How To Add WordPress Breadcrumbs Without a Plugin

Breadcrumbs or breadcrumb trail is a navigation aid used in a Website. It gives users a way to keep track of their locations within the Website. Breadcrumbs typically appear horizontally at the top of a Web page. Breadcrumbs provide a trail for the user to follow back to the starting or entry point.

Breadcrumb trail is an important supplementary element of a Website´s navigation, especially for complex Websites. It improves usability, enhances user experience and it is better for SEO. Don´t take my word for it, Google recommends using Breadcrumbs in their SEO starter guide. Also Google is integrating breadcrumbs navigation within the Search Engine Results Pages.

Breadcrumbs are especially useful for complex Websites containing many pages and sub-pages, and organized into many categories. On the other hand, breadcrumbs for simple Websites are not really necessary.

The picture below shows examples of breadcrumb trails generated from this blog. This blog is using the breadcrumb code shown below, browse the various sections of this blog and see how it behaves.

Miscellaneous examples of breadcrumb trails for this blog.

Yes, there are plugins for WordPress breadcrumbs, such as BreadCrumb NavXT. But haven´t you read my previous post about the disadvantages of going crazy adding plugins to your theme? Also what would you do if you want to develop a theme with a built-in breadcrumb trail.

There is one disadvantage of using breadcrumbs, it increases the number of query requests to your database, and thus a slighter increase in load time. However, this could be neutralized with a caching mechanism implemented to your Website. Again, haven´t you read my previous post about the advantages of caching a dynamic Webiste? I believe that the benefits of breadcrumbs: better user experience, and making the Website friendlier for Search Engines, far outweighs its one disadvantage. Breadcrumb navigation is important for usability and for SEO, especially for complex Websites.

My Breadcrumbs Code: Supported Features

The code below display breadcrumb trail for:

  1. Single post listed in one category.
  2. Single post listed in multiple categories that are at the same level.
  3. Category and sub-category archives.
  4. Tag archive.
  5. Yearly archive.
  6. Monthly archive.
  7. Daily archive.
  8. Author archive.
  9. Search result page.
  10. Top-level pages (top-level menu).
  11. Multi-level sub-pages (multi-level sub-menus).
  12. 404 Not found Error page.

The code below also features:

  1. Complete or shortened post titles.
  2. Two custom delimiters. Same level categories use a different delimiter.

Also the code below works in both cases when:

  1. Your Website´s Front page displays your latest posts.
  2. Your Website´s Front page displays a static page and your posts are located somewhere else.

To better explain: the default WordPress settings is shown below. If you choose the other option: "Front page displays -> a static page (select below)", the breadcrumb code still works.

Default WordPress setting in the admin area.

My Breadcrumbs Code: NOT Supported Features

The code below does not support:

  1. Adding a page number at the end of the trail.
  2. Attachments.
  3. Custom post types.
  4. Custom taxonomies.
  5. A single post listed in a top category AND in a subcategory (or subcategories). An unlikely case, where you get a mix up of delimiters.

WordPress Breadcrumbs Function Code

This is my version of the WordPress breadcrumbs code. Open the functions.php file located in your theme´s folder and add (copy and paste) the following function. Sorry for the long code, but I commented it so you understand better what´s going on.

Note: To scroll within the code: You can also click on the code window and use your keyboard´s arrow keys.

<?php
/***********************************************************************
* @Author: Boutros AbiChedid 
* @Date:   February 14, 2011
* @Copyright: Boutros AbiChedid (http://bacsoftwareconsulting.com/)
* @Licence: Feel free to use it and modify it to your needs but keep the 
* Author's credit. This code is provided 'as is' without any warranties.
* @Function Name:  wp_bac_breadcrumb()
* @Version:  1.0 -- Tested up to WordPress version 3.1.2
* @Description: WordPress Breadcrumb navigation function. Adding a 
* breadcrumb trail to the theme without a plugin.
* This code does not support multi-page split numbering, attachments,
* custom post types and custom taxonomies.
***********************************************************************/

function wp_bac_breadcrumb() {   
	//Variable (symbol >> encoded) and can be styled separately.
	//Use >> for different level categories (parent >> child >> grandchild)
            $delimiter = '<span class="delimiter"> &raquo; </span>'; 
	//Use bullets for same level categories ( parent . parent )
	$delimiter1 = '<span class="delimiter1"> &bull; </span>';
    
	//text link for the 'Home' page
            $main = 'Home';  
	//Display only the first 30 characters of the post title.
            $maxLength= 30;
	
	//variable for archived year 
	$arc_year = get_the_time('Y'); 
	//variable for archived month 
	$arc_month = get_the_time('F');	
	//variables for archived day number + full
	$arc_day = get_the_time('d');
	$arc_day_full = get_the_time('l');	
	
	//variable for the URL for the Year
	$url_year = get_year_link($arc_year);
	//variable for the URL for the Month	
	$url_month = get_month_link($arc_year,$arc_month);

	/*is_front_page(): If the front of the site is displayed, whether it is posts or a Page. This is true 
	when the main blog page is being displayed and the 'Settings > Reading ->Front page displays' 
	is set to "Your latest posts", or when 'Settings > Reading ->Front page displays' is set to 
	"A static page" and the "Front Page" value is the current Page being displayed. In this case 
	no need to add breadcrumb navigation. is_home() is a subset of is_front_page() */
	
    //Check if NOT the front page (whether your latest posts or a static page) is displayed. Then add breadcrumb trail.
	if (!is_front_page()) { 		
		//If Breadcrump exists, wrap it up in a div container for styling. 
		//You need to define the breadcrumb class in CSS file.
		echo '<div class="breadcrumb">';
		
        //global WordPress variable $post. Needed to display multi-page navigations. 
		global $post, $cat; 		
		//A safe way of getting values for a named option from the options database table. 
 	    $homeLink = get_option('home'); //same as: $homeLink = get_bloginfo('url');
        //If you don't like "You are here:", just remove it.
 	    echo 'You are here: <a href="' . $homeLink . '">' . $main . '</a>' . $delimiter;	
		
		//Display breadcrumb for single post
		if (is_single()) { //check if any single post is being displayed.			
			//Returns an array of objects, one object for each category assigned to the post.
			//This code does not work well (wrong delimiters) if a single post is listed 
			//at the same time in a top category AND in a sub-category. But this is highly unlikely.
			$category = get_the_category();
			$num_cat = count($category); //counts the number of categories the post is listed in.
			
			//If you have a single post assigned to one category.
			//If you don't set a post to a category, WordPress will assign it a default category.
			if ($num_cat <=1)  //I put less or equal than 1 just in case the variable is not set (a catch all).
			{
				echo get_category_parents($category[0],  true,' ' . $delimiter . ' ');
				//Display the full post title.
				echo ' ' . get_the_title(); 
			}
			//then the post is listed in more than 1 category.	
			else { 
				//Put bullets between categories, since they are at the same level in the hierarchy.
				echo the_category( $delimiter1, multiple); 
					//Display partial post title, in order to save space.
					if (strlen(get_the_title()) >= $maxLength) { //If the title is long, then don't display it all.
						echo ' ' . $delimiter . trim(substr(get_the_title(), 0, $maxLength)) . ' ...';
					}                         
					else { //the title is short, display all post title.
						echo ' ' . $delimiter . get_the_title(); 
					} 
			}			
		} 
		//Display breadcrumb for category and sub-category archive
		elseif (is_category()) { //Check if Category archive page is being displayed.
			//returns the category title for the current page. 
			//If it is a subcategory, it will display the full path to the subcategory. 
			//Returns the parent categories of the current category with links separated by '»'
			echo 'Archive Category: "' . get_category_parents($cat, true,' ' . $delimiter . ' ') . '"' ;
		}		
		//Display breadcrumb for tag archive 		
		elseif ( is_tag() ) { //Check if a Tag archive page is being displayed.
      		//returns the current tag title for the current page. 
			echo 'Posts Tagged: "' . single_tag_title("", false) . '"';
    	}		 
		//Display breadcrumb for calendar (day, month, year) archive
		elseif ( is_day()) { //Check if the page is a date (day) based archive page.
     		echo '<a href="' . $url_year . '">' . $arc_year . '</a> ' . $delimiter . ' ';
     		echo '<a href="' . $url_month . '">' . $arc_month . '</a> ' . $delimiter . $arc_day . ' (' . $arc_day_full . ')';
    	} 
		elseif ( is_month() ) {  //Check if the page is a date (month) based archive page.
      		echo '<a href="' . $url_year . '">' . $arc_year . '</a> ' . $delimiter . $arc_month;
    	} 
		elseif ( is_year() ) {  //Check if the page is a date (year) based archive page.
     		echo $arc_year;
    	}		
		//Display breadcrumb for search result page
		elseif ( is_search() ) {  //Check if search result page archive is being displayed. 
      		echo 'Search Results for: "' . get_search_query() . '"';
 		}		
		//Display breadcrumb for top-level pages (top-level menu)
		elseif ( is_page() && !$post->post_parent ) { //Check if this is a top Level page being displayed.
      		echo get_the_title();
  	 	}			
		//Display breadcrumb trail for multi-level subpages (multi-level submenus)
	 	elseif ( is_page() && $post->post_parent ) {  //Check if this is a subpage (submenu) being displayed.
			//get the ancestor of the current page/post_id, with the numeric ID 
			//of the current post as the argument. 
			//get_post_ancestors() returns an indexed array containing the list of all the parent categories.				 
			$post_array = get_post_ancestors($post);
			
			//Sorts in descending order by key, since the array is from top category to bottom.
			krsort($post_array); 
			
			//Loop through every post id which we pass as an argument to the get_post() function. 
			//$post_ids contains a lot of info about the post, but we only need the title. 
			foreach($post_array as $key=>$postid){
				//returns the object $post_ids
				$post_ids = get_post($postid);
				//returns the name of the currently created objects 
				$title = $post_ids->post_title; 
				//Create the permalink of $post_ids
				echo '<a href="' . get_permalink($post_ids) . '">' . $title . '</a>' . $delimiter;
			}
			the_title(); //returns the title of the current page.			 	
		}			
		//Display breadcrumb for author archive   
		elseif ( is_author() ) {//Check if an Author archive page is being displayed.
       		global $author;
	  		//returns the user's data, where it can be retrieved using member variables. 
      		$user_info = get_userdata($author);
     		echo  'Archived Article(s) by Author: ' . $user_info->display_name ;
		}		
		//Display breadcrumb for 404 Error 
		elseif ( is_404() ) {//checks if 404 error is being displayed 
     	 	echo  'Error 404 - Not Found.';
		}		
		else {
			//All other cases that I missed. No Breadcrumb trail.
		}
       echo '</div>';	 	
 	}	
}
?>

After adding the above function in your functions.php file, copy and paste the code below in the header.php file located in your theme´s folder. Place the following code where you want the breadcrumb trail to appear.

CODE-2:

<?php 
	//function_exists() — Return TRUE if the given function has been defined.
	//code by BOUTROS ABICHEDID. Adding breadcrumb trail to the WordPress theme.
	if (function_exists('wp_bac_breadcrumb')) {wp_bac_breadcrumb();} 
?>

The easiest way is to place the above code (CODE-2) in your theme´s header.php file. If you decide otherwise, then you need to place it in multiple files like: single.php, archive.php, search.php, page.php (custom-page.php if you have one) and probably in other files depending on your theme. Did you get the point that adding it to the header.php is simpler?

Styling the Breadcrumbs

Finally we need to style the breadcrumb trail with CSS. The following code is what I used to style the breadcrumb navigation for this blog. The code should be added to your theme´s CSS file (usually called style.css). Of course go ahead and change it to fit your design.

/* Styling Breacrumb Navigation by BOUTROS ABICHEDID */
.breadcrumb{
	width:645px;
	float:left;
	padding:0 0 0 47px;
	margin:9px 0 0 0;
	font-size:90%;
	clear:both;
}
.delimiter{
	color:#000;
	background-color:inherit;
}
.delimiter1{
	color: #627FC3;
	background-color:inherit;
}

Conclusion

You now have the breadcrumbs code that can be used on any WordPress Website. If you have any questions, or if you have other ideas on how to improve and add more functionality to the code, be sure to leave a comment!

References

  1. Function Reference « WordPress Codex
  2. Conditional Tags « WordPress Codex

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About the Author |
Boutros is a professional freelance Web designer, Web developer, Software Engineer, and Blogger. He is the Chief developer at Blue Olive Online. He strives for pixel perfect design, clean robust code, and user-friendly interface. If you have a project in mind and like his work, feel free to contact him. Connect with Boutros on StumbleUpon, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Visit Boutros AbiChedid Website.

61 Responses to “How To Add WordPress Breadcrumbs Without a Plugin”

  1. Jordi says:

    Thanks for this awesome script! Two things…

    I’m getting if a post doesn’t have a category:

    if ($num_cat <=1)

    Replaced with:

    if ($num_cat <=1)

    Also:

    the_category( $delimiter1, multiple );

    “multiple” is passed as definition and should be a string.

    Thanks!

    • Thanks Jordi,

      I got the last line of code (for multiple), but I am not sure with the first two line of codes, they are the same.
      Boutros.

      • Jordi says:

        Excuse me for the mistake. Finally my code looks like this: (some comments with *)

        if ($num_cat >= 1)  //* I changed that from your code to greater or equal.
        {
            // * multiple categories
            echo get_category_parents($category[0],  true, ' ' . $delimiter . ' ', true);
            //Display the full post title.
            echo ' ' . get_the_title();
        }
        //then the post is listed in more than 1 category.
        elseif ($num_cat == 1) {
            // * only one category
            //Put bullets between categories, since they are at the same level in the hierarchy.
            echo the_category( $delimiter1, 'multiple');
            //Display partial post title, in order to save space.
            if (strlen(get_the_title()) >= $maxLength) { //If the title is long, then don't display it all.
                echo ' ' . $delimiter . trim(substr(get_the_title(), 0, $maxLength)) . ' ...';
            }
            else { //the title is short, display all post title.
                echo ' ' . $delimiter . get_the_title();
            }
        } else { //the title is short, display all post title.
            // * no category
            // * note, not delimiter to prevent duplicate » »
            echo get_the_title();
        }

        I could not try the first two conditions of the code, but without it, WP returns an error, something like (trying to convert WP_ERROR to string)

        PS: sorry for my English…

  2. John says:

    Excellent, worked great for me. Thanks very much for posting it with the helpful comments.

  3. djidj says:

    Hi, thanks for your code!!
    I have a problem and maybe you can help me !! ;-)

    - I have post A in cat 1 and cat 2 for example (multicategories)
    - I would like to create a “path based navigation” in the breadcrumb

    If the user go to cat1 and click on the article the breadcrumb will show : home > cat1 > post A

    but if the user come from cat2 it will show
    home > cat2 > post A

    nb : with your code I have two breadcrums when having post in multicategories ex:
    home > cat1 > post A – home > cat2 > post A

    Do you have an idea?

    I have try so many plug and code !!

    thank a lot !!

    djidj

    • Hi,
      That’s not what the Breadcrumb code does.
      If I have postA in 2 categories (cat1 and cat2)
      The Breadcrumb will be: Home >> cat1 • cat2 >> postA

      If the breadcrumb displays differently, then why don’t you share your theme info.
      Thanks.
      Boutros.

  4. Kısaltmalar says:

    Thanks very much for the post and info. I personally think that breadcrumbs look really nice than random URL on the SERPS as well as they help users to navigate the site effectively thus staying in the web page a lot more.

  5. Daniel Lemes says:

    Perfect, works really fine, and great explanation for beginners. Thanks.

  6. Stephanie says:

    Hello, thank you for sharing this code! Really appreciate it. It’s much better than ‘another’ plugin.
    I have a question though: I did exactly what you described, I put the codes in the right files and the right places, but, the breadcrumbs appear at the bottom of my content div, and I’d like to have it appear above the title. Moving the php code in the page.php won’t help. Could you perhaps help me?

    Thanks a lot.

    Stephanie

  7. Dan says:

    Great job! Please consider to integrate rich snippets in a future update to this tutorial.

    I tried but I got stuck at categories…

  8. Shawn Rice says:

    Sincere thanks for this: excellent work here (and I truly appreciate the heavily-commented code)

  9. Dan says:

    Hi,

    Great snippet of code. But I have an issue with the code. My home page is a custom static page template, and my blog page is using the index.php page in my reading settings I have static page pointing to my custom template ‘MyHome.php’ for example and my blog points to a page called Blog, which is an empty page used to add my latest posts from index.php.

    When I view the http://www.mydomain.com/blog the breadcrumbs say: you Are Here: home which is not correct. It should say You Are here: home >> blog. But it is not working properly.

    What do I need to do to change this to get it to work?

  10. arun says:

    This post is very helpful to adding breadcrumbs in my blog.

    Thank You:)

  11. I’m here to say thank you for your tutorial. This tutorial had help our site build a better breadcrumb. Looking for more tutorial from you.
    Thank you once again.

  12. Daniel says:

    Hello,

    We used your great plugin on an NGO project with a 3.4.1 version WP local installation with Twentyeleven theme, and everything was ok.

    Then we moved the blog online and something strange happend. After we insert your code in functions.php (and header.php) we cannot access the /wp-admin.

    We tested the other plugins / added codes, so we can surely say that the problem is caused by wp_bac_breadcrumb. We also enabled wp_debug, but nothing useful.

    This is strange since everything is working just fine on localhost…

    We’re looking for a solution for breadcrumbs.

    Any help would be appreciated!