Website design is largely about enhancing user experience. While it’s important for a website to be visually appealing, it’s even more important for the website to be efficient in receiving and directing Internet traffic. The numerous search engine optimization measures and SEO-friendly themes that we adopt help to attract and increase the traffic to our website. However, once visitors land on our website, they must be able to move about within it easily to find what they’re looking for. That’s where navigation and WordPress menu plugins plays an important part.
Why a Menu Is Important
A menu is like a map that guides visitors within your website and is therefore important to the success of a site. It can encourage visitors to spend more time on your website, leading to a better conversion rate. In turn, this is a positive signal to search engines.
Often, even though a search leads visitors to your website, they do not stay there long and simply bounce away. This indicates that the navigation on your website may not really be effective in guiding the visitors.
Besides serving a practical function, menus occupy a prime screen space on your web pages. They can make a website visually striking and enhance aesthetics.
Though WordPress has many features that support menu creation, its plugins can take your menu building to a whole new level. These menus can display the important contents of your website right on the homepage, complete with custom links and a featured image.
The following are the best free WordPress menu plugins, as well as a few premium ones.
Free WordPress Menu Plugins
Below are seven free plugins that add features to your WordPress menu. They can be downloaded for free from the WordPress plugin repository, and you may want to check out their features before searching for premium options.
QuadMenu is one of the latest free mega menu plugins for WordPress. This plugin allows you to create mega menus, tabs menus and carrousel menus in a simple and native way.
Developed under the “mobile first” concept this responsive menu allows you fit all screen sizes, but the difference with other alternatives is that the touch screen events have been incorporated natively substantially improving the user experience in mobile devices.
Another key feature that highlights this plugin over other alternatives such as Ubermenu or Max Mega Menu is the variety of available layouts. Thi is the first mega menu that’s all in one solution, as you’ll be able to create an horizontal or vertical menu in desktop devices and collapsible or offcanvas menu in mobile.
The admin panel of QuadMenu have been integrated in such way, that you will hardly notice that you are coming out of the native WordPress operation. The drag & drop user interface allows you to manage all the content of your menu by adding widgets and any other element available in me native WordPress menu metaboxes.
Finally we must stand out the integration with the customizer dashboard that allows you to tweak all menu color scheme or layout settings, and see the effect of that changes in real time.
QuadMenu is a freemium plugin, this means it has a free and a paid version which includes some additional features like the customize integration described before, a login and register form, the tabs and carousel mega menús.More info / Download
Max Mega Menu
When you install Max Mega Menu, it automatically converts your existing menu into a mega menu. With a few clicks, you can totally convert your menu into a touch-friendly, easily accessible menu. The drag-and-drop builder helps in building the menu from your dashboard, and you can see the menu taking shape in real time using the preview feature.
It’s possible to style the mega menu using your theme editor and to alter the menu behavior using native WordPress settings. The plugin offers a wide range of customization options, allowing you to choose colors, fonts, sizes, and more.
It’s also possible to build complex menus with this plugin and, at the same time, add interactive elements, such as maps. Since it can integrate with other plugins, you can include functions like calendars and contact forms.
Usually, the mega menu feature is something you find only in premium or advanced plugins, but it’s available for free in Max Mega Menu. Despite the range of features that it offers, it is lightweight and fast loading.
For additional features like WooCommerce and Easy Digital Downloads support, you may want to upgrade to the paid version.More info / Download
With over a hundred thousand downloads, Responsive Menu is a highly customizable plugin that lets you work from an easy-to-use interface to set up your menu. Besides the usual customization of colors, fonts, spaces, and buttons, you can also customize by adding special elements like logos and icons.
You can enhance menu functions using the customizable integrated search feature and choosing custom menu triggers. If your site happens to be multilingual, you’ll be glad of the support for WPML/Polylang and the RTL feature.
The menu slides into view when the button is clicked. The menu can appear from top or bottom, right or left and can have any background image you choose. This plugin is a good choice if you want to have a vertical menu to maximize screen space for images or videos.
To add features like Awesome Font Icons and button animations, you’ll need to purchase the premium plugin.More info / Download
WP Responsive Menu
To convert your WordPress menu into a cool sliding menu that sizes down perfectly to mobile devices, you should try WP Responsive Menu. All features not necessary for a mobile menu can be hidden. Nevertheless, desktop users get to view the default menu with the full list of options. It integrates seamlessly with the WordPress admin interface and packs a bunch of user-friendly menu building tools.
What makes WP Responsive Menu a standout is the fact that the menu creation process is streamlined. This helps you create a beautiful and functional menu in minutes using the dozens of options available to customize your menu. Additionally, it supports swipe gestures and pinch to zoom feature and integrates well with all platforms. You can make it easy for visitors by adding a simple search function to the menu. The plugin works well with any theme framework, as well as with multisites.
For more features, check out the premium plugin.More info / Download
Nextend Accordion Menu
Accordion menus slide in and out, minimizing and maximizing space and content on a website. Using the Nextend Accordion Menu, you can create multiple instances of the accordion menu and add it to your website using a widget or a shortcode.
The premium version gives you a choice of three new themes and a host of additional features.More info / Download
Admin Menu Editor
Admin Menu Editor does not automatically create menus. It merely helps you manually edit your dashboard menu. Once you install this plugin, it allows you to hide menu items, even from the administrator.
You can create specific menu items, change menu titles, and organize menu items with drag-and-drop ease. Shift menu items to the sub menu levels, and create custom menus that direct to any part of the dashboard or to an external URL. If things go wrong, as the administrator, you can restore the default version.
Moreover, you can set it up as a global plugin in a multisite network. This will enable the network administrator to edit the dashboard for all the sites and for all the users at the same time. To set per role user menu permissions, drag menu items between levels. However, if you want to open menus in a new window, you’ll need to upgrade to the premium version.More info / Download
Nav Menu Roles
In case you want to hide some menu items from some users, Nav Menu Roles will help you do it. You can reveal links in a custom menu only to certain types of users, such as logged-in users or paying members. One important point to note here is that Nav Menu does not restrict access to content. It merely hides or reveals menu items based on user roles. However, you get to select which roles to display by checking the user roles under the display mode.
The plugin is flexible and allows you to customize the functionality by creating additional check boxes.More info / Download
Responsive Select Menu
Sometimes, you may want a Select box on your mobile instead of the normal menu. Responsive Select Menu turns your menu into a Select box for mobile devices. The plugin can work with any WordPress theme that supports WordPress 3 menus.
You can configure the settings from the plugin’s control panel. Specify the width point where your standard menu displays as a Select box and the number of levels that are to appear in the box. Besides, you can also set the text for the first menu item and the character that will prompt the display of the sub-menu items.
This plugin helps to optimize space on the mobile screen and is convenient to use on touch screens for navigation. When you combine it with a mobile-friendly theme, it can act as an SEO booster.More info / Download
The free plugins mentioned above do their job well enough. In case you need some specific or unique feature or a higher level of support, you may want to look through these premium plugins as well.
UberMenu is a popular plugin in the premium segment. With it, you can build complex mega menus that involve many levels.
UberMenu’s outstanding feature is that it lets you add advanced content, like Google Maps, to the menu. You can get blog post grids to display in the menu. Not only that; you can also configure the grid to pull specific content as well as featured images. If you wish, you can align the menu vertically or build multiple UberMenus with independent configurations.
The plugin integrates well with the WordPress 3 menu system, but your theme needs to include an UberMenu-specific style sheet. It includes an intuitive builder that you can use to build responsive grids with multiple columns. By hovering on the content blocks, you can call up the options to customize each block. Thanks to the Live Preview feature, you can watch it come along.
With UberMenu, you can choose to keep it simple or to add even more functionality by integration with third party widgets. The plugin is fully responsive. Anyway, if you feel that the menu is too complex for smaller devices, you may want to use the free mobile menu plugin ShiftNav. This helps to build app-style menus for mobiles.More info / Purchase
The load of customization options that come with Hero Menu helps you build any kind of menu you want. Both the typical Hero menu or a simple drop-down menu are possible with this plugin. Making it easy for you to customize are the 650 Google fonts, 60 color presets, and a custom background. Menu building is easy with a drag-and-drop editor as well.
You can assign icons to menu items, picking from the 270+ free icons. What’s sure to delight you if you’re managing an e-commerce store is this plugin’s complete integration with WooCommerce. It even allows you to display product thumbnail images and prices in the menu. Besides, all regular content like text, forms, and maps can also find their place in the menu.
The sticky menu is always visible to readers, and the menu will automatically scale down to smaller devices. You can hide menu items depending on user roles to keep some content visible only to logged-in users. A recent update adds an eyebrow menu, a feature that adds a little text and a login link in a thin strip at the very top.More info / Purchase
WP Mega Menu Pro
If you’re finding it hard to choose between vertical and horizontal menus, perhaps WP Mega Menu Pro is for you. This plugin lets you build menus both ways. Besides, it bundles 14 templates to let you get started. It also includes a drag-and-drop visual builder.
The 100+ customization options will prove useful if you have no coding skills. They allow you to set triggers and transition effects. The plugin has a functionality for login, search, and WooCommerce Cart Total as well as 1,200+ menu icons. The plugin is compatible with WooCommerce, most WordPress themes, and multisites. Moreover, it’s fully responsive, touch-friendly, and translation-ready.More info / Purchase
Slick Menu is a good choice to build feature-rich complex mega menus. You can customize each level in the menu using colors, background, images, overlays, and patterns. Slick Menu uses the standard WordPress Customizer to help you monitor your menu building in the live preview mode even as it happens. What’s special with this plugin is the unique feature that allows you to add videos to the menu items.
That’s not all, though. It also offers amazing animation options that include 14 3D appearance animations, 45 menu item animations, and covering and overlapping slide animations. To focus attention on any particular menu item, you can apply filters to your content items. Besides a few premium extensions, the plugin also comes with two free extensions—one to add social network icons and another to duplicate the menus you create.More info / Purchase
WP Floating Menu Pro
WP Floating Menu Pro is the only plugin in this list that’s designed specially for single-page menus. The plugin helps build two types of menus: single-page menu and sticky menu. Typically, one-page websites are divided into many sections, each of which has content that loosely corresponds to a page. When visitors click on a menu item, they will automatically reach that section instead of another page.
Thirteen templates are included to get you started with building and customizing your menu. Seven menu positions are available, which can be placed on any of the four sides of the screen. You can create any number of menus for your website and configure the menu for each page independently. Three different menu icon sets are available, and you can upload your own custom icons as well.More info / Purchase
More Plugin Options
If you’ve reached this point and you’re still searching for suitable options, check out Mega Main Menu and Superfly. Mega Main Menu is highly customizable and can place advanced content in dropdowns. Superfly offers nearly endless options and lets you build a responsive vertical mega menu with full support for touch screens, shortcodes, and custom HTML.
Mega menus are a great option if you want to display a load of information to visitors without needing to scroll down. Often, they remain off screen and appear only on hover. This maximizes screen space for other valuable content. They slide in and out at the click of a button, making way for attractive full screen images and videos on the homepage.
All the WordPress Menu plugins in this list carry out the same basic function—helping to direct your users to the pages they want. It’s the additional features that distinguish them from one another. These plugins can handle anything from complex multilevel feature-rich menus to simple dropdown menus.
To select the one that’s a best fit for your website, you’ll have to examine not only the features that each plugin offers but also your budget and the level of support you need. If your site is content-heavy, a well-designed mega menu may be a good choice. However, if you want to maximize space, vertical menus that hide behind a toggle may be a better choice. The unique requirements of your website will determine the best option.