Menu Plugins for WordPress: How to Optimize your Website Navigation

Christina Widner Last updated 08.07.2021
7 Min.
Menu Plugin WordPress
Last updated 08.07.2021

The menu is one of the most important elements of your website. Clear and cleverly thought-out navigation gives your visitors the orientation they need. And you can direct them to where you want them to go. We present five effective menu plugins for WordPress – including mobile menus.

The most important elements of a website are above the fold

Which elements of any website immediately catch your eye when you open the page? As a rule, these are the ones that are placed "above the fold". In other words, they are immediately visible on the screen without you having to scroll down.

This includes the logo and the name of the website, usually a search function and the first prominently placed blog articles. Or your services or products from the shop. Plus: the main menu. With WordPress, you already have a fair of bit freedom when it comes to the design of your menu.

In the backend, you can create as many menus as you like under Design -> Menus and use them in various places on your website. In the menu bar at the top, for example, in the footer or via a widget in the sidebar. In this article, we'll concentrate primarily on the main menu as this is usually where the greatest number of adjustments are required.

In WordPress, you can create these menus and also nest them with different layers if your WordPress theme allows it. Or, depending on the theme, even make entire so-called mega menus out of them. If you need more complex structures or use a theme without an attractive and responsive mobile menu, however, you're bound to reach your limits sooner or later.

As so often is the case with WordPress, the solution is, of course, to use plugins. If you search for the term "menu" in the plugin directory of WordPress, you'll get almost 1,000 hits. But only a few of these are real menu plugins – the word "menu" is simply used so often in other contexts in the WordPress world.

So before you click your way through all the different plugins, we've done the leg work for you. For the guide below, we tested and compared five plugins you can use to optimize your WordPress navigation.

1. Max Mega Menu

  • Development: megamenu
  • Active installations: over 400,000
  • Ratings: 4.5 out of 5 stars from 400 reviews

The WordPress plugin Max Mega Menu is one of the most popular and well-known menu plugins for WordPress. It allows you to turn your menu into a mega menu with just a few clicks. You can then insert any WordPress widgets you like, customize the design of the menu to your website and completely change the way the menu behaves.

Max Mega Menu Plugin WordPress
The Max Mega Menu plugin options

The latter is important, for example, if you only want your menu to switch to a mobile menu at certain pixel widths (aka screen sizes). Or when it comes to the question of what should happen when someone clicks on a submenu heading. What's impressive about Max Mega Menu is that accessibility was thought of from the beginning and thus the menus can also be operated entirely via the keyboard. They follow a logic that makes it possible for people with visual impairments to find their way around the menu via the keyboard and voice controls. This is an important aspect that is unfortunately often neglected in comparable tools.

Max Mega Menu is based on the standard menu system of WordPress. It should therefore be compatible with most WordPress themes. The 400,000 active installations speak for the plugin – as do the 4.5 out of five stars from over 400 reviews in the WordPress plugin directory. If you need even more options, you can activate additional functions with the paid Pro version.

2. WP Mobile Menu – The Mobile-Friendly Responsive Menu

  • Development: Rui Guerreiro
  • Active installations: over 80,000
  • Ratings: 5 out of 5 stars from 200 reviews

In 2021, a responsive website should have been standard for 10 years now. Unfortunately, however, not all theme developers seem to have received the memo. A few themes therefore still show usability problems on mobile devices. If you're affected by this, the plugin WP Mobile Menu can help you (as can switching your theme). WP Mobile Menu allows you to create a mobile menu that your visitors will find visually appealing and functional without any programming knowledge. The functions include:

  • Three menu levels to structure even large menus
  • Great flexibility in the design of the menu
  • Use of Google Fonts
  • Hiding elements when the mobile menu is displayed

The paid pro version of the plugin costs from 77 USD a year or 200 USD for a perpetual license and gives you many options to improve the menu even further. You can implement, for example, a live search, banner spaces (if you have sponsors or advertisers or are involved in affiliate marketing) and animated icons and elements.

WP Mobile Menu Plugin
Example of a menu with the WP Mobile Menu Plugin

The fact the plugin runs on over 80,000 WordPress sites shows the problems that still persists with mobile menus. With over 200 reviews and top marks, "WP Mobile Menu" is one of the most popular solutions to this challenge.

3. Responsive Menu - Create Mobile-Friendly Menu

  • Development: ExpressTech
  • Active installations: over 100,000
  • Ratings: 4.5 out of 5 stars from 300 reviews

A similar plugin is Responsive Menu by ExpressTech. You can also use this plugin to create, optimize and design mobile menus if you want to do so on your WordPress site. If you ever needed it, Responsive Menu theoretically has up to 22,500 different variants you can use to design your mobile menus.

There's also a pro version of this plugin to purchase and, at a price of 30 USD per year, it is considerably cheaper than WP Mobile Menu. In addition to the options for mobile menus - i.e. on smartphones and tablets - it also offers you the option of adapting the menu for the desktop version of your site. Accessibility in the form of controlling the menu via keyboard is, unfortunately, only available in the paid pro version.

Responsive Menu WordPress  Plugin
Example from the plugin Responsive Menu

Responsive Menu even surpasses WP Mobile Menu over 100,000 active installations. The 300 reviews are predominantly positive and give the plugin 4.5 out of five stars.

4. Sticky Menu, Sticky Header (or anything!) on Scroll

  • Development: WebFactory Ltd
  • Active installations: over 100,000
  • Ratings: 5 out of 5 stars from 450 reviews

"Sticky" is the term used to describe an element that's still visible when you've actually already scrolled past it. You'll recognize this feature from advertisements, for example, or from menus on websites. When your users scroll down, the menu remains visible at the top of the screen. Depending on the purpose of the application, this feature is a good idea so your users don't have to waste time scrolling up – especially when your menu plays a central role in how your site is used.

You can implement such a "sticky menu" in many modern themes or sometimes also with a page builder. If you don't have either of these options, one way is to use the plugin Sticky Menu. The tools allows you to pin your menu bar, and many other elements, and make them sticky.

WordPress  Sticky Menu Plugin
Setting up the "sticky" navigation

You should decide first whether such a menu really makes sense for you, however. After all, you want to give your users as much space on their screen for your content or products as possible. A menu bar can take up 80-150 pixels of the screen and can therefore quickly become distracting.

The plugin is easy to use and runs on 100,000 WordPress installations. According to the 450 positive reviews, it works very well overall.

5. WordPress Mega Menu - QuadMenu

  • Development: Mega Menu
  • Active installations: over 20,000
  • Ratings: 4.5 out of 5 stars from 200 reviews

Somewhat less well-known than Max Mega Menu is the plugin WordPress Mega Menu. It does exactly what the name promises: it builds a mega menu in WordPress. This can then be visually adapted to the look and feel of the website, is widget ready and can be easily created using drag-and-drop. In addition, it includes demos for the most important WordPress frameworks and themes including Divi, Avada or OceanWP.

WordPress  Mega Menu Plugin
The plugin's demos including integrations for many different themes and page builders

On the plus side, the developers have given the free version a fair number of functions. Unfortunately, they've also put basics in the paid pro version, e.g. the social menus option. Fortunately, the pro version only costs 15 USD for a single license.

WordPress Mega Menu gets 4.5 out of five stars from 200 ratings from over 20,000 active installations and is thus an alternative to Max Mega Menu.

Conclusion: Menu plugins can improve your website

From this list, you can see that even essential areas of any WordPress website can still be improved and optimized with plugins. the same advice applies to menu plugins as it does to any others: only use plugins if the function is really important and necessary. Every additional plugin makes your website heavier and more complex. If you build your site around the navigation, however, you'll find enough extensions in the WordPress plugin directory to help you.

Before you install any of the tools, you should be aware that many menu plugins are based on a freemium model. This means that you receive a free basic version that you can then expand with paid pro versions, if required. Here it is worth comparing plugins first. One plugin may only offer your desired function for a fee while another may already offer this function free of charge in the basic version. Once you've taken this in, there's nothing standing in the way of you and your ideal menu.

Your questions about WordPress menu plugins

What questions do you have about menu plugins for WordPress? Or can you recommend another plugin? We're looking forward to your comment. Are you interested in WordPress and WooCommerce? Follow RAIDBOXES on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or sign up for our newsletter.

Christina is service editor at BASIC thinking, one of the biggest tech magazines in Germany. Her topics include technology, business, and marketing. For many years she has been working with WordPress at BASIC thinking as well as on her own projects.

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