I’ve had three clients in as many weeks who came to me with problems with the navigation menus on their websites.
In every one of these three cases, it turned out that they weren’t able to use the built-in WordPress menus, because their themes were outdated. And with WordPress 3.3 due to be released in the next few weeks, theme compatibility is on my mind.
If you’re apprehensive about updating to WordPress 3.3, get a Website Tune-Up and I’ll handle the upgrade for you, as well as making sure you’re completely backed up.
Navigation is important. If your visitors can’t find things on your site, they will go away.
To meet this need, every website should have these two things on (almost) every page:*
- Clear navigation menu(s). The navigation links should have short, obvious names. On my site, for instance, the purple navigation bar that appears just below my header has six links: Home, About, Contact, Store, Free Goodies, and Subscribe. My Store link also has a drop-down menu listing the individual pages describing my products and services.
- A “search this site” form. This can go in the header, in the navigation bar, or in a sidebar, but please put it in a consistent location across your site. And test it once in awhile to make sure it works.
*I say “almost” because there are always exceptions. On a sales page, for instance, you may not want to include a search form because you want the single call-to-action on that page to be clicking the buy button.
Is your theme compatible with WordPress Menus?
These three clients, with different websites, were all telling me that they couldn’t reorder their menu items or add items to their menus. And at first I was baffled, because the WordPress menus are really easy to work with — you just drag and drop to reorder, and adding a page is a one-click operation.
But in each case, the problem quickly became clear when I logged into their WordPress dashboard to find that their theme was not compatible with the built-in WordPress menus.
If you’re not sure if your theme is compatible with the drag-and-drop WordPress menus, visit Appearance –> Menus in your WordPress dashboard. If you see a message telling you that “The current theme does not natively support menus…” then you need a new theme. Period.
Yikes! What if you need a new theme?
The WordPress menus have been drag-and-drop for at least a year now. So any theme that is not compatible with WordPress menus is outdated.
Good theme developers update their themes when WordPress introduces cool new functions like drag-and-drop menus, so it’s possible that you can simply update your theme to the latest version. If you bought a premium theme, updates like this are part of what you paid for. Ask the theme creator how to update your theme.
If your theme doesn’t have a menu-compatible latest version, you seriously need to get a new theme. Seriously. You are missing out on features that will make your WordPress-wrangling easy, quick, and fun. And older code (yes, older than a year is pretty old in Internet time) is more vulnerable to corruption by Internet Bad Guys.
With a Website Tune-Up, I’ll update your theme to the latest version, if one is available (and I’ll also update you to WordPress 3.3 when it comes out).
If you need to switch themes entirely because your old theme is outdated, consider my new Fairy Godmother package, which includes two one-hour consultations with me plus my time to fix, tweak, and test your site.
Got a question about WordPress menus, themes, or wine? Leave a comment!