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How to Set Up Your WordPress Menu for Better Site Navigation? Having a well-organized website menu is crucial for providing a smooth navigation experience for your visitors. The menu is often the first thing people interact with when visiting your WordPress site. A cluttered or confusing menu can frustrate visitors and cause them to leave your site quickly.
In this comprehensive guide, you’ll learn how to create and set up a WordPress menu that makes site navigation seamless for users. We’ll cover how to:
- Use the built-in WordPress menu system
- Choose the right menu locations
- Create menu hierarchies
- Style your menus for aesthetics and usability
- Use menu plugins to extend menu functionality
- Optimize menus for mobile
- Troubleshoot common menu problems
Follow these tips and you’ll have a website menu that helps visitors easily find what they need.
Using the Built-In WordPress Menu System
WordPress has a robust menu management system built right into the core software. It allows you to easily:
- Create multiple menus if needed
- Add pages, categories, custom links, etc. to menus
- Create multi-level drop down submenus
- Control menu placement/location
- Style menus with CSS classes
- Make menus responsive for mobile
The built-in menu system eliminates the need for any menu-specific plugins. For most sites, the native menus will provide everything you need.
To get started, go to Appearance > Menus in your WordPress admin. This is where you can create new menus and manage existing ones.
The left sidebar shows your menu locations that are registered by the theme. Common locations are the primary navigation, footer links, sidebars, etc.
To build a menu, just drag pages, categories, or other elements from the right side into the menu area. Reorder items by dragging and create submenus by indenting items.
When you’re done arranging your menu, click Save Menu. Then on the left, check the boxes to assign that menu to the locations you want it to appear.
Now your menu will be live on the front-end of your site!
Choosing the Right Menu Locations
Most WordPress themes come with at least one menu location, usually labeled Primary Navigation. This registers a spot in your theme where you can display your main nav menu.
Having a single primary nav menu is fine for many sites. But you may want to add secondary menus in other locations like:
- Footer: Good for secondary links like terms, contact, etc.
- Sidebars: Widget area menus work great in sidebars.
- Before/After header: Menus above or below the main header area.
More menu locations give you flexibility to organize navigational links. Just make sure you don’t go overboard and clutter up your layout.
To add new menu locations:
To add new menu locations:
- Open your theme’s functions.php file.
- Add a line like this, replacing “sidebar” with your location name:
register_nav_menus( 'sidebar' );
- Refresh your Menus page to see the new location!
Now add menus to these spots just like the main nav. More links in more places can improve navigation and site structure.
Creating Menu Hierarchies
For sites with extensive content, flat menus with long lists of pages don’t work well. Visitors get overwhelmed with too many top-level links.
That’s where menu hierarchies with sublevels come in handy. Proper use of submenus can:
- Break up long menus into digestible chunks
- Organize related content in one place
- Reduce clutter in top-level navigation
To add a submenu:
- Create the parent menu item
- Create child items underneath and indent them over
- WordPress will automatically add the expandable toggle
You can nest multiple levels of hierarchies if needed. Just be cautious of going too deep. Anything past 3 levels may be confusing to users.
Some tips for effective submenu usage:
- Use for 6+ top-level items
- Group related child items
- Use clear names that convey hierarchy
- Put parents on top, children below
Also consider using flyout submenus that show on hover/click for a more user-friendly experience.
Styling Your WordPress Menus
With just a few tweaks, you can make your formerly bland menus beautiful.
Change menu colors
By default, WordPress menu links use your theme’s colors. To override:
- Go to Appearance > Menus in the dashboard
- Open the CSS Classes box on the left
- Add class names like “blue-menu”, “red-links”, etc.
- Add CSS rules for those class names to style menus
This makes it easy to colorize menus without editing code.
Change menu typography
You can also use CSS classes to change text size, font, alignment, etc. Some examples:
Add these classes to menu items and define styling rules.
Add background colors/images
For more visual flair, set menu backgrounds with CSS:
Or use background images for effects. This works great for header menus.
Just use the inspector to target your menu IDs/classes and customize appearance. A little styling goes a long way for polish.
Using Menu Plugins for Added Functionality
WordPress menus are pretty capable out of the box. But if you need some extra features, menu plugins can help:
These plugins add huge flyout submenus with widgets for images, text, and more. Useful for complex navigation. Popular options:
- Max Mega Menu – Packed with options and customizable.
- UBER Menu – Very lightweight and easy to use.
For greater control over dropdowns, multi-level menu plugins are available:
- Multi-level Navigation – Easily create unlimited submenus.
- Responsive Menu – Highly customizable flyouts.
Add icons next to menu items for more visual interest:
- Menu Icons – Easily pick from hundreds of vector icons.
- Font Awesome Menu Icons – Implement icons from the Font Awesome library.
There are tons of menu plugins available, so check ratings and test options to find what works for your site.
Optimizing Menus for Mobile
Your navigation menus also need to provide a good experience on mobile devices.
Here are some tips for making responsive mobile menus:
- Use a toggle menu button to hide/show nav links. Prevents clutter on small screens.
- Allow parents to expand/collapse without reloading the page. Minimizes disruption.
- Make sure tap targets are large enough for fat fingers. At least 44px.
- Drop down submenus on click rather than hover. Touch screens can’t hover.
- Keep mobile menus simple. Multi-level hierarchies will be tedious.
- Reduce top-level links to only the most important pages.
- Ensure links have enough space between them for usability.
Testing your menus on actual devices is a must for responsiveness. Navigation that works well on desktop can be frustrating on phones.
Also consider using a dedicated mobile menu plugin for enhanced functionality. Options like:
- Max Mobile Menu
- WishList Member Responsive Menu
- Responsive Menu
With a mobile-optimized menu, all site visitors will have a positive navigation experience.
Troubleshooting Common WordPress Menu Problems
Here are some typical menu issues and how to fix them:
Menus not showing on site
- Double check your menu is assigned to the correct theme locations in the admin.
- Try switching to a default theme like Twenty Twenty. If menus appear, it’s a theme issue.
- Ensure no plugins or code are interfering with menu output.
Submenus not working
- The parent must be above the child submenu items and properly indented.
- Try enabling jQuery in Theme Settings if your theme requires it.
Menus showing duplicate links
- Make sure each item only exists in a menu once. Duplicates can occur.
- Try renaming slugs/titles if you have pages or posts with the same name.
Menu links going to wrong pages
- In the menu builder, carefully check the destination URLs for errors.
- Re-save permalinks in Settings to flush rewrites.
Mobile menus not working
- Test on multiple devices and browsers. Menus can fail on some.
- Enable click-to-expand on mobiles if using multi-level menus.
Taking a systematic approach to troubleshooting will help narrow down the issue.
Well-designed website menus are crucial for keeping visitors happy and engaged on your site. By following the tips in this guide, you can create menus that are:
- Easy to navigate
- Properly structured
- Visually appealing
- Optimized for mobile
Take advantage of the robust menu options in WordPress. Amenu setup that enhances site navigation will lead to less frustrated visitors, improved user experience metrics, and higher conversions.
What navigation tips do you have? Share your thoughts in the comments!