How to Add a Navigation Menu in WordPress

Nobody likes a website that they can’t navigate. If people can’t figure out where to click in order to find what they’re looking for, they’re unlikely to keep using your website. So when you’re designing your WordPress website, you want to make sure it’s easy to use. One of the simplest yet most effective ways to do this is to use navigation menus on your page. Luckily, it’s not that hard to add a navigation menu in WordPress: WP professionals do it all the time and now you can learn how to do it too!

Navigation menus in WordPress – what are they?

When you hear “navigation menus”, do you know what we’re talking about? The technical term shouldn’t intimidate you! You’ve definitely seen and used navigation menus before, even if you don’t realize it. Virtually everyone will add a navigation menu in WordPress for their website very early on in the creation process. They’re a common feature of website design which makes the website easier to navigate and therefore makes it more accessible, especially for people with visual or physical disabilities and attention disorders. But navigation menus are also useful for everyday users just looking for an easy way to find relevant content.

Person learning how to add a navigation menu in WordPress on a website.
The easier your website is to navigate, the more people will like using it.

So what exactly are navigation menus? There are different types of them; how they look and where they are located will depend on the WP theme you are using. For the most part, however, you’ll see them as drop-down menus at the top of the page or in the sidebar. They will contain the most important links to the most important pages of the website, often grouped by a certain theme. So think of them as an opportunity to present your website structure and most important content to your users.

What can you put in a navigation menu?

WordPress allows you to put pages, posts, custom links and categories in your navigation menus. This is usually more than enough for you to create effective and useful navigation menus for your WP website. But if you want to add something else, there are always WP plugins you can install to make things more interesting.

How many navigation menus do you need?

You will almost certainly need to add a navigation menu in WordPress while designing your website. But the question then arises: is one navigation menu enough? The answer depends on your website itself and the content you post to it. In some cases, one navigation menu and a couple of extra links on the side will be more than enough. In other cases, you’ll need several navigation menus, submenus and possibly even more. If you have a lot of different links you want to make easily accessible, you may want to consider a theme that allows for navigation menus both at the top of the page and in the sidebar. But be careful not to make your website too busy with links because that takes away from the importance of each individual page you’re highlighting and defeats the purpose of navigation menus.

Sign that says "Order" above a crossed out "Chaos".
Use navigation menus as a way to organize your website.

Learn how to add a navigation menu in WordPress

If you’re relying on professional website maintenance services, odds are you won’t have to make any backend changes regarding your website design yourself. However, if you would prefer to add a navigation menu in WordPress yourself or simply want to know more about the process, we’ve broken it down into 4 simple steps.

Step 1: Create a navigation menu

The first step to adding a navigation menu to your website is creating it. All you have to do is log in to your WP admin dashboard and navigate to Appearance>Menus. This will take you to the “Edit Menus” page. This page is divided into two sections; the column on the left contains your potential menu elements (page, posts, custom links, and categories) while the one on the right is where you create and set up your menus. In order to gain access to the settings, however, you’ll need to create your menu first by giving it a name and clicking on the “Create Menu” button.

Step 2: Add elements to your menu

The next step is to set up your menu. First, you will need to add items to your new menu. Select and expand any of the tabs on the left – pages, posts, categories or custom links. After that, just tick the boxes next to the items you want to add to the menu and click on “Add to Menu”. If you’re adding custom links, you’ll need to name the menu item itself and enter the full link to the page you want. Then, you can select where your menu will be located. You may have a number of locations to choose from, depending on the theme you’re using.

Step 3: Arrange the elements in your menu

Don’t worry if the elements in your menu are not in the order you want! It’s very easy to rearrange the items you’ve added to your menu. All you need to do is drag and drop them where you want them. You can also expand the options menu by clicking on the arrow on the right side of the link. This will open up the options of moving the item to the top or bottom and removing it from the menu.

Pens and stationary organized in a holder.
Think of menus and submenus as drawers: they categorize things and keep them neat.

Step 4: Creating submenus

Submenus are a useful tool to make your navigation even more organized. And they’re very easy to create as well! Once again, you can use the drag&drop method. Simply drag the element you want as a subitem under the one you want as your main category and move it a bit to the right before releasing it. The other option is to move the intended subitem under the intended parent item. Then expand the options menu for the subitem and click on “Under (item above)”. This will also create a submenu.

A few more tips to help you add a navigation menu in WordPress

It’s not hard to add a navigation menu in WordPress. In fact, the method is pretty simple and intuitive. But some things may not be so obvious. For example, you can create as many submenus as you want, even submenus of submenus. You should, however, be careful not to go overboard because this makes your menus confusing and difficult to navigate. And if you don’t want an item to be clickable, you can set that up as well. Just add it as a custom link, entering the # symbol instead of the actual URL. Hopefully, these tips will help you create the best navigation menus for your website!