What’s wrong with WordPress menus the way they are? Why would anyone bother to install a menu plugin, even pay for one? If you’ve ever asked yourself those questions, you may never have considered the possibility that a menu can do much more than serve as a container for navigation.
Let’s face it – as much as we love WordPress, its native menu functionality is kind of meh. In many cases, it’s even a waste of space. Do the menu options have to just lie there like dead fish?
No, they don’t.
Turns out, you can do all kinds of mind-blowing things to make your menus do more work for you. Like adding your logo. Or images and links. WordPress Widgets. Dashicons and Glyphicons and call to action buttons.
But not every type of menu is right for every website. So here are some questions to ask yourself before deciding on a menu plugin:
How much content does your site have? Does it have a few hundred pages or a few ten thousand?
What kind of menu would best suit your site’s overall design, for all devices?
Will you need (or prefer) a lot of options for customization?
Do you need a menu that will help you conserve home page real estate by displaying featured stories or latest posts?
Are you willing and able to pay for the right plugin?
Why menus should be chosen with care
Ease of navigation can make or break a visitor’s experience on your website. They want to find the information they’re looking for quickly and easily. If they have a difficult time finding their way around your site, they’ll go back to the SERP and pick another site.
If you make it quick and easy for them by showing them exactly where to go at every turn, they’ll find what they want and have a positive experience.
Clearly-phrased menu options can help visitors and search engine spiders understand what your content is about. Clever design and effective use of color can supply visual cues, too. But what if the design and functionality of the navigation itself could use all of those elements to create a gorgeous and powerful experience for your visitor?
First, let’s discuss the different types of menus.
Different types of website menus
There’s a dizzying array of different types of menus and an overwhelming number of plugins that offer incredible features. To make it easier to wrap your head around, we’ll break these down into categories and discuss what they’re useful for.
It should go without saying that your website’s menu needs to be fully responsive on any device. According to Statista, mobile browsing accounts for roughly half of web traffic across the world. You’d think all menus would be fully responsive by default by now, but some work better than others.
Whatever else you want your menu to do, do yourself and your visitors a favor by choosing a plugin that produces a great mobile menu.
Menus that feature content
What if you could make your website menu look like a professional magazine table of contents complete with photos and links to your featured articles? Would you still need to build a dedicated Featured Content page?
Mega menus are popular for large sites with lots of content and features. They’re great for organizing navigation so that a visitor can understand it visually at a glance, reducing the need for them to rely on short term memory and forget what they were looking for.
Then again, your site may not have a ton of content or different features. So do you need a mega menu? Here’s an article by Rachel McCollin to break down the pros and cons for you.
Vertical menu designs are so important for mobile-friendly navigation. Some menu plugins allow you to build a vertical menu as one possible option, and others are vertical by default.
It is possible to make these every bit as functional and beautiful as other types of rich content menus and still take full advantage of the vertical orientation.
These also have pros and cons. On one hand, having certain navigational elements always stay in one place can help users find where to go next and reduces the amount of clicking and scrolling they’ll have to do to see everything.
On the other hand, if these elements never move, they can take up a lot of space. And if they overlap a text element you’re trying to read, that’s annoying.
Maybe what you need is a menu that just covers the whole page. If all these types of menus are pageant contestants, the fullscreen menu is the one who ends her talent routine with a standing hair flip.
Menus can be displayed over a background image, or a solid color opaque or a semi-transparent overlay. The main thing they do is block distractions to bring attention to your site’s most important pages. And they do that very well.
You could turn your site navigation into a branded list of menu options, like the simple but crazy effective one-page menu shown in the featured image.
Scroll down to check out the menu plugins that make all this functionality possible.
Responsive Menu, by ExpressTech, is one of the hottest responsive menu plugins around. It focuses on smoothly functioning responsive menus for every device size, accessibility, and clean code. Those core principles combined with enough customization options to make tens of thousands of possible menu designs make Responsive Menu a serious contender among the top menu plugins for WordPress. The free version is packed with enough useful features that you can take your menu designs far enough to suit your desires. But if you want to get even more out of it, like button animation effects and the ability to change the opacity of each of the dozens of colors, you can access the premium features by purchasing the Advanced or Pro plans.
Can your menu do that? Website menus have experienced a Renaissance in recent years as developers and UX designers demand they do more than just sit there like lumps on a log.
They wanted menus that would work as hard as they do, and now a slew of WordPress menu plugins has proliferated on the web, making these features available to folks like you and me.
Now you can build out striking menus that feature your content, contain images, links, icons and even widgets. And you can customize them with your brand colors and fonts to match your website design seamlessly.