Lingo shmingo and yet one cannot deny that if we all take a moment to speak the same language things will go that much more smoothly. WordPress clients often call items in the menu “categories,” which is understandable. The problem is that the word category has a very specific use in the WordPress Universe.
The main menu/main navigation and menus in general
You know those items at the top of the site with lots (or just a few) links to other places around the site? That is called a Menu. The main one that shows in the header on every single page of the website is called the Main Navigation. But it is made of a WordPress Menu. (Tip: WordPress Menus are created and edited in the Dashboard at Appearance > Menus.)
WordPress has the most easy-to-use menu system. You can create countless menus and stick them in different places around the site. You can also create one menu and use it in multiple places.
Here are the main places where you would use WordPress menus:
- One main menu in the header
- Possibly a second minor menu in the header
- A list of useful links in the sidebars
- A list of links in the footer
Tip: Menus are entered in the sidebars and footer using Widgets (stay with me! you can do it!).
Got it? So the main menu in the header is called a Main Menu or a Main Navigation.
Pages are static items on the site like the About or Contact page.
Pages can be related to each other as parents and siblings.
For example, under the About page can be Our Staff and a Mission Statement. About is the Mama Page and Our Staff and Mission Statement are the beautiful children. What a lovely little family!
In order to give the WordPress website owner ultimate control (evil laugh) relating one page to another within the page editor (see screenshot just above) does not automatically make it show up that way in the main navigation. It makes sense that you very possibly will choose to have Mission Statement show under About in the drop down under About but it’s totally up to you. (Tip: Again, this is edited under Appearance > Menus.)
Categories. OK, you ready?
Every WordPress site comes with blog functionality built in. This can be used as a standard blog or as a news section or, with a creative web developer, it might be used for other things as well.
Posts are individual pieces in a blog. They are time marked and they can be organized by category.
For example, this post which I’m writing right now is about WordPress and so I am going to put it in two categories: WordPress.com and WordPress.org. Check it out:
These are categories I created on my site because I know I write enough about WordPress that it warrants a category (in my case, two). You will create whichever categories you need.
And check it out, at the top of this post you can see that WordPress.com is a link. Click on it and you’ll get to all my content on WordPress.com.
Categories are general areas of interest covered on your site. You create them as needed and categorize your posts before publishing them.
How do categories connect with menus?
It’s totally possible there will be a category that is of particular importance to you and in that case you may choose to put it in your main navigation. On my site, for example, Photography is a category in my main navigation and if you click on it, you get to a mini blog, a list of all the posts I published categorized as “Photography.”
And if you click on it, you get to this URL: https://deena.co/category/photography/.
An item in a WordPress menu is not necessarily a category
All this is to say, dear WordPress client, that items in the menu are not (necessarily) categories and are not called categories. There might be categories in the menu but a WordPress menu can be made up of anything: page, posts, custom post types, external links, categories or tags.
Bottom line: Categories can be in the main menu of your site but it isn’t necessary. The main items in a menu are usually pages though they can be anything.
So what do you call the different levels of a main navigation?
Because a WordPress menu can have any kind of item in them, each item is called a link. Here, let’s practice:
OK. And as far as the levels, there is the top level and then there are either the second and third levels or the first dropdown and the second dropdown. Etc. etc.
That’s it. Thank you for your courtesy towards WordPress nerds.
A Wordy WordPresser