicates the pages visited on a site, which is basically the same like the browser history.

Anything been done with this other definition? I find it a bit disconcerting to keep losing my place after having travelled deep in the hierarchy.

-- MartinCleaver - 13 Oct 2003

Like you say, this is like the browser's history. Please use your browser for that, otherwise it gets pretty confusing. I could find some pointers though:

-- ArthurClemens - 13 Oct 2003

Thanks Arthur!

I've just discovered IE's History Side bar:

  1. View | Explorer Bar | History (ctrl-h).
  2. from the bar, View "by order visited today"
  3. need to find a way of reordering the titles so topic comes first (else the name of the topic disappears behind WIKITOOLNAME and WEBNAME!

-- MartinCleaver - 13 Oct 2003

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