MVC Sitemap Provider tutorial 2 - Breadcrumbs

20th Sep 2011

Once you've got your sitemap correctly configured and setup, you will be looking to use some of the features of a Sitemap - for example, breadcrumbs. In this post we will start with an empty MVC3 project, and add the sitemap provider, a few controller actions and corresponding views, and we will have the provider produce some breadcrumbs for us.


Lets start from an Empty MVC3 project. Fire up Visual Studio. Create a new Asp.Net MVC3 Web application. I'm going to call mine SitemapDemo:

Create new MVC3 project

For the sake of this demonstration, I have selected an empty template and have chosen Razor as my view engine.

Now before we go any further, lets go ahead and install the NuGet package.  Select View > Other Windows and then select "Package Manager Console":

Package Manager Console Location VS2010

This will then dock the Package Manager Console somewhere into your view. In order to add the MVC sitemap provider to the current project, we need to enter the following command into the Package Manager Console, and hit enter:

PM> Install-Package MvcSiteMapProvider

This command will then download the necessary files (dlls, cshtml files) and add them into your MVC project. This could take a few minutes depending on your connection. If this has been successful, your Package Manager Console should give you an output similar to the following:

PM> Install-Package MvcSiteMapProvider
Successfully installed 'MvcSiteMapProvider'.
Successfully added 'MvcSiteMapProvider' to SitemapDemo.

Now lets take a look at what exactly the NuGet package manager has added to our project:

  • SitemapDemo > References > MvcSiteMapProvider - This is the reference to the MvcSiteMapProvider dll
  • SitemapDemo > Mvc.sitemap - This file will be used to describe our MVC3 website in XML nodes
  • SitemapDemo > Views > Shared > DisplayTemplates > MenuHelperModel.cshtml
  • SitemapDemo > Views > Shared > DisplayTemplates > SiteMapHelperModel.cshtml
  • SitemapDemo > Views > Shared > DisplayTemplates > SiteMapNodeModel.cshtml
  • SitemapDemo > Views > Shared > DisplayTemplates > SiteMapNodeModelList.cshtml
  • SitemapDemo > Views > Shared > DisplayTemplates > SiteMapPathHelperModel.cshtml
  • SitemapDemo > Views > Shared > DisplayTemplates > SiteMapTitleHelperModel.cshtml

As we're using Razor as our view engine, we can go ahead and delete the asax files that have been added to the SitemapDemo > Views > Shared > DisplayTemplates folder. Here's how your solution should now look:

Sitemapdemo Solution Explorer

Now that's the install over. Let's add a half decent set of controller actions and views to the site before we go on to playing with the SiteMapProvider. The point of this is to capture the kind of structure that you would find in a typical website.


The MVC Sitemap provider will fail silently in some fashion if we try to force it to work with controller actions that either don't exist or that point to non existent views. This is why we are doing this stage first.

All sites have a homepage, so lets add this first. Right click on your Controllers folder, and add a controller called "HomeController". Lets leave the scaffolding options blank:

HomeController-Add Blank

Once your controller is created and open, right click inside the Index action and select "Add View..."

Home Index Add View

In the Add View dialogue that pops up, just go a head hit add. Nothing will need changing.  Now lets change the text inside the created page's h2 tag on the page - something like "Index - this is the home page" will do.

And now lets add another controller in the same way that we added the HomeController. Let's call it NewsController. Update the newly created news controller to contain an additional action result called "Sports":

using System; 
using System.Collections.Generic;
using System.Linq;
using System.Web;
using System.Web.Mvc;

namespace SitemapDemo.Controllers
public class NewsController : Controller

// GET: /News/
public ActionResult Index()
return View();

// GET: /News/Sports/
public ActionResult Sports()
return View();

Now, lets add a view for each of our newly created NewsController actions. Lets do this in the same way that we added the view for the home page - by right clicking within the body of each controller action. Again, we can simply leave all of the defaults in the "Add View" dialogue and just hit "Add" for both views.

Now edit the h2 tag on the News Index cshtml file to read "News Index". Lets also edit the h2 tag on the News Sports cshtml file to read "Sports News".

Let's now add one more Controller for illustration - AboutController. Once created, you can leave the controller unchanged, and can add a view for the Index controller action. This time, lets change the h2 to tags to read "About Page".

As we have now added 4 pages to our website, it's now worth just testing them out before we start integrating the Site Map Provider. Hit the debug button - below are screen shots and their corresponding URLs:


SitemapDemo Index


SitemapDemo News Index


SitemapDemo News Sports


SitemapDemo About Index

Ok, so we've now got a small site with a little bit of a structure. Lets represent that structure in an easy diagram:

SitemapDemo Sitemap Diagram

Visualising our layout like this will really help us describe our site's structure in our Mvc.sitemap file correctly. Our Index page is our wrapper for the entire site as it is the page that sits in the root, and is the first port of call into the site.

Now lets get into configuring our Sitemap. Lets start by editing our Mvc.sitemap file, which is in the root of our project. This file contains all of the xml nodes needed to represent your controller and action combinations.

MVC Sitemap xml file vs

Edit your Mvc.Sitemap file so that it is the same as the listing below:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8" ?> 



title="Sports News"



We have now represented our website structure / workflow in the MVC.Sitemap file. A classic "gotcha" here is forgetting that your entire site is wrapped in a node that represents your homepage. Your sitemap file must contain this node - after all, your website's homepage is the page that the client sees as the root of everything. So even though the Index action is actually at yourwebsite/Index, the client will typically see it just as yourwebsite/. The rest of the structure should make sense when compared to the website navigation diagram, earlier in this post.

Adding Navigation

Now that we've got some controllers and actions setup, and our site structure described properly in our Mvc.Sitemap file, lets add some navigation to all pages.

Open up your _Layout.cshtml partial, located in the Views/Shared folder. Update the listing so that the code between the body tags looks like this:

@Html.MvcSiteMap().Menu(false, true, true) @RenderBody()

We are now calling the MvcSiteMap library and telling it to output the website's navigation on every page. The parameters specified mean that:

  • We don't want it to start from the current node (changing this to true will break it!)
  • We want the starting node to appear in child level
  • We want to show the starting node. Setting this to false will hide the parental "Home" node

And now if we run our application, we should see the navigation laid out on every page, complete with links:

Index with navigation

News with navigation

Editing the navigation appearance

So now we've managed to output a simple navigation onto all pages of our website. If you want to change any styling, or how the navigation is displayed, simply alter the code in Views/Shared/DisplayTemplates/MenuHelperModel.cshtml. Lets make a simple change and add an inline style to change our bullet points from circles to squares:

@foreach (var node in Model.Nodes)
<li style="list-style-type:square;">
@Html.DisplayFor(m => node) @if (node.Children.Any())
@Html.DisplayFor(m => node.Children)

You can now hit refresh in your browser without needing to re-compile. Your News index page should now look like this:

News Index Square Bullets


We can add breadcrumbs in a similarly easy fashion. Let's open up our _Layout.cshtml partial and edit the listing:

@Html.MvcSiteMap().Menu(false, true, true)

Start of Breadcrumbs:

@Html.MvcSiteMap().SiteMapPath() @RenderBody()

Now all pages on our site will have a handy set of breadcrumb links:

News Breadcrumbs MvcSitemap

Sportsnews breadcrumbs MVCSitemap

Similarly, if we want to customise the presentation of our breadcrumbs, we need to change the Views/Shared/DisplayTemplates/SiteMapPathHelperModel.cshtml file.

Dynamic URLs / Parametered URLs

Every real site will need to employ a dynamic / Parametered URL at some point. Incorporating a dynamic URL into the MVC Sitemap is straightforward when you know how. Lets start by adding a new action to the NewsController:

// GET: News/Article/x 
public ActionResult Article(int id)
{ = id;
return View();

Now lets add a view - right click anywhere within the new action and select "Add View...". Again, just hit Add - we don't need to change any of the options. Now update the newly created Article.cshtml file with the following:

@{ ViewBag.Title = "Article"; }

Viewing Article

Now lets browse to localhost:xxxx/News/Article/1234:

News Article 1234 mvcsitemap

Note that this new page does not appear anywhere in our sitemap, and that the breadcrumbs are totally empty.

In order to add the page into our navigation, we must first decide where it needs to go. I'd like this page to sit underneath the News section. So lets edit our Mvc.Sitemap file and add a Key attribute to the "News" node. This is simply to give it a unique identifier:

<mvcSiteMapNode title="News" controller="News" action="Index" key="News">

Now we need to decorate our controller action with some attributes that tell it where to insert the action in the site's structure. Update your Article action in your News controller:

//GET: News/Article/x 
[MvcSiteMapNode(Title = "Article", ParentKey = "News")]
public ActionResult Article(int id)
{ = id;
return View();

Now lets compile and browse to localhost:xxxx/News/Article/1234:

Article Dynamic MVCSitemap

And we now have Breadcrumbs and navigation for our new page, despite it having a dynamic URL!

Download the Solution

You can download the complete solution here

Recommended Reading:

Pro ASP.NET MVC 3 Framework