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How to Add Custom Items to Specific WordPress Menus

Do you want to add custom items to specific WordPress menus?

WordPress menus are navigational menus that are displayed at the top of most websites. Sometimes you may want to display custom items other than plain links in navigation menus.

In this article, we’ll show you how to easily add custom items to specific WordPress menus.

Why Add Custom Items to WordPress Menus

WordPress menus are navigational links usually displayed at the top of a website. On mobile devices, they are often displayed when you tap a menu icon.

example navigational menu

Since this is a prominent location in a typical WordPress website layout, it’s smart to take advantage of it by placing custom items other than plain links in the menu.

For instance, some users may want to display the search form like we do at WPBeginner. A membership website may want to show login and logout links, or you may want to add icons or images to your menu.

By default, navigation menus are designed to display plain text links. However, you can still place custom items in WordPress menus.

That being said, let’s take a look at how you can add custom items to specific menus in WordPress while keeping the rest of your navigation menu intact.

Adding Custom Items to Specific Navigation Menus in WordPress

There are different ways to add custom items to a navigation menu in WordPress. It depends on what type of custom item you are trying to add.

We’ll show you some of the most common examples. You’ll need to use plugins for some of them, while others will require you to add some code.

If you want to skip ahead to a certain section, you can use this table of contents:

Let’s get started.

Normally, you can add a search form to your WordPress sidebar by using the default Search widget or block. However, there is no way to add search to the navigation menu by default.

Some WordPress themes have an option to add a search box to your main menu area. But if yours doesn’t, you can use the method below.

For this, you need to install and activate the SearchWP Modal Search Form plugin. For more details, see our step by step guide on how to install a WordPress plugin.

This plugin is an addon for SearchWP, which is the best WordPress search plugin on the market.

The addon is free and will work with default WordPress search as well. However, we recommend using it with SearchWP if you want to improve your WordPress search.

After installing the addon, simply head over to the Appearance » Menus page. Under the ‘Add menu items’ column, click on the ‘SearchWP Modal Search Forms’ tab to expand it.

Add search to menu

Select your search engine and then click on the Add to menu button.

The plugin will add the search to your navigation menu. Click on the ‘Modal search form’ under your menu items to expand it and change the label to Search or anything else you want.

Change search label

Don’t forget to click on the Save Menu button to store your changes.

You can now visit your website to see Search added to your navigation menu. Clicking on it will open the search form in a lightbox popup.

Search in navigation menu

For more details, see our guide on how to add a search button to a WordPress menu.

Another popular custom item that users often want to add to a specific menu is an image or an icon.

For that, you’ll need to install and activate the Menu Image Icon plugin. For more details, see our step by step guide on how to install a WordPress plugin.

Upon activation, go to the Appearance » Menus page and move your mouse over the menu item where you want to display an icon or image.

Menu Image button

Click on the blue Menu Image button to continue.

This will bring up a popup. From here, you can choose an image or icon to be displayed with that menu item.

Choose image or icon

You can also choose the position of the image or icon with respect to the menu item. For example, you can display the icon right before the menu item like in our example below, or even hide the menu title so only the icon shows.

Don’t forget to click on the Save changes button to store your settings. Repeat the process if you need to add icons or images to other menu items.

After that, you can visit your website to see the custom image or icon in specific menu items.

Menu icons

For more detailed instructions, see our tutorial on how to add images in WordPress menus.

If you are using a WordPress membership plugin or running an online store, then you may want to allow users to easily log in to their accounts.

By default, WordPress doesn’t come with an easy way to display login and logout links in navigation menus.

We’ll show you how to add them by using a plugin or by using code snippet.

1. Add Login / Logout Links to Menus using a Plugin

This method is easier and recommended for all users.

First, you need to install and activate the Login or Logout Menu Item plugin. After that, you need to visit the Appearance » Menu page and click on the Login/Logout tab to expand it.

Add login or logout link to specific WordPress menu

From here, you need to select ‘Log in|Log Out’ item and click on the Add to Menu button.

Don’t forget to click on the Save Menu button to store your changes. You can now visit your website to see your custom login logout link in action.

Login and Logout link preview

The link will dynamically change to login or log out depending on a user’s login status.

Learn more in our tutorial on how to add login and logout links in WordPress menus.

2. Add Login / Logout Links using Custom Code

This method requires you to add code to your WordPress website. If you haven’t done this before, then take a look at our guide on how to add custom code in WordPress.

First, you need to find out the name that your WordPress theme uses for the specific navigation menu location.

The easiest way to find this is by visiting the Appearance » Menus page and taking your mouse over to the menu locations area.

Find menu location name

Right-click to select Inspect tool and then you’ll see the location name in the source code below. For instance, our demo theme uses primary, footer, and top-bar-menu.

Note the name used for your target location where you want to display the login / logout link.

Next, you need to add the following code to your theme’s functions.php file or a site-specific plugin.

add_filter( 'wp_nav_menu_items', 'add_loginout_link', 10, 2 );
function add_loginout_link( $items, $args ) {
    if (is_user_logged_in() && $args->theme_location == 'primary') {
        $items .= '<li><a href="'. wp_logout_url() .'">Log Out</a></li>';
    }
    elseif (!is_user_logged_in() && $args->theme_location == 'primary') {
        $items .= '<li><a href="'. site_url('wp-login.php') .'">Log In</a></li>';
    }
    return $items;
}

After that, you can visit your website and you’ll see the login our log out link in your navigation menu.

Login link added via custom code

This dynamic link will automatically switch to login or logout based on user’s login status.

What if you just wanted to add text and not a link to your navigation menu?

There are two ways you can do that.

1. Add Custom Text to a Specific Menu (Easy Way)

Simply go to the Appearance » Menus page and add a custom link with # sign as the URL, and the text you want to display as your Link Text.

Add custom text with dummy link

Click on the Add to Menu button to continue.

WordPress will add your custom text as a menu item in the left column. Now, click to expand it and delete the # sign.

Remove link

Don’t forget to click on the Save Menu button and preview your website. You’ll notice your custom text appear in the navigation menu.

It is still a link, but clicking on it doesn’t do anything for the user.

custom text in navigation menu

2. Add Custom Text to a Navigation Menu Using Code

For this method, you’ll add a code snippet to your website. First, you’ll need to find out the name of your theme location as described above in the login/logout link section.

After that, you need to add the following code to theme’s functions.php file or a site-specific plugin.

add_filter( 'wp_nav_menu_items', 'your_custom_menu_item', 10, 2 );
function your_custom_menu_item ( $items, $args ) {
    if ( $args->theme_location == 'primary') {
        $items .= '<li><a title="">Custom Text</a></li>';
    }
    return $items;
}

Simply replace where it says ‘Custom Text’ with your own text.

You can now save your changes and visit your website to see your custom text added at the end of your navigation menu.

This code method may come in handy if you want to programmatically add dynamic elements to specific WordPress menu.

Do you want to display the current date inside a navigation menu in WordPress? This trick comes in handy if you run a frequently updated blog or a news website.

Simply add the following code to your theme’s functions.php file or a site-specific plugin.

add_filter('wp_nav_menu_items','add_todaysdate_in_menu', 10, 2);
function add_todaysdate_in_menu( $items, $args ) {
    if( $args->theme_location == 'primary')  {
         
        $todaysdate = date('l jS F Y');
        $items .=  '<li><a>' . $todaysdate .  '</a></li>';
 
    }
    return $items;
}

Don’t forget to replace ‘primary’ with your menu’s location.

You can now visit your website to see the current date in your WordPress menu.

Current date in WordPress menu

You can also change the date format to your own liking. See our tutorial on how to change the date and time format in WordPress.

Want to add a little more personalization to your navigation menu? You can greet logged in users by their name in your navigation menu.

First, you’ll need to add the following code to your theme’s functions.php file or a site-specific plugin.

add_filter( 'wp_nav_menu_objects', 'username_in_menu_items' );
function username_in_menu_items( $menu_items ) {
    foreach ( $menu_items as $menu_item ) {
        if ( strpos($menu_item->title, '#profile_name#') !== false) {
			 if ( is_user_logged_in() )     {
				$current_user = wp_get_current_user();
				 $user_public_name = $current_user->display_name;
                $menu_item->title =  str_replace("#profile_name#",  " Hey, ". $user_public_name, $menu_item->title . "!");
			 } else { 
			 $menu_item->title =  str_replace("#profile_name#",  " Welcome!", $menu_item->title . "!");
			 }
        }
    }

    return $menu_items;
} 

This code first checks if you have added a menu item with #profile_name# as link text. After that, it replaces that menu item with logged in user’s name or a generic greeting for non-logged in users.

Next, you need to go to Appearance » Menus page and add a new custom link with the #profile_name# as Link text.

Add special tag to a menu item

Don’t forget to click on Save Menu button to store your changes. After that, you can visit your website to see the logged-in user’s name in the WordPress menu.

User name in WordPress navigation menu

So far we have shown you how to add different types of custom items to specific WordPress menus. However, sometimes you may need to dynamically show different menu items to users.

For instance, you may want to show a menu only to logged in users. Another scenario is when you want the menu to change based on what page the user is viewing.

This method allows you to create several menus and only display them when certain conditions are matched.

First, you need to install and activate the Conditional Menus plugin. For more details, see our step by step guide on how to install a WordPress plugin.

Upon activation, you need to visit Appearance » Menus page. From here you need to create a new menu that you want to display. For instance, in this example we created a new menu for logged in users only.

Create new menu

After you have created the menu, switch to the Manage Locations tab.

From here, you need to click on the Conditional Menus link next to the menu location.

Add a conditional menu

After that, you need to select the menu you created earlier from the drop down menu.

Then, click on the ‘+ Conditions’ button to continue.

Select menu you want to show

This will bring up a popup window.

From here, you can select the conditions that need to be met in order to display this menu.

Choose condtions

The plugin offers a bunch of conditions to choose from. For instance you can show the menu based on specific page, category, post type, taxonomy, and more.

You can also show different menus based on user roles and logged in status. For instance, you can show a different menu to existing members on a membership website.

We hope this article helped you learn how to add custom items to specific WordPress menus. You may also want to see our guide on how to choose the best web design software, or our expert comparison of the best live chat software for small business.

If you liked this article, then please subscribe to our YouTube Channel for WordPress video tutorials. You can also find us on Twitter and Facebook.


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