Custom Menus

WordPress has recently introduced Custom menus to its list of fun things for your blog. I’ve installed one here. You might be thinking that it looks just like any other navigation menu, but you’d be wrong. It’s a really clever and really useful bit of kit.

The normal navigation menu seen on wordpress.com only displays pages and sub-pages. So, for example, you might have Home and About pages on your menu (in my case, they are called Welcome  and Mr Uku) and if you knew a bit about shortcodes, you might have added Index and Contact Me pages too. But that would have been about it.

The new custom menu allows you to add Category pages too, as I’ve done. The pages listed as, Blogging, Social, Software, Miscellaneous and Fiction are actually categories and if you hover your cursor over them, you’ll see that some also have sub-categories.

So what? Well, think about this:

You’re a writer, so you write, you write all sorts of things and maybe, on a Friday, you post your Friday Flash on your blog. Then along comes Johnny Reader to have a butchers at your story. He likes it. He likes it so much that he wants to read more of your stuff. But in order to do that he’ll have to start looking through all your previous posts or tracking through the archives.

But if you make “Friday Flash” a category (as I’ve done with my “Fiction” category) then any story you put in that category will appear on that page. Now if Johnny Reader wants more of your fabulous Flash Fiction, he can click on the menu and find it all in one spot.

Do you see?

The bad news is that custom menus are so new that only the latest themes can use them (edit. Since this article was written in 2010 all current themes are compatible). So if you’re using an older theme and really like it, you’re stuck. Do have a look through the new themes though, they’re really nice.  If you have got a new theme and want to give the custom menu a try, go ahead. it’s down there on the left of your dashboard in Appearance/Menus.

Setting up a menu is easy and all you have to do to create one is give it a name and click save:

menu name
(click to enlarge)

This will then give you access to all your pages and categories and even allow you to allocate a link to another site as a page. Here, we can see how the pages are displayed for you to choose from:

menu pagesJust tick the box to include that page in your menu. Do the same for your categories and you’ll end up with a menu list like this:

my menu
(click to enlarge)

You can see which menu items are pages and which are categories. But they will all display as individual pages in the navigation menu as you can tell by going to the top of my blog and clicking on a few menu items. Notice also that the menu item labelled, “Friday Flash”, is pulled to one side. Doing this makes it a sub-page of the page above it. You can see this in action at the top of my blog if you hover your mouse over the, “Fiction”, label on my menu. See how, “Friday Flash”, drops down below it? That’s a page and a sub-page and they are both Category pages.

You can also change a pages label when it appears in the menu. For example, here you can see the label for the category page named, Interaction:

menu with different labelYou can see the original category name is, “Speak To Me”. This didn’t look right on the menu, so rather than change the category name, I have opted to just change the label.

The box marked, “Title Attribute”, is optional and will make a pop up title appear when you hover your mouse over the menu label. This is useful for partially sighted computer users who may be using software that reads out page content for them. In this case, it would read out your menu labels and aid in navigation.

Once set up, the only thing left to do is to activate your menu. This is done with the box on the top left of the Menu options screen:

menu activation

Open the dropdown box and select your menu name. Click save and your menu is active. It’s that simple.

Don’t be afraid of experimenting with your blog’s menu. Play with the sub-pages and try changing the menu labels. If you don’t like it, just delete the menu by clicking the button. It will simply revert back to the standard wordpress menu.

Custom menus aren’t for everyone, but I hope I’ve shown you how useful they can be. If you have any questions leave them in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer you. And to keep up to date with more tips, why not subscribe to my blog.

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2 thoughts on “Custom Menus

    1. Removing single items from your Custom Menu is really easy.
      You need to go to Appearance – Menus and look at the list of your menu items on the right. This can be seen in the illustrations above where my custom menu pages are listed as Uku1.
      Each menu item has its own bar that allows them to be dragged around so you can change the order. If you look to the right hand end of each bar you will see a a faded triangle/downward pointing arrow. Clicking that will cause the bar to open up, revealing more options.
      At the bottom left of this opened menu bar you will see the option to Remove the menu item. Click that and it’s gone.
      Hope that helps.

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