How to Add More Navigation Menus to your WordPress Theme

Sometimes you may find an awesome theme only to realize it would be great if it had an extra navigation menu with important or frequently used links to increase the usability of your WordPress site.

With just a little bit of coding you could have the foundation of your new menu set up quickly, and ready for you to style to match your theme.

If you would rather not mess around with code, there are many plugins that can do the heavy lifting for you, and also provide styling options.

No matter which option you choose, the guide below will help you make it happen.

Basic Housekeeping

To create a new menu you need to edit your theme files. Before making changes to any of your core files, it’s best to backup your entire site in case something goes wrong along the way. You’ll be able to restore your site quickly and it will be as though nothing ever happened.

You can manually backup your site via FTP or using a plugin, such as our very own Snapshot or something like BackWPup. Just be sure you save a copy of both your database and files in a location separate to your site to minimize the risk of losing your backup.

Creating New Menus

To add a selectable menu location option in your admin dashboard under Appearance > Menus you need to do what’s called “register a menu.” All it takes is adding a snippet of code to your functions.php file located in wp-content > themes > your-theme.

In cPanel, click on the File Manager icon in the Files section on the homepage. It will appear if you haven’t previously disabled the directory selection pop-up.

Choose the Web Root radio button or you can specifically choose the site you wish to edit by selecting Document Root on the list.

After selecting the "File Manager" icon on the cPanel home page, a pop up appeared and a selection has been made for the document root of a specific site.
If you manage many sites from a single cPanel account, selecting the site you want to edit from the “Document Root” option in the directory selection can save you a bit of time navigating through your files.

Locate your functions.php file and click on it once followed by clicking the Edit button at the top of the page.

If a pop-up opens, simply click the Edit button at the bottom, right-hand side. You may not see one if you have previously disabled it.

Scroll to the bottom of the file. If you’d like to add only one menu, add the following code on a new line:

In this example, New Menu is the name that will appear in your admin dashboard’s menu page to make it understandable for human eyes. The new-menu name is what WordPress will understand to execute your code properly.

You can call your menu whatever you like, but make sure only the human-readable name contains spaces and capital letters.

If you would like to add multiple menus to your site, add this code on a new line instead:

You can add as many new menus as you’d like with this method. The same rules will apply when naming them.

Save the changes you made to the file. Now all that’s left is adding the new menu to your site.

Adding Menu Locations to Your Theme

This is where you need to decide where you’d like to place your menu. If you’d like your menu to appear at the top of your page, you’ll need to edit the header.php file. You can also put it in your footer which means you would edit the footer.php file.

You can even display a menu on a page by editing its template file or to a sidebar, editing its sidebar.php file.

You can place your new menu where ever you’d like. Here’s the minimum amount of code you need to add to any of these locations:

Just replace new-menu with WordPress-readable name you chose. You probably want to style your menu with CSS so it goes beyond basic functionality and also looks great. To do this, you’ll need to create a class and add it to your theme with the following code.

Just like before, replace new-menu with the name you chose. In this example, I named the class I created new_menu_class. You can change this, but just be sure to update this code to reflect the adjustment.

Hit the Save button and head over to Appearance > Menus in your dashboard. You’ll notice your new menus will be listed under Theme Locations in the Menu Settings section.

The newly created menus are now visibly listed under "Menu Settings" in the dashboard under Appearance > Menus.
You’ll now be able to see your new menu locations listed. When you add a menu, you can select one or all of the locations.

To have links displayed in your newly made menu locations, click create a new menu at the top of the page.

The "create a new menu" link at the top of the "Menus" page under "Appearance" in the dashboard.
Once you have created a new menu, you can also manage the locations where they are displayed under the “Manage Locations” tab.

Styling, Plugins and Responsive Menus

Your new menu is now ready to be styled using CSS. The coding required is specific to the theme you’re using so I won’t go into it in this post, but we do have another post you can check out for that called How to Create an Awesome Responsive Menu for Your WordPress Theme. It also shows you how to create responsive menus that are mobile-ready.

If you would like an easier option, there are many plugins that will create responsive menus based on your theme’s styles. The best ones I found were Responsive Menu and Suppamenu Lite.

Some notable mentions you may also find helpful are ShiftNav, WP Responsive Menu and Max Mega Menu.

You now have the solid foundation you need to create additional menus for your theme and resources to help you go further.

What kind of menus would you like to create? Feel free to share them in the comments below.

26 Responses

    HunterGatherer

    Great information. But I have some questions:

    Do you have to repeat this process whenever the theme gets updated? Shouldn’t the first direction be to create a child theme, and do this in the functions.php file for the child? And, will these changes be executed properly in the child theme, when the parent gets updated?

    Thanks for the info and code.

    HG

    Rahul

    Hi Jenni !

    Thanks for this useful post. To be very frank, I was looking for such useful resources as being a non-coder it was impossible for me to add some extra navigation menu to my theme.

    This post not only help me to know that it can also be done easily using WordPress plugins but also helped me to try some basic coding.

    However, I would further like to know how to edit menu text sizes to be suitably customized in navigation bar ?

    Waiting eagerly for your response.

      Jenni McKinnon

      Hey Rahul,

      I definitely know what you mean. It can be tricky if you’re not familiar with coding.

      You can format the style of the text using CSS which will be located in your theme’s style.css file. If you would prefer not to code, then the plugins I mentioned are your best bet. :)

      Cheers,

      Jenni

    Jessica

    Hi! This is exactly what I needed :) However, whenever I added a functions.php and a header.php to my child theme, my site wouldn’t come up.

    What I did was copy the parent functions.php and header.php and added in the code like you said. I uploaded those new files to my child theme, and that’s when it broke. The code works perfectly in the parent theme. Thoughts?

    Thanks for any help! And thank you for this wonderful tutorial!

      Jenni McKinnon

      Hey Jessica,

      I’m sorry to hear it didn’t work for you! Without seeing the files, it’s difficult to assess exactly what’s going on, but I can give you a few suggestions:

      1. Make sure you re-upload the files in the same folder you downloaded them from. If you place them in the wrong folder, it will break your site.

      2. Make sure your code in the functions.php file is separated like a whole paragraph. There should be a whole line that’s blank in between the snippets of code.

      3. If you placed code after a line that looks like this in functions.php, place it before that line:
      ?>

      4. Restore your site from a backup and try again. It may be helpful to edit the files directly in your control panel as suggested in this post.

      Let me know if any of that is helpful to you or if you need more suggestions.

      Good luck,

      Jenni McKinnon

          Jenni McKinnon

          Hey again Jessica,

          The fact that it works in your parent theme is a great sign. The reason why it doesn’t work in your child theme is because the functions are already included in the parent theme. Having the file in both will cause errors since the functions will be redundant. You only need to include the functions.php file in the parent theme only. The only file in that’s not included in the child theme is style.css.

          To implement the new changes in the child theme just start with a blank functions.php file in your child theme folder and add the extra code to it as needed such as the ones suggested in this article.

          WordPress will check the parent functions.php file first, then the child theme’s version to add the extra functions needed to display the changes you’d like.

          Hope that helps! If you have anymore questions, just let me know. :)

          Cheers,

          Jenni McKinnon

            Jessica

            Ah! That makes sense! And it WORKS now :) Thank you so much for your time and your help, Jenni!

    Julius

    This is really awesome and everything works; however, I can’t get the menu to display in the correct location. The main-menu is the location I would like to place my primary menu unfortunately, I can’t find how to do this. I have searched the functions.php and the header.php to change the “main-menu” location to the primary menu rather than the main menu.

    Can anyone make sense of this to me?

      Jenni McKinnon

      Hey Julius,

      If you just want to replace your current header menu with your new one, you don’t need to do extra coding. Go into your admin dashboard > Appearance > Menus. Click the “Manage Locations” tab at the top and beside “Primary Menu,” select your new menu from the drop down list, then click “Save Changes” at the bottom. That should do the trick.

      Hopefully that answers the question you’re asking. If not, let me know and I’ll try again. :)

      Cheers,

      Jenni McKinnon

    Stephane

    Hi Jenni.
    I am not a designer / developer. I use the Divi theme to build (or try to) my own site, amourdesthes.com
    I wish to have a secondary header menu to list all my product categories. So my, the only solution is to separately insert a menu on every page. I would rather use your solution. However, I cannot complete the menu location part. I would also like the secondary header menu to be sticky and reduce upon scrolling, like the main header menu does. Can you help me?
    Thanks
    Cheers
    Steph

    Kenda-Ruth

    I am having the same issue. I have used a plugin to build a child theme and added the code to the functions.php file, but I do not know how to select the location.

    My theme only allows for one menu at the very top and I want my main menu directly below my header/banner image. What is that location called–is it still part of the header, but the bottom?
    Is the banner different from the header?
    How do I make sure that it is lined up precisely so it is like the bottom of the banner?

      Jenni McKinnon

      Hey Kenda-Ruth,

      I hope I understand what you need (and if not, let me know), but once you register the menu, you can select it in the admin dashboard under Appearance > Menus.

      Once the menu is registered, you can add the additional code I mentioned in the file where you would like it to appear. In your case, you can add it to your header.php file.

      In terms of header and banner, I think it depends on who you speak to, but generally, the header is the top of the page where your site’s logo and tagline appears. The part below that where your posts and page content appear is called a body container, main container, content area or other names along these lines. A banner, in my experience, usually refers to advertisements, such as in “banner ad” where the ad is rectangle in shape. It might certainly differ from person to person, though.

      As I mentioned to Steph, we do have a theme called Upfront that’s completely customizable and editable on the front end. It’s as easy as dragging and dropping the elements that you would like to display right onto the page. It doesn’t require coding unless you would like to customize elements further with CSS or HTML. If you would like to read more about it, you can check it out here: http://premium.wpmudev.org/projects/category/themes/

      We also have several posts on how to use Upfront that you can check out to see if it’s something you would find helpful and to also help familiarize yourself with it more:

      1. http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/upfront-basics/
      2. http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/upfront-regions/
      3. http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/upfront-custom-css/
      4. http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/upfront-responsive/
      5. http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/upfront-pages-posts/
      6. http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/upfront-elements/
      7. http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/upfront-plugins/

      Let me know if you need any more help with this and I’ll be happy to do what I can. :)

      Cheers,

      Jenni McKinnon

        Kenda-Ruth

        Thanks for your response. But I don’t think I’m understanding well.
        First, I am using the Social Triggers theme for the Zippy Courses plugin because it is built for the plugin with e-courses in mind. They say it is not a requirement, but that it makes things easier and I did try the theme I usually use and like and almost immediately realized I had to go back to trying the theme they recommend.

        What does it mean to register the menu? I have tried adding the code to the header file and to the functiosn.php file–I tried a few different things before posting. But I can’t see how that can select the precise location anyway–rather it seems adding it to the header file would select the general regions, but not tell it where within that region to place the menu.
        When I tried the code in the header file it came out like a vertical list and it strayed well below the header area–though perhaps because it was vertical.
        Right now I have the code in functions.php and nothing shows up.

        My main site is not on WP and the menu location is set (in CSS) by telling it how many pixels from the top. I’ve found no instructions for a WP menu telling me to specify in that manner; though that is precise.

        When I go to appearance–> menu I can select the menu I have created and assign it the location–and it is the location that I created with the code. But what does that really mean–since I have not told it precisely (such as with coordinates) where to go?

        So right now I have the menu called Above Header assigned to the original defalut theme location at the top. This is meant to be login/out and register type buttons and later (I’m just building) maybe some buttons specific to members within the site.
        The other menu I have titled ‘All-Site Navigation Menu’ because it is meant to be the same as at my blog and my main site and I called the new location (in the code) ‘Below Header Menu’. I also added a few more in case I want to add more menus someday.

        Here is the code–it looks like I added a few things at different times as I was trying over a couple of days.

        function register_my_menus() {
        register_nav_menus(
        array(
        ‘below-header-menu’ => __( ‘Below Header Menu’ ),
        ‘extra-menu-1′ => __( ‘Extra Menu 1′ ),
        ‘extra-menu-2′ => __( ‘Extra Menu 2′ )
        )
        );
        }
        add_action( ‘init’, ‘register_my_menus’ );

        add_action(‘__header’, ‘below-header-menu’, 1000, 0);

        function display_secondary_menu() {
        echo ( has_nav_menu( ‘below-header-menu’ ) ? wp_nav_menu (
        array (
        ‘theme_location’ => ‘below-header-menu’,
        ‘container_id’ => ‘below-header-menu’,
        ‘container_class’ => ‘below-header-menu’
        )
        ).” : ” );
        }

          Jenni McKinnon

          Hey again Kenda-Ruth,

          By the sounds of it, the code worked and the menu showed up. Now all you have to do is style it with CSS as I mentioned at the end of the article. The menu should appear horizontally (or vertically) instead of as a list at that point. You can also get the exact positioning you desire that way.

          There are many great places online to get info on how to code with CSS and here’s one of them:http://www.w3schools.com/css/

          I see that you’re a monthly subscriber and that means you have access to all our plugins and themes which means you could use our super easy CoursePress Pro plugin to easily create online courses. Setup just takes a few minutes, if that. You’ll also have access to our new Upfront theme that has a drag and drop front end editor, which means no coding — unless you want to add extra CSS or HTML for an ultra specific look. You’ll be able to add and style extra menus in just a few clicks. If you would like more information about them, here it is:

          CoursePress Pro: http://premium.wpmudev.org/project/coursepress-pro/

          Upfront: http://premium.wpmudev.org/projects/category/themes/

          This might be an easier solution for you, but you can check it out yourself to be sure.

          Hope that helps. If you have anymore questions, don’t be afraid to hit the “reply” button. :)

          Cheers,

          Jenni McKinnon

            Kenda-Ruth

            Thanks so much Jenni.

            I had removed the code from my header since I was trying various things and I put it back and now have the vertical list of my menu items.

            I have a ‘top-nav class in the CSS for my main site and am trying that in my style.css.

            So the class name is ‘top-nav’
            The name of the menu location I regstered is ‘Below Header Menu’

            I took this code from the instructions: ‘new-menu’, ‘container_class’ => ‘new_menu_class’ ) ); ?>
            and input my names so it looks like this:
            ‘below-header-menu’, ‘container_top-nav’ => ‘below_header_menu_top-nav’ ) ); ?>

            And then put that in the header.php file. Was that right?
            Was I suppsed ot put ‘header.php’ where it says ‘theme-location’?
            And what about that part where it says ‘container-class’?
            Was I suposed to remove the word ‘container’ ? That sounds like such a silly question to me, but I am just not sure if that word part of the code and not a name–though I guess you had it in quotes which implies it’s something I need to change.

            I just tried it with the word ‘container-‘ removed nad saw no difference upon refreshing.

            I know that my css from my main site will not fit perfectly with my blog, but my hope is that it can be a starting place if I can just get the code that points to the CSS correct. But if the code pointing to it is correct, then I guess I’m lost.

            Kenda-Ruth

            Okay, sorry…I figured it out. I was confused when I saw things inside quotes because I thought that was where I had to add something specific and thus did not realize that theme_location and container_class were showing an equals and pointing to my specifics. Once I figured that it came quickly.

            I’m now fine-tuning–such as getting my nav bar the same length as my header.
            The issue I am having is precise positioning. I got it perfect–just below and touching the header on one page (an e-course page), but then on a different page–dashboard I think–the menu was in the middle of the header. The funny thing is that viewing the pages side-by-side I cannot see that the header is any higher or lower on one page than the other, so why is the menu different? But what would really be best is if I could somehow code it to be stuck to the bottom of the header so that if the header does change slightly on different pages, the menu will move with it.

            Also…when I reduce my window–such as to view others side-by-side–the menu breaks up and shifts location. I guess attaching it with code to the header might at least stop it from moving into or down from the header and it being split onto two levels is not awful for such situations. Though maybe that is something that being responsive would remedy?
            The theme is pretty updated, how do I know if a menu is already defaulted to be responsive in the theme. I don’t really use a cell phone (emergency only) and so I don’t have an experiential understanding of the needs.

    Daniel

    Hi there,
    Great tutorial.
    I have added the custom menu but having a problem with this code.
    ‘new-menu’, ‘container_class’ => ‘new_menu_class’ ) ); ?>
    I am confused where to add this code.
    I tried it in custom.css, header.css, function.css but nothing happened.

    Jukka

    Hi, Great post! I haven’t found any solution for my problem. I want to use same place for my navigation menu but I just want to change that menu on another page. I have made site for sport team and they have first team, ladies, youngsters etc. and they want different menus for each one. I have cloned the front page for every one and now I have to find how I can do their own menus?

    Kenda-Ruth

    Sorry, but I’m still having a problem.
    My menu has the right colors–static and hover. It is the right height and almost the right width–I want it to span the header image and right now it is in a bit on both sides, so I need to figure that out.
    But the biggest problem is its location. It changes. On most pages it is one way and on the e-course pages it is lower–there could be other pages I have not seen where it is also different.
    Maybe I did something wrong when setting the location?
    Here is my css:
    /*1670*/
    .top-nav {
    position: absolute;
    top: -59px;
    line-height: 38px;
    border-right: 0;
    solid #a5dcc2;
    padding: 0;
    margin: 0 auto;
    margin: 0 0;
    margin: 0;
    width: 100%;

    }
    /*
    /*1671*/
    .top-nav ul {
    position: absolute;
    padding: 0;
    margin: 0;
    }
    /*1672*/
    .top-nav ul ul {
    position: absolute;
    top: 0px;
    visibility: hidden;
    padding: 0;
    margin: 0;
    }
    /*1673*/
    .top-nav li {
    float: left;
    position: relative;
    background-color: #b7f5d7;
    list-style: none;
    }
    /*1674*/
    .top-nav ul li a {
    width: 146px;
    display: block;
    height: 38px;
    text-align: center;
    font-size: 150%;
    border-left: 1px solid #bef6db;
    border-right: 1px solid #a5dcc2;
    color: #c91640;
    font-family: Georgia, Verdana, Arial, sans-serif;
    text-decoration: none;
    }
    /*1675*/
    .top-nav ul li:hover {
    background-color: #82bfa2;
    text-decoration: none;
    }
    /*1676*/
    .top-nav ul li:hover ul {
    visibility: visible;
    z-index: 100;
    }
    /*1677*/
    .top-nav ul li:hover ul li a {
    border-bottom: 1px solid #a5dcc2;
    background-color: #b7f5d7;
    text-decoration: none;
    z-index: 100;
    }
    /*1678*/
    .top-nav ul li ul li a:hover {
    background-color: #82bfa2;
    text-decoration: none;
    }
    */

    .top-nav{
    position:absolute;
    top:215px;
    /*left:8%;*/
    padding:0;
    margin:0;
    border-right: 0px solid #A5DCC2;
    margin-left: 5px;
    margin-right: auto;
    }
    .top-nav ul{
    padding:0;
    margin:0;
    line-height:38px;
    }
    .top-nav li{
    position:relative;
    float:left;
    list-style:none;
    background: #B7F5D7;
    /*border-radius:5px;*/
    }
    .top-nav ul ul{
    position:absolute;
    visibility:hidden;
    padding:0;
    margin:0;
    top:30px;
    }
    .top-nav ul li a{
    text-align:center;
    font-family: Georgia, Verdana, Arial, sans-serif;
    font-size:65%;
    color: #C91640;
    width:128px;
    height:38px;
    display:block;
    text-decoration:none;
    border-left: 1px solid #BEF6DB;
    border-right: 1px solid #A5DCC2;
    }
    .top-nav ul li:hover{
    background-color: #82BFA2;
    /*Color of main menu item when hovered over.*/
    text-decoration:none;
    }
    .top-nav ul li:hover ul{
    visibility:visible;
    z-index:1;
    }
    .top-nav ul li:hover ul li a{
    background: #B7F5D7;
    /*Background of dropdown when hovering on main menu item for sub.*/
    z-index:1;
    border-bottom: 1px solid #A5DCC2;
    /*opacity:0.9;*/
    text-decoration:none;
    /*border-radius:5px;*/
    }
    .top-nav ul li ul li a:hover{
    background-color: #82BFA2;
    /*I cannot find what this does—as it does not change the background of the dropped down item when I hover over it.*/
    /*opacity:0.8;*/
    text-decoration:none;
    I have tinkered with top: 0px;

    On my main site where I use this code the top (I assume) is being measured from the top of the website, but in this site it is not working like that. How do I fix this?
    It seems that it is measuring from some other point … fixed point? But what? And Why? How do I get it measured from something that includes or is somehow relative to the header so that it is consistent on all pages? And then, how do I get it to span the entire width of the logo image?
    Also, the drop down menu has spaces between each item…why and can someone help me fix that?

      Kenda-Ruth

      Corrected Code–problem not solved, I’ve just been working so much with testing different code variations, that I had two in there at once.

      /*1670*/
      .top-nav {
      position: absolute;
      top: -59px;
      line-height: 38px;
      border-right: 0;
      solid #a5dcc2;
      padding: 0;
      margin: 0 auto;
      margin: 0 0;
      margin: 0;
      width: 100%;

      }
      /*
      /*1671*/
      .top-nav ul {
      position: absolute;
      padding: 0;
      margin: 0;
      }
      /*1672*/
      .top-nav ul ul {
      position: absolute;
      top: 0px;
      visibility: hidden;
      padding: 0;
      margin: 0;
      }
      /*1673*/
      .top-nav li {
      float: left;
      position: relative;
      background-color: #b7f5d7;
      list-style: none;
      }
      /*1674*/
      .top-nav ul li a {
      width: 146px;
      display: block;
      height: 38px;
      text-align: center;
      font-size: 150%;
      border-left: 1px solid #bef6db;
      border-right: 1px solid #a5dcc2;
      color: #c91640;
      font-family: Georgia, Verdana, Arial, sans-serif;
      text-decoration: none;
      }
      /*1675*/
      .top-nav ul li:hover {
      background-color: #82bfa2;
      text-decoration: none;
      }
      /*1676*/
      .top-nav ul li:hover ul {
      visibility: visible;
      z-index: 100;
      }
      /*1677*/
      .top-nav ul li:hover ul li a {
      border-bottom: 1px solid #a5dcc2;
      background-color: #b7f5d7;
      text-decoration: none;
      z-index: 100;
      }
      /*1678*/
      .top-nav ul li ul li a:hover {
      background-color: #82bfa2;
      text-decoration: none;
      }