Simple and dynamic breadcrumbs for a NodeJS & Express application

I required the breadcrumbs to be centrally implemented to achieve minimal code repetition. This is why I decided to automatically generate and add them to each page requests dynamically. 

At first I tested some of the available breadcrumb middlewares for Node/Express apps. However, these proved difficult to use and were lacking in configuration options. For this reason I decided to create my own breadcrumbs and to write about the process. 

Add breadcrumbs to all requests

Since we already use ‘req’ in the controllers to provide data to views, the cleanest implementation of dynamic breadcrumbs is to add them to each request before requiring the controllers. 

This code snippet uses the current page URL from ‘req’ to create breadcrumbs as an array of crumb objects, which I add to ‘req’. 

// FILE: app.js


get_breadcrumbs = function(url) {
    var rtn = [{name: "HOME", url: "/"}],
        acc = "", // accumulative url
        arr = url.substring(1).split("/");

    for (i=0; i<arr.length; i++) {
        acc = i != arr.length-1 ? acc+"/"+arr[i] : null;
        rtn[i+1] = {name: arr[i].toUpperCase(), url: acc};
    return rtn;

app.use(function(req, res, next) {
    req.breadcrumbs = get_breadcrumbs(req.originalUrl);

...Code language: JavaScript (javascript)

Accessing breadcrumbs in the controller or route

This step is pretty simple and self explanatory now that breadcumbs are present in each ‘req’. 

// FILE: ./controllers/someController.js


res.render('person_index', {
    title           : 'Page Title',
    breadcrumbs     : req.breadcrumbs,

...Code language: JavaScript (javascript)

Rendering breadcrumbs in the view

This step will vary depending on your view engine but should be easily adapted. In this example I’m using PugJS, formerly know as Jade as well as bootstrap 4. 

// FILE: ./views/layout.pug


if breadcrumbs
      each crumb, index in breadcrumbs
        if index == breadcrumbs.length - 1
          li(class='breadcrumb-item active' aria-current='page') #{}
          li(class='breadcrumb-item') #[a(href=crumb.url) #{}]


I hope this tutorial has helped you get simple dynamic breadcrumbs working in your Node/Express application. I’d love to hear if you’ve come up with a different approach or any improvements on mine. 

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