The WordPress menu system that comes as part of the standard installation has come on leaps and bounds over the years. Working with the menu system is very straightforward when creating a simple menu and it is possible to create an elegant navigational system featuring dropdowns, hover actions and automatic spacing of the menu items.
However, for some users this isn’t enough and while utilising a good quality WordPress theme will usually ensure your site receives an enhanced menu system, there are other ways to go about upgrading the menu functionality of your website.
By employing the use of a WordPress plugin it is possible to take the navigational functionality of your website to the next level while still keeping the design and features of your chosen WordPress theme.
Tips for Selecting a WP Menu Plugin
Before rushing out and installing an interesting plugin of this type, it is a good idea to look for one that has been built using jQuery technology. This should ensure that the new menu capabilities of your site are compatible with a wide range of devices and browsers as well as being highly usable to the end user.
With the rise of responsive themes and an increasing number of users viewing sites on smartphones and tablets, selecting a menu that is also responsive is a good idea, especially if the rest of your site has been designed in this way.
As with all plugin choices, check for feedback from other users of any items that catch your eye to determine the reliability and quality of the product. Due to the vital role the menu and navigational systems play in the functionality of a website, it is recommended that any menu plugins you consider are tested and experimented with on a test or development installation of WordPress before going live on your website to avoid confusing and deterring your visitors during the setup phase.
While there are countless free and premium menu plugins out there, this guide aims to select a few of the best options out there to simplify your selection process and help ensure you get the best menu for your site that offers enhanced functionality as well as improved visual appeal.
UberMenu is a very popular choice with almost 20,000 purchases on Code Canyon and a 4.6 (out of 5) rating at the time of writing.
The new menus that can be created with this plugin add lots of extra functionality to the standard WordPress menu system including larger menus that can contain multiple columns of links rather than just a single column dropdown. Icons and image can also be used in the menu items giving them even more design appeal.
The UberMenu plugin also supports widgets which can be dropped right into the menus you create. These can take the form of contact forms, a search bar, most recent posts and image galleries to name but a few. These turn your menus into not just simple navigational tools but areas of content on your site within their own right.
This premium menu plugin for WordPress is great value and packed with a whole host of features that are perfect for taking your navigation system to the next level and beyond.
This is a free menu plugin for WordPress which is proving to be very popular in terms of download and user feedback.
As the name suggests, it uses jQuery and when using this plugin, your mega menus are not limited to just one per page allowing you to totally revamp the standard WordPress menu system.
The JQuery Mega Menu Widget plugin comes with a few simple options for customising the workings of the new menus. These include menu activation on either a click or when hovering over menu items as well as the option for either sliding menus or fading menus along with a customisable animation speed.
If you aren’t happy with the appearance of the menus that can be created with this free WordPress plugin then the bundled skins can be edited and modified using CSS to suit your tastes.
For the themes that don’t feature a top widget area, you will need to add one in order to use this plugin to replace your existing WordPress navigational menu. Instructions on how to do this can be found here.
While this plugin can’t compete with the likes of UberMenu and WP Sticky Menu it is free and does allow you to create more advanced menus that you can with WordPress standard making it a good stopgap.
This premium plugin is ideal for those who are looking to replace the traditional horizontal navigation menu system with something else altogether.
The Path Style Menu plugin adds an icon to one of the four corners of your site of your choosing, which when clicked or pressed, the menu items expand and fly out, creating an arc effect around the main button. The arc positioning of the buttons is the default option but they can also be displayed in a circle or either a vertical or horizontal line. While this might sound a little strange to those not familiar with it, it is definitely worth checking out the demo to get an idea of how it works.
The plugin uses icons for the menu system and it comes bundled with some to get you started, or alternatively they can be selected from the images in your WordPress media gallery.
If you want to do something different with your WordPress site and also make it very easy to use when displayed on smartphone and other touch screen devices then the Path Style Menu should be on your list.
This budget menu plugin for WordPress doesn’t so much as overthrow the standard menu system as rather enhance and improve it.
The aim of this plugin is to make the existing system in WordPress for building menus easier to manage, as it can quickly get out of control when large menus are built with many nested items and lots of children and grandchildren items.
This plugin adds extra functionality to that system allowing you to easily and quickly move around the menu system using added buttons and navigational aids. These make arranging and keeping track of the structure of advanced menus much easier and less frustrating and time consuming than it would be otherwise.
The end result isn’t any different to the end user, apart from perhaps better organized menus but it certainly makes the life of the website owner a lot easier.
This plugin allows you to create a sticky horizontal menu for your WordPress sites. With the WP Sticky Menu Plugin, your navigation menu will always be on display, even when users scroll down the page. It can be used on its own as a replacement for the existing WordPress menu on your theme or as an additional menu.
Using a sticky menu is a great way to allow users to navigate to other parts of your page, even when the standard menu is no longer visible and due to this, it should help increase user engagement and reduce the number of visitors who leave your site when they get to the end of an article as they can now easily click through to a new page on the site.
Like all good plugins and themes these days, this menu tool is responsive in design for use on a multitude of screen sizes and it also comes with over 10 styles, allowing you to edit its appearance to match that of your site.
The menu items and dropdowns can take the form of single columns or wide menus that fill the entire width of the menu area depending on your preferences. Menu items can also have subtitles to provide more information to users and the animation effects can be disabled should you so wish.
The sticky menu can either be pinned to the top or the bottom of the page giving you potentially two options for displaying navigational menus.
This plugin is a great way to keep the attention of your readers while also presenting them with an easy to use menu system that can display a whole range of links without becoming unwieldy and difficult to read.
Hopefully this concise list of menu plugins should have something for most users. Whether you are looking for a free way to enhance the WordPress menu system as you can with JQuery Mega Menu Widget, upgrade and replace your existing menu system with the UberMenu plugin, do something completely different altogether with the Path Style Menu, or create a feature rich and attractive sticky menu with the WP Sticky Menu Plugin there should be something here for you.
If you are happy with the look and feel of the existing menu system that came with your theme, but find it cumbersome to setup and manage then the Menu Management Enhancer for WordPress is the tool you are looking for.
If you’ve done anything interesting with the menu and navigation system on your site, please leave a comment below.