Navigation menus are a super important part of every website. Imagine trying to navigate to different pages on a website, without the help of a menu guiding you where to go.
It’d be incredibly frustrating, right?
Navigation menus help your visitors navigate your site while displaying the structure of your website. Your navigation menu should be intuitive and easy to use while helping your visitor’s find the exact pages they want to visit.
Luckily, WordPress makes creating and adding a navigation menu to your site incredibly simple. There are a few different drag and drop tools you can use to set up a menu in WordPress quickly.
Below we dive into why WordPress menus are incredibly important and walk you through (in two different methods) how you can add a menu to your site.
Why WordPress Menus are Important
Let’s say a visitor lands on your site after clicking through from the search engines. They read your post and want to learn more about your website. So, they head up to the top of your site, or the top of your page (if you have a sticky navigation menu) and click on your ‘About’ page.
Without a navigation menu, this would be near impossible to find. Unless they went up to the URL and typed in “yoursite.com/about.” Let’s face it, no one would take the time to do that.
A well-crafted navigation menu lets you highlight your most important pages, and make it easy for people to navigate through your site.
By structuring your menu the right way you not only improve your user experience but you also improve your chances of ranking in the search engines. The two ways your menu can improve your rankings are as follows:
- Make your site easier to crawl. To determine what your website should rank for, the search engines use bots to crawl through your website. With a well-organized menu, you make it easier for the bots to crawl your site and index your content.
- Improved search engine display. The search engines are continuously innovating how the search results are displayed. One recent change is that your navigation menu can show up the search results, leading to a higher click-through. For an example of this, check out what displays when you search for HostGator in Google:
When organized the right way, your navigation menu can show up as hyperlinks in the search results. That can do great things for your SEO!
5 Common WordPress Navigation Menu Mistakes to Avoid
A navigation menu might seem simple, but there’s a lot that goes into it. Below you’ll find five different navigation menu mistakes that you’ll want to avoid if you want your menu to improve your user experience and SEO.
1. Using a Strange Navigation Style
Your WordPress theme might give you a few different options for where you can place your navigation menu. It can be tempting to do something fresh and creative. But, using a strange navigation menu placement can lead to poor user experience.
Most users expect your navigation menu to be at the top of the page, either to the right of the logo or just underneath your header.
Users will intuitively go to this spot on your page to click on the navigation menu.
It is essential to be creative and different with your website to stand out, but your navigation menu isn’t the place to do it.
2. Creating Complex Drop-Down Menus
Drop-down menus are a usability nightmare. Most websites can get away with not using a drop-down navigation menu. This type of menu can be bad for search engines and lead to poor user experience.
Usually, there are better ways to organize your site and content than rely upon a drop-down menu.
However, there is a caveat. Drop-down mega menus can be great for user experience. But, these types of menus are only useful for huge websites. Let’s look at a few examples below:
The eCommerce store The Clymb has a massive drop-down menu to separate out all their product categories. This navigation menu works because visitors typically know the exact category they’re looking for when browsing the store.
Financial expert, Dave Ramsey, also has a substantial drop-down menu for his website. Once again, his site has a ton of content and different sections that speak to diverse markets. This navigation menu helps visitors find the exact content or page they’re looking for.
3. Having Too Many Navigation Options
Listing too many menu items will only overwhelm your visitors. No doubt you’ve come across a navigation menu that has dozens of menu items. No one is going to sit there and try to find the exact page they’re looking for; they’ll just hit the back button and find another website.
When you list too many menu items, you run the risk of drowning out your most important pages. Instead, make a list of the five pages that are the most important and highlight these.
Most often, these will be pages like About, Contact, Blog, and Store.
4. Using the Wrong Menu Sequence
Your visitor’s attention will focus on the first and last items that are listed in your navigation menu. Decide which pages are your most important and place these in one of these positions.
With a disorganized menu sequence, it’ll take that much longer for your visitors to find the page they’re looking for. Down the line, as you’re getting more traffic, you can even test the sequence of your menu items to see how it influences click-through rates.
5. Using Generic Menu Items
Your menu items should align with the topic of your website. You can use generic menu items, but sometimes it can be more effective to be a bit more creative.
The core idea is to make your menu items descriptive and in alignment with your website. You shouldn’t have the same menu items as every other website out there, but ones that are unique to you.
For example, if you run a mom and pop coffee roaster, you could have menu items like Our Story, How We Roast, Store, Come Visit, and Blog.
Whereas, if you run an online marketing blog, you’d have more traditional menu items that are still niche relevant, like Blog, Resources, Tools, Services, and Start Here.
Now that you’re well versed on the reasons you need to create a navigation menu, and how to create one that enhances the user experience, let’s show you how to create a menu in WordPress.
How to Add a Menu in WordPress Via Menu Tab
The first approach to creating a navigation menu in WordPress is using the Menu section within your WordPress dashboard. To access this, you’ll need to first be logged into your WordPress dashboard.
So, login, and then follow the steps below:
1. Create a New WordPress Menu
Before you create your first menu, you’ll want to be sure about what pages you’re going to include, so if you haven’t done that yet, read the previous section of this post.
If you already have a plan for the pages, you’re going to add, then full speed ahead.
Navigate to Appearance>Menus. On the next screen, click the blue link that says ‘Create new menu.’
Then, name your menu and select ‘Create Menu’.
Note that you can create as many menus as you’d like.
2. Add Your Menu Items
On the left-hand side there’s a section titled ‘Add menu items’ here you’ll see a list of all the pages you currently created, which you can link to from your menu. Click the check-box for any pages you want to add to your menu:
You can also link to blog posts, categories and even create custom links. You’ll find these options directly underneath the ‘Pages’ section highlighted above.
To keep things simple for this tutorial we’re only going to add pages. So, select the pages you want to add, then click ‘Add to Menu.’
The pages you added will now show up underneath the ‘Menu structure’ section:
3. Organize Your Menu
With our menu items selected, it’s time to rearrange our menu into a logical order. Luckily, this is very easy to do. All you have to do is drag and drop the various menu items to rearrange them.
4. Creating Sub-Menus and Drop-Down Menus in WordPress
If you are going to create a drop-down menu, then this is going to be the section where you do it.
To create a drop-down menu item, just drag the menu item underneath the parent item. Here’s how it would look:
In this example, the ‘Blog’ and ‘Samples’ section will be underneath the ‘Welcome’ menu item.
5. Choose Your Menu Location
Depending on your WordPress theme you’ll have a few different options for where you can place your menu. Usually you’ll have one or two different options to choose from, but for themes built to handle content-heavy websites you might have even more.
Underneath the menu you just created you can select whether to add this menu to the right or left hand side of your logo. Just check the box where you want your menu to appear.
You also have the option to add multiple menus to your site. After saving your menu navigate back to the menu page by clicking on Menus. Then select the ‘Manage Locations’ tab:
Here you’ll be able to select your menu of choice and choose where you want it to display. On this page, you’ll be able to see how many menus your theme has support for right out of the box.
How to Add a Menu in WordPress Via a Widget
If you want to add a navigation menu to another portion of your site, then you can add a menu via the widgets section of WordPress. Once again, the widgetized areas you’ll have access to will depend on your WordPress theme.
Regardless, here’s how you add a menu via the widgets section of WordPress.
1. Navigate to Your Widget Area
The first things you’ll need to do is navigate to your widget area. The section will let you manage all of the widgetized sections across our site, but for the sake of this tutorial, we’re just going to be using this area to add another menu to our site.
To access your widget area, you’ll need to be logged into the backend of your site, then navigate to Appearance>Widgets and you’ll see a screen like the one below.
2. Find the WordPress Menu Widget
To add a menu to your site you’ll need to locate your menu widget. This might look a little different, depending on the theme you’re using. But, it should be named ‘Navigation Menu’ or something similar.
Once you’ve located the widget you can either drag and drop the widget into the desired section, or click the arrow button and select where you want the menu to appear, as shown below:
3. Choose Your Navigation Menu
Now the navigation menu widget will be in a separate section of your site.
Here you can choose which menu you want to display, and even name your menu:
Once you’re satisfied just click ‘Save’ and your menu will automatically display on your site. You can add as many menus as you’d like via the widget section. But, you probably don’t want to have more than a single menu on your site.
The more menus you have the longer it’ll take your visitors to find the pages they’re looking for. When in doubt the simpler the menu the better.
Getting Started with WordPress Menus
Hopefully you have a better understanding of how WordPress lets you add menus to your site, and some guidance on how you can create the most intuitive menu possible.
A lot of website owners tend to overlook the importance of creating a quality menu. But, your menu is one of the first things your visitors will turn to after reading an article, or landing on your site.
The overarching goal of your menu should be to help your visitors quickly access the most important pages of your site, while encouraging them to visit the pages that’ll deepen your relationship, buy products, or join your email list.