This is a classic blog post I rediscovered today. Totally worth reading, even if you’ve seen it before and even if you’re not an information architect.
Users don’t much care “where they are” in the website. So-called “breadcrumb links,” which show the user the exact hierarchy of the website as they click further down, are a nice but mostly irrelevant technology. It’s not that users don’t understand the links; it’s that they don’t care.
Let me say it again, Max Bialystock-style:
USERS DON’T CARE WHERE THEY ARE IN THE WEBSITE.
I emphasize this because Web developers often waste time worring about “where content should live.” Should it be in section B? If so, we need to put big links from Section A to Section B. And then the secondary navigation will list Sections A through C, which are part of category D, because users might need to see the relationship between C, B, and the sub-tertiary wormhole that just opened in the site map!
Meanhwile, the user is on the site thinking, “Do they have it in size three?” and ignoring every element on the page that doesn’t appear to take them toward that goal. All the site-organization links, so carefully consistent with their display in other areas of the site… totally ignored by the user.