How to manage menu in WordPress

Are you working on a one-page landing site? Then probably you should leave this article right away. Unless, you are looking into incorporating a menu into your WordPress website, even for a landing page. Yes, this article will cover everything you need to know on how to manage menu in WordPress, plus few useful practices to improve your menu.

In order to add a menu to your WordPress website, you will need to do few simple things we will go through step by step.

To begin, make sure you have all your structure and pages ready. I like to sketch structure on the paper the old fashion way and keep it close for a quick reference. You, of course, can do it your own way.

How to create menu in WordPress

Before we add a menu to the website, we need to create one. This means we need to create a menu and add sections.

In your WordPress admin panel navigate to Appearance – Menu where you will have a list of your pages, posts and other options (we will look into them soon) on the left. On the right side, you will have a control that allows you to create a menu.

Content to add to the WordPress menu
Left sidebar with custom post types and links.

Start by giving your menu a name, use a meaningful title that is easy to remember. For example, if you will use this specific menu as the main menu, then probably it is reasonable to name it as ‘Main menu’.

As you have your menu ready, it is time to add sections. On the left, you will see a list of all available types of sections, including your pages, posts, categories and custom post types. Here you can simply checkbox necessary sections and click ‘Add to Menu’ button. Your sections will instantly appear on the right side under your newly created menu.

In additional to post types and categories there is an option to add a custom link to your menu by specifying URL and title. This should be used for linking to external resources only, like from your external blog to the company page.

Now that you have your menu created it is about time to adjust parameters for the sections.

How to manage menu in WordPress

You have your sections on the list, now it is a good idea to reorder them to give your menu a structure.

WordPress offers a simple drag and drop for changing the order of your sections and control of submenu. This simple control allows you to create a submenu by simply dragging one section into another.

WordPress menu editing window
Reorder and adjust menu via WordPress admin panel in Appearance – Menus.

Now that your sections are in the right order you can adjust title attributes. Why? As you create a page you may give it a title that is slightly longer than a typical menu title (see the best practices section below). This is why WordPress allows you to set a custom title for your menu sections and convert sentences into words.

Once finished, don’t forget to save your menu as you are about to add it your website.

How to add menu to your WordPress site

You have your menu ready, all the sections are in place, in the right order, and with the correct titles. At this moment all you have to do is just specify the place where you would like to show your menu.

Setting location of menu in WordPress.
Setting location of menu in WordPress admin panel.

Your theme has special locations where you can add menu. Again, once it comes to the theme selection, choose wisely and think of your structure and layout. Right in the Appearance – Menus you will see a tab ‘Manage Locations’. It will contain the list of all locations with the drop down option to select a specific menu you have created earlier. Make sure to specify your menu a click ‘Save Changes’.

Congratulations! You have successfully added a menu to your WordPress website.

Manage menu in Theme Customizer

Recent updates of WordPress core add more and more alternative options to manage your website and settings. This is also true for menu editing, as it is not mandatory to visit Appearance – Menus from your admin panel.

Create, edit and set location of menu in Theme Customizer.
Create, edit and set location of menu in Theme Customizer.

As an alternative way, you can go straight to your Theme Customizer and look for the section ‘Menus’. There you will have all the option to create, edit and set the position of your menu. The best part is that you will see an instant preview of your menu, just like you were using a live editor.

How to improve your menu

Navigation usability is one of the top priorities of a successful website and it is so easy to make a mistake that can cost you a lot. Either you are working on your first menu or editing a long tailored website there are good practices that should become a mantra.

We can divide navigation usability for WordPress into two big parts, theme related practices, and content related practices. What we will not cover is theme related issues as this theme developer competence. What you can do about it is make sure to choose a good theme. On the other side, there are practices related to how you build your menu and this is something you are influencing directly. Below you will find a list of tips that can help you to build a better menu, a better website.

1. Every section counts

People are ‘designed’ the way we are not able to aggregate a huge amount of information at once unless you are Akira Haraguchi. For a regular person, according to research, it is between six to eight menu points we are able to accumulate easily. The more menu points you have, the more effort will be needed to handle your navigation.

For a regular person, it is between 6 to 8 menu points we are able to accumulate. Click To Tweet

This does not mean that you should always reduce or worse grow the number as scrolling or switch the section after each sentence is also annoying. Just make sure to look for a golden mean between an amount of content and sections.

2. Alphabet rules

There is nothing more annoying that trying to guess the logic behind product categories. I have come across several online stores that use some hidden logic to present their product categories.

I admit that for some online stores ‘Multimedia’ may be way more important than ‘Audio’, but there had to be way around. And what if we are talking about a huge online store with some 30 categories, it is a total nightmare.

3. Words, not sentences

‘All about my shoe company’ is definitely not the best way to name a simple page. I would suggest you limit the number of words for one menu section up to three. And even then, think of it as a call to action, for example, ‘Book My Trip’ is something that could work. For the regular menu sections, two words are usually more than enough.

In general, it all comes down to the same reasons as the number of sections when visitors have a hard time to aggregate lots of information at once.

4. Submenu limits

How do you break menu into parts to avoid over-saturation? Introduce submenu and combine sections into logical groups. As you already know, WordPress has all that it takes to manage submenu.

In most cases, you should be completely good with two levels and I would highly recommend you to stick with this number. Just make sure to combine sections into intuitive groups so your visitors are not surprised to find or not to find specific sections.

5. Always have links

I have seen websites with two level navigation and no links on the first level. This is one of the worst things you can do to your visitors and ‘blow below the belt’ for your SEO. Even your submenu sections are referring as anchors to the specific parts you can always, at least, point first level section to the submenu.

6. Take advantage of secondary menu

There is information you need to represent on your websites, like a privacy policy or career opportunities. These are, indeed, secondary things you may not want to put on your primary menu. And this is where footer or secondary menu can come in and do the job. Most of the WordPress themes on the market has secondary menu incorporated by default so there are no problems for you to put secondary sections into footer menu.

Conclusions

WordPress has all it takes to create and edit a menu, the process is intuitive and fast – everyone can manage a menu easily. The more important is to do it in a right way and take into account all the practices that may improve your website.

Do you know any more good tips or have experience in applying ones above? Make sure to share your story with others.