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Creating a custom breadcrumb trail using Reporting

One nice thing about being a Confluence wiki space admin is the ability to build in tweaks and tools that make it easier to administer a space. I used ServiceRocket's Reporting add-on to add a customized breadcrumb trail to a space’s pages that makes it easy to copy and paste nice-looking page links and paths into email. As a technical writer and space admin, I do this about a bazillion times a day and I wanted my paste-able links to work a certain way.

It started with a "stale pages" report for another team's wiki space using Reporting. The space admin asked, "Can you show the full path instead of just the parent page in that middle column? Then I can sort by section and update several pages at the same time." 

Yes I could. Within the Report Info macro I changed the key page:parent to page:ancestors and made sure “link to item” was checked. The result with default settings was a comma separated list of ancestor pages. Here’s an example generated with a ServiceRocket demo space.

image-20200606-214358.png

The path was a little hard to detect, so I adjusted the Separator parameter to " > " .  Here’s an example from a different demo space.

image-20200606-015340.png

"That looks just like a breadcrumb trail," I thought. "I wonder if I can do something else with this." 

Yes, I could! Confluence's default breadcrumbs at the top of each page are fine for navigating. For this use case, I needed breadcrumbs that were better for sharing. I was already using a "You are here" link in the space’s page footer, using the Adaptavist Page info macro, information type = Tiny url, like so.

Screen Shot 2020-06-05 at 6.39.06 PM.png

I decided to improve its utility by adding the breadcrumb path to it. 

First pass 

On a new page, I worked out my breadcrumb design. After a little trial-and-error discovering what page information was displayable, I used the same ancestors settings as above:

  • a Report Info macro, which can be used by itself on a wiki page

  • key = page:ancestors

  • separator = “ > “  

  • “link to item” is checked.

After that I added a space and another > followed by space then a Report Info macro using the page:title key and the "link to item" checkbox, like so. 

image-20200606-015734.png

The final version uses the Adaptavist Page info macro to display the current page name linked with the tinyurl to avoid a redirect in case pages in progress changed their title during the review cycle (my primary use case). (If you don’t have the Page info macro, the Report Info's page:title key works just fine; the tinyurl is my personal preference.)

One UX recommendation for breadcrumbs is to not make the current page title clickable. Why tempt the user to click through to the page they're already on? For my use case (sharing), I did want it clickable. For a different use case (navigation) I probably would not make it clickable. 

Second pass  

I tested out my new "You are here" breadcrumb trail on pages both higher and lower in the page tree. The longer the breadcrumb trail got, especially where page names were long, the harder it was to see the crumbs in the trail. So I decided to get fancy and use a more visible HTML entity or symbol as the separator.

Several symbols such as ►, ▻,▸, and ▷ were obvious candidates and I liked them better than the ◣ and → and ⇒ and ⇨ symbols. I used the small and large triangles in two different examples to see which looked best.

image-20200606-021050.pngimage-20200606-021004.png

Finally I changed the color of the last triangle as a visual aid to finding the last entry in the path. (Since this would be in the page footer and would mostly be used by me, that wouldn’t distract users too much.)

image-20200606-021345.png

(I tried to change the color of the separator using wiki markup but was unsuccessful; if escaped properly within the macro it might be possible but I will leave that to a more dedicated breadcrumbler.)

Implementation 

Next I used the Wikifier RT website to generate the wiki markup for the space footer.

Example using Page info macro

{report-info:page:ancestors|link=true|separator=" ► "} {color:orange}►{color} {page-info:tinyurl|page=@self}

Example using Report Info macro

{report-info:page:ancestors|link=true|separator=" ► "} {color:orange}►{color} {report-info:page:title|link=true}

Then I plugged my new breadcrumb trail markup into the space's page footer. I already had some footer elements in there, so I added a \\ in the markup to put the breadcrumbs and the help links on different lines.

You are here: {report-info:page:ancestors|link=true|separator=" ► "} {color:orange}►{color} {page-info:tinyurl|page=@self} \\ [Search tips|http://www.google.com] • [Feedback|mailto:null@null.com] • [Help|http://www.google.com]

And it looked like this:

image-20200606-022851.png

In context, the bigger triangle was more obviously distinct from the bullets between the existing help links, so I used that. This was a good reminder to test changes in context before going live.

Results

This is an unobtrusive and useful enhancement for me as a space admin and for knowledgeable users. I can copy just the page name or the whole path and paste it into an email. I’m trying to coach my users into doing the same but pasting long ugly URLs from the browser’s address bar is an old habit that dies hard. I nudge users toward using search, but their habitual clickpaths through the page tree (which represents wiki organization) are still important to them.

There’s no need in our spaces to suppress the default Confluence breadcrumbs in favor of the shiny new breadcrumb trail. It could be used in a template, on an individual page, in a space header or footer, or wherever it’s most useful. If you decide to use it I would love to see your implementation.

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