Customize the WordPress Admin Sidebar Menus for a Cleaner User Experience

Customize the WordPress Admin Sidebar Menus for a Cleaner User Experience

Although WordPress is regarded by many as being an easy to use online publishing and website creation tool, it doesn’t take long for the admin dashboard and its menus to start becoming unwieldy and frustrating to use.

In this post we will show you how to take back control of the sidebar menus on the WordPress admin dashboard. This will help you hide the menu items that you don’t use, while making it easier to find the ones that you do. Whether you want to streamline your own site’s admin area or that of a client’s, by the end of this post you will know just how to go about doing so.

Why Customize the Admin Menus?

With each plugin that is installed on a WordPress website, the sidebar menu is likely to grow in length and depth. Many plugin developers are keen to add the menu item for their creation to the top of the menu, even if it might only be accessed once when configuring the plugin.

New WordPress users can be overwhelmed when they see the large number of options on the admin sidebar menu. Experienced users can also become frustrated when it comes to finding the menu items they are looking for, amongst a sea of options they’ve never used.

The main reasons for editing the WordPress dashboard menus are:

  • Reduce clutter by removing or reorganizing the options you don’t use
  • Hide features that clients don’t need to access
  • Rearrange the menus to make it easier for clients to find what they need
  • Add custom links to your support documentation or contact website

So whether you are creating a website for a client who won’t be blogging and therefore won’t need to see the Posts menu, or your latest plugin of choice has added a top level menu item to the admin sidebar that you want to get rid of, these options will help solve your problems.

The Best Plugin for Customizing the WordPress Admin Dashboard Menus

Initially I was going to do a roundup of the best plugins for this task, but there was one outstanding option that fulfilled all of the needs associated with cleaning up the admin sidebar menus in WordPress.

So rather than overwhelming you with a range of options, here is my choice for the best plugin for customizing the admin menus:

Admin Menu Editor

This popular and free plugin includes all the features we need to conquer the admin sidebar menu in WordPress. There is also a premium version which adds the ability to drag and drop menu items between menu levels, plus a few other features.

The main features of the free Admin Menu Editor include:

  • Move or reorder menus using drag and drop
  • Move items using cut/copy and paste
  • Show/hide specific items
  • Change the menu titles, icons, and URLs
  • Move a menu to a different submenu
  • Add custom menus items that link to dashboard pages or external URLs
  • Define which user or user roles can use the Admin Menu Editor plugin

Once this free plugin has been installed by searching for ‘admin menu editor’ from the add new plugin screen of your site’s admin dashboard, it can be accessed from the Settings > Menu Editor link.

Admin Menu Editor Plugin

The user interface is easy to make sense of and it doesn’t take long before you can start editing, moving, hiding, and creating the menus on your site’s sidebar with confidence.

When creating new menu items you can easily set the target using the dropdown menu, which lists all the available WordPress admin pages on your site, including those added by third party plugins. Alternatively you can enter a custom URL. You also get the ability to choose an icon from the library, and change the menu item label.

Menu Editor 02

With the free version you can drag and drop menu items from one menu to another in order to start simplifying your sidebar. However, if you want to move a whole top level menu and its child menu items, you will have to cut and paste them, rather than drag and drop unless you upgrade to the pro version.

Menu Editor Before and After

By creating a new top level menu item, you can quickly move any menu items you hardly ever use, but still want easy access to, out of immediate sight to prevent them from cluttering up the interface.

When it comes to hiding and showing menus items, it couldn’t be easier. Simply select the menu item you want to hide and then click on the corresponding icon. If you want to permanently remove a menu item, clicking on the delete menu icon will remove it from the site.

If you are building a website for a client, then another great use for this plugin is to create a custom menu that contains links to your business website, online support materials, and a contact form so clients can easily get in touch with you again if they need more work doing.

If your reorganizing and spring cleaning starts to go a bit pear shaped, you can reload the default WordPress menu at the click of a button to undo all your changes.

The only noticeable drawback of this plugin is that isn’t possible to create nested menus that are more than two levels deep. However as you can add separators and rename menu items, it shouldn’t be too difficult to organize your sub-menus so it’s still clear how each set of items are related.

Overall, though, this free plugin has everything you need in order to start hiding the little used menu items on your site, plus a whole lot more.

Get Admin Menu Editor

Admin Menu Editor Pro

The free plugin includes all the features that are needed to streamline the WordPress admin menus. However, the pro version does give you some more features that may be of interest.

  • Hide/show menus according to user role or user account: good for client sites and hiding settings or theme menus and pages
  • Move menu items between menu levels: drag and drop top level menus into a sub-menu for faster organization
  • Import/export custom menu configurations: easily reuse your menus on other sites with the plugin installed
  • Use shortcodes in the menus: insert a shortcode into a menu field such as the title, or URL for applying the benefits of shortcodes to the sidebar menus

Menu Editor Toolbar Editor

The pro version of Admin Menu Editor is available from $19. There is also a Toolbar Editor add-on for the pro version which lets you edit the WordPress admin toolbar in much the same way you can edit the sidebar menu.

Get the Pro version


You should now have all the tools you need to start streamlining your WordPress admin sidebar menus. From hiding menu items, renaming them, adding new menus, or reorganizing them with sub-menus, the free Admin Menu Editor plugin is easy to use and definitely worth adding to your site.

Which menu items are you planning to hide or add to your WordPress site?