Better Menu Management for WordPress
For the most part, menu management in WordPress is largely handled by the themes coded features that display links as a result of posts, pages or other types of navigable elements within your blog. As WordPress grows in its use as a CMS solution, existing menu and navigation methods become quirky and un-natural in following the true essence of a CMS solution. In order to be a true CMS, content and the navigation must not be inner-dependent and should not require even casual manipulation of your sites content structure in order to achieve the navigation structure you desire. With WordPress as either a blog or a CMS solution, navigation for any effective website must (or should) follow the principles of guided navigation and should have a URL structure that is as shallow as possible in order to be truly user friendly. Navigation links should also be able to be controlled in a way that allows for inclusion of keywords in the title, alt tags, and even an option to control which links are followed and which are not by the site manager.
With most themes being published today, methods being used are not befitting of good site navigation or design and can actually be counter productive to your objective. Many themes present the three primary issues that bloggers suffer most in regard to website and menu management; The number one problem with WordPress menus is that they are literally not easily managed, therefore the subject of this post. Subsequently WordPress Menus generally do not follow good principles of guided navigation, and last they require modification to the content structure to achieve even casual structuring. You can examine each of these three issues as we continue below.
Principles of Guided Navigation in WordPress or any CMS Solution
Guided navigation is articulated best by comparing it to good goal planning or task list practices. With any truly effective goal setting process, the goal planner will almost always start out with broader more generalized final goal or end result, and then identify the steps to be broken down into smaller more manageable tasks. One of the primary goals for any website owner should be to get the right information to their visitors as quickly and painlessly as they can. It may also be the goal to lead your client to the products and services quickly enough as to capture the lead or even the sale and in order to do so. Studies indicate that the faster you do this the more likely a person will stay on your site and the more likely they will make a decision to contact your or purchase a product. Well organized sites are not just perceived as being better, they literally are better in terms of effectiveness and user friendliness. With that in mind we can summarize the elements of Guided Navigation as being the identification of the goal, the steps or tasks in which to reach the goal and the methods you use to guide the end user through the tasks as painlessly as possible.
Goals in the case of a website are actually identified by more than just the site owner. Visitors to your site have their own objectives in visiting you and may have their own ideas as to how to find what they are seeking. Because of this, a good site manager will always keep in mind that the entry point into the site will rarely be the front page. When someone Googles a term, locates a page within your site, the point of entry will not likely be the front page. Good guided navigation suggests that if you are conscious of this, your site will at bare minimum feature general topics in the navigation that can then be narrowed down to finder points. A sort of general to specific navigation structure really does make up the ideal example of how guided navigation should work. Lets look at how many themes miss this principle.
Content Structure Limitations With Most WordPress Themes
Nearly every WordPress theme I’ve examined, has menu navigation based on categories and pages with posts being displayed in some manor of “latest” something or other. Although many WordPress themes are exceptionally fine at presenting the aesthetic appeal side of a blog or CMS, they tend to lack heavily in the management of good overall structuring of a CMS type solution. Your menu should not be dependent on the structure of your content. With many themes this is the common way of structuring both navigation and content.
Studies indicate that the more shallow your URL structure is the more likely it will be referred to others and remembered by end users.
The Best WordPress Menu Management Solution
Menu management should be simple, quick, user defined, and most important guided. In order to achieve this there is only one tool available for Guided Navigation, that fits the bill of true menu management and that is our tool the WordPress Menu Creator. The tool or plug-in as its known, is essentially a generator of sorts that renders an XHTML Unordered List of link elements that you can style and modify according to your sites design. The Menu Creator can be applied to most third party themes with little modification. What does the Menu Creator provide? This list can answer that.
- CSS / XHTML Compliant Output
- XHTML Compliant External Window Popup, not the old target=”_blank”
- Supports the use of images as menu items
- Supports additional inline wrappers such as the SPAN tag.
- Supports full drag and drop sortable functionality
- Supports three REL options; external, canonical and nofollow.
- Can be distributed free of charge with your commercial or non commercial themes.
- Has inline integrated tutorials and guides
- Can be used externally from WordPress to control menus in static HTML or even Joomla, Drupal or OpenRealty sites.
- Can support literally thousands of potential menu designs and styles.
- Supports cascading suckerfish type menus including the MooTools and jQuery configurations
- Supports Accordian Type Menus
- The list goes on and on.