WordPress boasts an already powerful custom menu system, that can allow you to create functional navigation menus, but what’s missing is pizazz!
Why have an awesome looking theme on your website, but a bland and boring menu system?
Thankfully it is really easy to jazz up your menus through the use of one of the many WordPress menu plugins available.
Most of these plugins will not only help liven up the design but add additional functionality, especially for deeply nested menus, that go two, three or more levels deep.
Let me show you some of the best free and premium menu plugins that can help you spruce up your menus today.
An amazingly feature packed plugin, UberMenu has over 33,000 sales on CodeCanyon, plus an excellent user rating of 4.6 out of 5.
- Latest Posts
- Tabbed Submenus
- And more.
It also provides fly out menus as well as the standard mega menu.
It is responsive and works well with both mouse and touch interfaces. The options allow you to customise the look of the menu with ease with over 50 style settings and a live preview via the WordPress customiser system.
The plugin also has a comprehensive video tutorial library, a decent knowledge-base and a support forum.
Jquery Mega Menu is a free plugin that creates a basic mega menu via widgets. The plugin supports using the themes styles or has 8 different coloured skins if you prefer.
The only downside to the plugin is that it uses the widget areas, so if your theme doesn’t have a widget ready area in the right place, you will need to add one.
If you have a sidebar navigation, you can use this plugins sister plugin: Vertical Mega Menu Widget, which is also free.
Dropdown Menu Widget is a nice little plugin for free. It has 16 colour schemes and can be inserted via widget or code snippet.
My only concern was that their website states the plugin is no longer supported. The WordPress repository said it was updated recently, but the update was very minor. The last proper update was back in early 2013.
Still it functions OK as far as I could tell.
This is a really useful plugin if your theme’s menu isn’t responsive or even if you just want something fancy.
It adds a 3 bar icon that can be clicked or tapped to slide out the menu from the left or right.
It also has enough options to make it feel like part of your theme: colour settings, ability to hide the main menu, menu width, etc.
Quite similar to Responsive Menu, ShiftNav is a free plugin that adds a side slide in menu.
It can be added very easily, with no need to add code or anything. You can hide the standard menu by simply adding in the menu’s CSS ID.
There’s also a Pro version available with skins, icons and more features.
Mega Main Menu boasts a wide selection of features for a mega menu, including multiple columns, embedding widgets, icons, images and recent posts.
As well as those you can make it sticky, add a search bar, even a logo icon. It come with various pre-set skins but you can also change the styling to match your site really easily.
While not my personally preferred menu plugin, Mega Main Menu is a serious contender for a quality navigation experience.
This menu plugin is a solid effort at creating a mega menu. It doesn’t have all the fancy features of Mega Main Menu or UberMenu though. As it is similarly priced this seems a little odd.
The options are limited, though this isn’t always a bad thing, and it comes with a large number of skins.
I also found a rather annoying aspect where if you don’t move your mouse fast enough the menu will open then instantly close.
If it was cheaper, it would be a great little plugin, but for the price I would recommend checking the competition before opening your wallet.
Kodda is a nice little menu plugin. It has a large range of features that you would expect: posts with featured images, columns, media embedding, search bar, and even social network links.
Its options are limited though: it allows you to choose from a variety of fonts and icons, etc., but only has a limited number of skins, and limited styling.
The main drawback with this plugin, is that there is no automatic insertion into the theme, you need to edit code to add it in.
If your current menu system is fine, but you wish to highlight certain content, then you should take a look at Stripe.
It adds a bar to the top of your site (hence the stripe name) that can include links to various posts. It looks great, is fully responsive and can be set to stick to the top of the site.
While it doesn’t allow featured image embeds, mega menus etc, Stripe can be a great way to draw attention to important parts of your site.
Another plugin that creates a mobile only menu, Mobile.NAV integreates well with the default WordPress menu and creates a side slide in menu for tablets and phones.
It allows you to select left or right orientation, add icons, has easy to use styling options and you can even choose whether to use jQuery or CCS3 to animate the menu.
Not strictly a menu plugin, Iconize allows you to add around 2000 icons from 10 different icon packs to your WordPress posts and pages. Importantly it can also allow you to add icons to menu items (and widgets).
This makes it very easy to spruce up what could otherwise be a boring menu.
It also allows you to add different animations and hover effects to the icons, such as rotating, pulsating, shrinking, growing, colour change, etc.
It is a little expensive when compared to a plugin like UberMenu, which adds icons as part of it, but if you only want the icons, and a large amount of variety, then Iconize is a useful plugin.
My Pick of the Bunch
By far the best WordPress menu plugin listed is UberMenu.
The number of features available, along with the polish given it makes it an impressive plugin, especially for the low price of $18 bucks.
The one thing that impressed me most was that it was one of the plugin plugins listed that will work directly with the WordPress menu system. This means that if your theme is well coded, you don’t have to mess about with code snippets, shortcodes or widgets, unless you want the menu in an unusual spot.
The ability to have such an interesting and interactive menu system can only impress your visitors and provide them with a richer experience.
I will certainly be using this plugin in my future projects!