An Illustrated Guide for Working with WordPress Custom Menus


In WordPress when you publish a page it’s usually added to the main navigation menu.  In many WordPress blogs and sites this works just fine.  It’s easy and automatic.  Sometimes though, it’s not ideal.

What if you want to include a link in the main navigation that goes to your CafePress store?  Maybe you want your navigation to link to popular blog categories.  Custom WordPress menus are perfect for situations like this.

Create Custom Menus

To access the menus, log into your WordPress dashboard and select:  Appearance > Menus

Appearance Menu

If you haven’t created a menu, just follow the instructions on the page to make a custom menu.

Create Menu

Working with an Existing Custom Menu

If you’ve already created a custom menu, then you can select the one you’d like to edit.

Select Custom Menu

The Secret to Adding Links to Your Custom Menu

Ready for a handy tip?  Go to the Screen Options link at the top right of the page.  There you’ll see even more choices for your custom menu.  You can make the links open in a new window by checking Link Target.  You can add blog tags to your menu by clicking Tags.  This gives you tons of flexibility.

Menu Screen Options

Most of the problems I’ve seen with custom menus are because of the screen settings.  So be sure to check that out.

Adding Items to the WordPress Custom Menu

Adding items to the menu is fairly straight forward.  For example, here’s a category list from a bread making site.  You would just select the categories you want to put in the menu.  Then click add to menu.

Add Categories to Menu

You can add pages and tags in the same manner.

To add a link to another site, like a CafePress store for example, you use the Links selection area.  Put in the URL you want to link to, add the link text and then click Add to Menu.  If you’d like the link to open up in a new window or tab then click on Screen Options and select Link Target.  Just like magic you’ll be presented with the option of having the link open up in a new window.

Add Link to Custom Menu

Customizing Your Custom Menu

Once the menu items are in place then you can move them around so they’re in the order you want.  Just drag and drop items into place.  You can even have sub items.

Menu structure

If you click on the arrow at the left of the menu item you’ll see even more choices.  You can have the menu text say anything you want.  Just enter it into the Navigation Label area.

Menu Item Text

Once you’re done be sure to click on the Save Menu button located above and to the right of Menu Structure.

Save Menu

Making Custom Menus Appear on Your Site

Once you’ve made your menu or menus (you can have more than one) how do you get them to show up in your WordPress site?  At the top left of the menu page you’ll see a box that looks like this if your theme doesn’t support custom menus:


If this is your situation you can still use custom menus, but you’ll need to use a menu widget to add the menu to your site’s sidebar.  Go to Appearance > Widgets on your dashboard.  Then drag the Custom Menu widget into the sidebar where you want to display the menu.

As you can see by the below, Once the widget is in place it allows you to type in title text for your menu and select the menu you’d like to display.


If your theme does support custom menus what you see will depend on how many custom menu your theme allows.  Here’s a screen shot from a theme that supports three different menus.  (Weaver II Pro)


I’ve used custom menus:

  • to make special menus to display on mobile versions of sites when using the WPTouch plugin.
  • to create tertiary levels of menus for larger sites
  • to create lists of popular pages
Note:  This post was revised March 16, 2015

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *