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Deciding What Breadcrumb Links to Display

Breadcrumb links are not yet standardized for several reasons. When you begin to consider what breadcrumbs to display in each situation, you realize that providing the right links is not so simple as it originally appears. There are many convoluted paths through a Web site. If you adopt the approach of adding a breadcrumb link for each stop along the way, your page will display too many links to be useful. Such an approach makes it easy for the visitor to retrace his or her steps, but doing so obscures the overall organization of the Web site. To make this approach work, you need a well-conceived method of reducing the number of links displayed as the visitor navigates through the Web site.

Another possible approach to breadcrumb links is to show the position of the current page within the hierarchy regardless of the path the visitor used to arrive there. Such breadcrumb links keep a visitor oriented, but make it difficult to retrace one’s steps. The example in Figure 15-12 points out another flaw in this hierarchical approach: some Web pages don’t fit neatly into a hierarchy. You can display a code snippet from a browse page, a search page, or the homepage, so who’s to say where it fits within the hierarchy?

As it happens, this is just the sort of issue that professional Web designers relish. You can expect a professional Web designer to specify breadcrumb links that are optimized for the particular requirements of your site. The VB Snippets Web designer carefully designed breadcrumb links to work effectively with the case study, and the BreadCrumbs.vb custom control implements that design.

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