How To Use WordPress Custom Menus

Learn how to create and use WordPress custom menus in this tutorial.

How To Use WordPress Custom MenusThis tutorial was created using an earlier version of WordPress and may contain outdated information. Please bookmark this page as we will be updating this tutorial soon! To be notified of updates to our content, subscribe to our updates list (see sidebar), or Like our Facebook page.

WordPress provides a powerful custom menu feature that gives you a great deal of flexibility in how you can display links to almost every element of your site on your navigation menus.

If your WordPress theme supports custom menus, then you can use the WordPress menu features to create multiple menus, organize your menus into hierarchical sub-menus using a simple drag-and-drop feature, add links to external URLs and categories, even add links to menus automatically when new pages are created.

In this tutorial, you are going to learn how to use WordPress custom menus.

Important

Before creating any menus, make sure that you have already created pages for your menus.

How To Use WordPress Custom Menus: Step-By-Step Tutorial

To view, edit and manage your WordPress menus log into your WordPress administration area, and then go to Appearance > Menus

WordPress: Appearance > Menus

(WordPress: Appearance > Menus)

You can also access the menu section from your WordPress theme management area …

WordPress theme management - Menus

(WordPress theme management – Menus button)

WordPress Menus – Create Menu

The ‘Menus’ screen allows you to create and manage menus.

If no menus have been created yet, you will see a menu screen like the one shown in the example below …

No menus created yet!

(No menus created yet!)

To create a new menu, go to the ‘Edit Menus’ screen and enter a menu name into the Menu Name field, then click on the Create Menu button …

Give Your New Menu A Name

(Give Your New Menu A Name)

Practical Tip

You can also create new menus in WordPress by clicking on the ‘create a new menu’ link as shown below …

Create A New Menu

(Create A New Menu)

Once the first menu has been created, you will have access to the following sections:

  • Edit Menus
  • Manage Locations

WordPress Menus Screen

(WordPress Menus Screen)

WordPress Menus – Edit Menus

You can create multiple menus and assign these to different locations on your site.

Once you have created a new menu, you can edit it by selecting the menu from the Select a menu to edit drop-down menu and clicking the Select button …

How To Use WordPress Custom Menus

The next step is to add links (e.g. pages) to your menu.

In the screenshot below, you can see that there are no menu items listed in the Menu Structure section …

How To Use WordPress Custom Menus

To add items such as links to pages to your menu, choose items from the lists on the left-hand of your menu screen, then click the Add to Menu button …

How To Use WordPress Custom Menus

The item will be added to your menu under the Menu Structure section …

How To Use WordPress Custom Menus

After adding a new item to your menu, remember to click on the Save Menu button to save your settings … How To Use WordPress Custom Menus

If you don’t save your changes, a window will pop up asking you to confirm if you want to leave the page and lose your changes, or stay on the page …

How To Use WordPress Custom Menus

Adding Menu Items

You can add various items and elements of your site to your menus …

How To Use WordPress Custom Menus

Note: Although some elements will not display in your Edit Menus section unless you add specific plugins or functions to your site that support custom menu features, some elements are hidden by default.

For example, you can add links to posts, and even tag pages to your menus. If you don’t see these listed in your menu screen, do the following:

Scroll to the top of your Edit Menus screen and click on the Screen Options tab on the far right-hand corner of the screen …

How To Use WordPress Custom Menus

Select Posts in the Show on screen section …

How To Use WordPress Custom Menus

The item will now display on your screen …

How To Use WordPress Custom Menus

You can choose to view only your most recently added items, view all items on a list, and even search for items on your page (just type a word into the search field and WordPress will automatically begin searching) …

How To Use WordPress Custom Menus

You can add multiple items at once by selecting multiple checkboxes …

How To Use WordPress Custom Menus

Or, add all of the items in a list at once by clicking the Select All link …

How To Use WordPress Custom Menus

You can also add and display links to external locations on your menu, using the Links function …

How To Use WordPress Custom Menus

Links show up in your menu area with menu items tagged as “Custom” …

How To Use WordPress Custom Menus

Editing Menu Items

After adding items to your menu, you can modify and customize these further.

To expand or collapse a menu item, click on the little triangle on the right-hand corner of the title bar …

How To Use WordPress Custom Menus

Let’s suppose that you want the item to open in a new page when visitors click on the menu link. Open up the item …

How To Use WordPress Custom Menus

If you can’t see the open link in a new window/tab field displayed below the item’s Navigation Label, scroll to the top of your Edit Menus screen and click on the Screen Options tab on the far right-hand corner of the screen …

How To Use WordPress Custom Menus

Make sure that the Link Target checkbox is selected in the advanced menu properties section …

How To Use WordPress Custom Menus

Click the open link in a new window/tab checkbox …

How To Use WordPress Custom Menus

Your link will now open in a new window (remember to save for the change to take effect).

The screenshot below shows an item with all of the advanced options listed in the Screen Options tab enabled …

How To Use WordPress Custom Menus

The advanced menu properties are used by web developers and by WordPress theme designers to further enhance, style and customize menu options. Below is a brief description of these properties:

Title Attribute: This field specifies the Alternative (‘Alt’) text for the menu item. This text is displayed when a visitor hovers over a menu item with their mouse.

For example, if you add the following line into the Title Attribute field and the save your menu …

How To Use WordPress Custom Menus

This is what your visitors will see when they hover with their mouse over the menu link …

How To Use WordPress Custom Menus

CSS Classes: This allows you to style your links using CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). After adding a CSS class to a menu link, you can then target the classes you have assigned from within your stylesheet.

Link relationship (XFN): XFN (XHTML Friends Network) is a simple way to represent the relationships you share with the owners or authors of other websites using links. This allows certain programs such as search engines and specialized services to understand and display the relationships you share with other people, such as friends, professional contacts, etc. For more information, go here: XFN

Description: This field can be used to add a short description to a menu label …

How To Use WordPress Custom Menus

You can also give your menu label a custom name that is different from the name of your page …

How To Use WordPress Custom Menus

Rearranging Menu Layouts

The custom menus feature lets you easily rearrange menu items. To rearrange your menu items, first add some menu items to your menu …

How To Use WordPress Custom Menus

Once you have added menu items, notice that “move” options display in your item’s details section, allowing you to move the position of your item on the menu bar …

How To Use WordPress Custom Menus

To rearrange your menu items, use the “move” options, or click on the title bar of an item, and drag-and-drop menu items into position …

How To Use WordPress Custom Menus

Here is a screenshot of a custom menu, displaying menu items in a certain order …

How To Use WordPress Custom Menus

After applying simple drag-and-drop to rearrange menu items …

How To Use WordPress Custom Menus

The menu links have now been reordered …

How To Use WordPress Custom Menus

You can also create nested menus by drag-and-dropping menu items and shifting their position away from the left margin. Items can be nested multiple levels deep …

How To Use WordPress Custom Menus

Below is a screenshot of the above menu configuration displayed in an example menu …

How To Use WordPress Custom Menus

Your menus will display differently, depending on the WordPress theme you have chosen for your site …

Menu Settings

The Menu Settings section lets you automatically add pages to menus depending on the options you choose:

  • Auto Add Pages: Check this box to automatically add new top-level pages to your menu
  • Theme locations: Check the box(es) in this section to assign the locations in your theme where you want your new menu links to be added …

How To Use WordPress Custom Menus

Manage Locations

Before your custom menu settings can be displayed on your site, your menu needs to be assigned to a location on your theme.

Some WordPress themes only support one menu …

How To Use WordPress Custom Menus

Other WordPress themes support multiple menus …

How To Use WordPress Custom Menus

If you have not created a menu yet, then click on the Use new menu link to create one …

How To Use WordPress Custom Menus

To assign an existing menu to a location on your theme, choose it from the Assigned Menu dropdown menu …

How To Use WordPress Custom Menus

Click on the Save Changes button to save your configuration …

How To Use WordPress Custom Menus

If your theme supports multiple menus, repeat the above process to assign all menus to a location on your theme …

How To Use WordPress Custom Menus

Your menu locations will now be updated …

How To Use WordPress Custom Menus

Your custom menu will now be displayed on the theme location you have assigned …

How To Use WordPress Custom Menus

Remove Menu Items

To remove an item from your menu, expand the item and click on the Remove link …

How To Use WordPress Custom Menus

Delete Menus

To delete a menu, load the menu in the Edit Menus screen, then scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on Delete Menu

How To Use WordPress Custom Menus

You will be asked to confirm the deletion. Click OK to proceed, or Cancel to escape …

How To Use WordPress Custom Menus

The selected menu will be deleted …

How To Use WordPress Custom Menus

Using Custom Menus With Widgets

Custom menus can be added to your sidebar and other menu locations using widgets.

WordPress has a Custom Menu widget that you can add to your widgetized menus …

How To Use WordPress Custom Menus

You can add multiple Custom Menu widgets to your menus.

To use this feature, go to the Widgets section of your WordPress site, and drag a Custom Menu widget to the menu where you want your menu links to display …

How To Use WordPress Custom Menus

Enter a custom menu title in the Title: field, choose the menu to display on your sidebar from the Select Menu dropdown, and click the Save button to save your settings …

How To Use WordPress Custom Menus

Your custom menu will now display on your site where you have added the widget …

How To Use WordPress Custom Menus

Additional Information

There are a number of plugins you can use to enhance your WordPress menus.

You can search for WordPress custom menu plugins inside your WordPress dashboard (Plugins > Add New), or the WordPress Plugin Repository …

WordPress Plugin Search - Menu

(WordPress Plugins – Custom Menu)

Search the WordPress Free Plugin Directory for image gallery plugins below:

WordPress Menu Plugins

Congratulations! Now you know how to use WordPress custom menus.

How To Use WordPress Custom Menus

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"If you're new to WordPress, this can stand on its own as a training course and will stay with you as you progress from beginner to advanced and even guru status." - Bruce (Columbus, Ohio)

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Author: Martin Aranovitch

Martin Aranovitch is the founder of WPCompendium.org and has authored hundreds of FREE WordPress tutorials for beginners. WPCompendium.org provides detailed step-by-step tutorials that will teach you how to use WordPress with no coding skills required and grow your business online at minimal cost!

Originally published as How To Use WordPress Custom Menus.