Creating Custom Menus in WordPress

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tasting room confidential menus, tastingroomconfidential.com

With the release of version 3.0, WordPress now supports Custom Menus, making it easy to create Navigation Menus that more broadly represents your content. Before then, all Pages were placed in the Navigation Menu by default and the only way to change it was by editing the php code. But as Florence Welch sings, those “Dark Days Are Over!”

I’d been working with Custom Menus on other people’s sites, but since renovating my own #1 blog – Tasting Room Confidential – with the London Live theme, I’ve come to fully grasp the power of WordPress Custom Menus. The beauty of London Live is how it supports not one but two menus. So, I can use one for Pages and the other for Categories. With over 100 posts about wine and over 90 categories, I am now able to present those stories in a drop-down Navigation Menu uncrowded by pesky Pages.

For this wine blog, I wanted my second Navigation Menu to present the wine regions I’ve written about: Canada, USA, Europe, Australia (New) Zealand, South America, and South Africa, with enough room for Wines by varietal, Events, and Music/Art/Literature. A total of 9 menu labels.

After cleaning up some of the Post Categories in the Category editor, here’s how I did it.

Creating a Custom Menu

Menu items in hierarchy formation

Navigating to Appearances>>Menus in the WordPress Dashboard, I started by clicking on the Screen Option tab at the top of the screen and check-boxing modules for Theme Locations and Categories which brings them up in a column to the left.

I entered the title of a new Custom Menu – Wine Links – in the Menu Name field, and Saved.

Having created a new Custom Menu name, I went to the Theme Locations module and pulled down Wine Links under Second Menu. Saved.

I scrolled down to the Categories module and clicked on View All. With so many Categories, I get page numbers to click. I go down the list check-boxing my top menu labels, starting with Canada. I click Add to Menu before going to the next module page, otherwise I would lose those check boxes. My six Categories appear to the right under the Menu Names, having become Menu Items. By dragging them up and down, I sorted them by importance.

Designating Sub-Menus

Next, I created Sub Menus, which will be seen as drop down menus. In the Categories module, I check-boxed smaller wine regions and add them to the menu. These items fall to the bottom of the larger Menu Items list and one by one I dragged them under their appropriate Menu Item. By pushing the item to the right, I signified them as Sub Menu Items.

To change the menu label, open up the item box

But that is not all, since the wine world contains many micro-regions within each region. In the Categories module I check-box and added to the menu the next smaller regional categories. One or two at a time I moved them beneath and farther to the right of the appropriate sub menus.

Changing Menu Labels

What to do when your Menu Item Labels are too numerous to fit onto the Navigation Menu? You abbreviate the labels.

By clicking the configuration arrow on the right, the Menu Item box opens to reveal fields that are checked in Screen Options. Changing one label from “Music/Art/Literature” to “Music.Art.Lit” made it fit onto the Navigation Menu without changing the original Category name.

All of this can be accomplished as well for Custom Post Types and Taxonomies. And by placing the Custom Menu widget in a sidebar and setting the menu desired, you can place the same menu in your sidebar.

So, there’s no reason to settle for a Pages-only Navigation Menu. By making use of the WordPress Custom Menus tools, you can help your readers find what they’re looking for, and surprise them with things they’re not, with the ease of a few clicks and drags.

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