Build Better WordPress Navigation Menus

The freedom to create a custom navigation menu is available to even the most basic of WordPress installations. However, a few of the more interesting menu-building tools are hidden by default.

Presenting your visitors with better WordPress navigation menus will allow them to find what they need more quickly. This, in turn, can improve your website’s conversion rates. To explore your site’s many hidden menu options, just sign in to your website and click or tap the Menus item beneath the admin menu’s Appearance tab.

Create Submenus with WordPress

Though users can create navigation submenus without toggling default settings or showing an otherwise hidden option, the process for doing so is not immediately obvious. The menu you’re currently editing will need to include at least one item or link before you can add a submenu to it.

If you’ve created a nav menu in the past then you likely know that you can drag and drop items around the Menu Structure panel of the Menus screen to rearrange them. To add a menu item to a submenu, drag and position the item as you normally would but pull it slightly to the right beneath the menu item that should serve as the parent item.

Sub Items in WordPress Navigation Menus

Submenu items will be marked with a “sub item” label after they’ve been released and placed correctly. The item immediately above a group of one or more indented sub items will serve as the parent item for your submenu. Visitors will need to hover, click, or tap the parent item to reveal any submenu items beneath it.

Submenu as Seen from Twenty Seventeen

If your submenu is not visible from the front end of your website after saving your menu’s changes then there’s a good chance that your theme does not support WordPress menu sub items. Contact your theme’s developer and request support for the feature or switch to a theme that already supports it. You’ll find that most modern WordPress themes will display submenus without any issues.

Link to a “View All Items” Page

Installing and activating plugins from your control panel can create new post or content types. These custom post types are separate from the Page and Post content types built into WordPress. They can be edited and viewed in a lot of the same ways but can offer features that standard pages and posts often do not.

The Events Calendar – a popular event plugin – shows this behavior in action. Activating it will create a new Events post type. Use the custom post type to input and display upcoming events for your business or community.

The plugin will add a new section to your control panel’s Menus screen as well. The process for adding individual events to your menu is simple – just check the events you want to add and hit the Add to Menu button. Unfortunately, adding a “View All Events” item is less obvious.

If you expand the Events section from the Menus screen, you’ll find that it’s divided into three tabs and that you’re placed in the Most Recent tab by default. Click or tap the section’s View All tab instead and you’ll spot an Events checkbox at the top of the list.

View All Items Menu Link

Check the Events item and add that to your menu. Instead of directing visitors to a single event, this new menu link will point to the Events post type archive, which is basically a “View All Events” page. Visitors can browse all of your published events from this page and click through to those that appeal to them.

Most plugins that add custom post types to your website will allow you to add “View All” links to your WordPress navigation menus in a similar fashion. Explore the many sections of the Menus screen to learn which of your plugins and post types support this feature.

Open WordPress Menu Items in a New Tab

Of the many menu-building features that WordPress hides by default, the link target property is the most puzzling. This hidden feature can force specific WordPress menu links to open in a new tab. This is a common practice, especially for those who need to link menu items to an external website or two.

To force a WordPress menu item to open in a new tab or window, expand the Screen Options tab near the top of the Menus screen. This tab may not be available to you if you’re managing your website from a smartphone or tablet. With the tab expanded, check the Link Target box beneath the “Show advanced menu properties” heading then collapse the tab.

Link Target Toggle in Screen Options

Return your attention to the items that you’ve previously added to your navigation menu. Click or tap the arrow to the right of any menu item’s heading to expand it. If the Link Target property was enabled correctly, you should find a checkbox labeled “Open link in a new tab” beneath the menu item.

With this hidden setting enabled, forcing WordPress menu items to open in a new tab is a breeze. Check the appropriate checkbox beneath any menu item then save your changes before testing the link from the front end.

Open WordPress Menu Items in New Tab

Unlock Additional WordPress Navigation Menu Features

The Screen Options tab offers many sections and properties that can be toggled to further customize your WordPress navigation menus. Items under the tab’s Boxes heading will allow you to show or hide menu sections based on your specific needs. Advanced menu properties like descriptions and title attributes allow you to provide greater context to menu links.

For even more advanced menu functionality, head to the plugin repository and search with the “menu” keyword. You’ll find no shortage of plugins offering to further enhance your website’s menus.

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