Does my progressive web app need breadcrumbs?

Inspired by a request from our business team.

They want to implement breadcrumbs into our iOS, Cordova wrapped Android, and progressive web app.

Yummy but no. Photo credit: Alison Marras

Short answer: no.

Long answer: Most likely no.

Responsive means app needs to be mobile friendly. PWA means ‘should act like a native app’. We’re assuming usable as a native app, browser app on multiple device sizes, and/or browser app on desktop of near unlimited width.

I believe that breadcrumbs only fix a symptom of a bigger problem (the user was in the wrong place to start with).

– Jared Spool, UIE.com

If your users need breadcrumbs to navigate, your app is either too complex or has other structural issues. More complexity generally means poor planning of app/site architecture. Structural issues means things have been slapped together or have not been fleshed out in necessary depth.

The only instance where breadcrumbs are ‘useful by design’ are in blog posts or shopping pages.

Blog posts are generally categorized or tagged by topic or date in which case the breadcrumbs are not a function of navigation but for categorical description i.e. UX > Web Development > This Post.

Same for shopping: Hand Tools > Drills > This specific drill.

REI does it well. Simple, categorical, and useful.

Even though useful and informative, in the case of blogs, users are there to engage with the content of blog posts (title, body, pictures, links). Adding breadcrumbs detracts from the content, takes up unnecessary space (especially mobile), and is generally redundant to and solved by the ‘Relevant Articles’ at the bottom of the post.

Breadcrumbs also become irrelevant in the shopping flow when search and filters are used.

My solution will be to determine why breadcrumbs are requested and if it will provide