I upgraded the version of WordPress I’m running recently and I enabled statistics on the blog. It’s been a bit of an eye-opener. My posts on ‘What the heck is going on with SharePoint Breadcrumbs‘ and ‘More SharePoint Breadcrumbs WTF‘ have together more hits that any of my other articles, and both are visited about evenly.
This is pretty interesting. Breadcrumbs should be pretty simple. I mean, we all use them on the web, probably every day, and often without noticing. So how come people are clearly looking up information about SharePoint breadcrumbs? Clearly something is wrong with them.
So this set me thinking – what’s wrong with them? And here’s what I could think of:
- There are two breadcrumbs. You’ve got the Global breadcrumb, and then the PlaceholderTitle breadcrumb. Seriously, how many websites do you come across that have two?
- ‘Site’ levels of the hierarchy can appear in one or the other breadcrumb. Depending on whether or not your navigation inherits it’s navigation from it’s parent site, the ‘Site’ links can appear in the global or title breadcrumbs. Thus, there’s no consistency as to where a site appears – if it appears at all! I can see why it’s been built this way – essentially it allows us to ‘skip’ levels in the site hierarchy as shown on the global breadcrumb, and it shortens the title breadcrumb. I wonder if this wouldn’t be better facilitated by a ‘show in Global breadcrumb’ site setting. Or just show all sites in the path to the site?
- Why is what is shown in the breadcrumbs tied to what is shown in the site’s top navigation? That’s just confusing.
- Having some breadcrumbs in the Page Layout (i.e. in the main content area) and others coming from the master page is just plain confusing.
I don’t quite know what the answer to this is; after all, we need a way to navigate back up the site hierarchy, though we might not always want to allow that. And breadcrumbs could get very long, so yes, maybe we want to skip levels. But I think I’d be tempted by showing all sites in the Global navigation. This would also divorce the breadcrumb from the top navigation settings, and I think would be easier.
And if the Global navigation gets too long? Well, that seems quite possible. In that case, how about a setting on each site to ‘Display in Menu in the Breadcrumb’ to give something like this:
This way you can still have your ‘Main’ sites in the hierarchy, but all levels are still available. Of course, you might want to make it that all the subsites of last ‘Main’ site are always visible irrespective of that setting. I think that would work, and would require less getting used to.
It’s a bit like the Vista breadcrumb in Windows Explorer – but a bit different, which might count against it…
That said, I’m open to thoughts from others! Comment if you’ve got an idea of how breadcrumbs should work!