Using Parent Pages and WordPress Menus Effectively

We recently had a question in the Headway support forum that shed light on an issue that many users new to WordPress are facing: WordPress Menus make it very easy to set up drop-down menus (yay!) but using only WordPress Menus,  breadcrumbs don’t display the correct page hierarchy. What’s a WordPress newbie to do?

Luckily, it’s incredibly simple.

Set up Parent / Child Relationships

WordPress has an option on the Edit / Add New Page screen under the heading Page Attributes. From here, you can easily choose a “Parent” page from a drop-down of published pages. This will change the URL structure of your page, and it will also force breadcrumbs to display the proper page hierarchy!

Don’t Neglect the WordPress Menus

Setting up a Parent/Child relationship on a WordPress page doesn’t have any effect on WordPress Menus, so make sure that you set up your WordPress Menus with the same hierarchy. This can seem like a big ‘ole pain in the arse for those of you who are only setting up menus with the same hierarchy that they previously defined on the Edit/Add New Page screen, but this does offer a lot of flexibility in your menus going forward. If you have a subpage you feel isn’t getting enough attention, you can move that sucker up to the main navigation level, shine a little light on it, and even get a little more attention on the parent page when the users view the page – and the appropriate breadcrumb.

Spread the word!

15 Responses

  1. Any tips for keeping the two in sync? So that dragging/dropping affects the parent/child relationship? Or vice versa? I find it easy to setup once but very hard to maintain over time..

    • @clarklab Clark, not sure I follow your question.  However, you keep things all ‘syne’ as you say in the WordPress menu. If you add a page and want it to show in a particular menu you can.  
      You can also assign each page as you build them to a particular parent here –

      • @GrantGriffiths  I mean if someone changes the parent/child relationship, the menu won’t update itself. Or if someone drag/drops, the parent/child relationship won’t update to reflect it. I know someone can set both up to mirror each other, but those easily fall out of sync.
        I guess I just wish the two features worked a little better in unison. I always prefer to just output the nav structure programmatically, but clients loooove the drag and drop. 
        Until they drag and drop the menu into oblivion and then wonder why their page structure doesn’t match.

        • @GrantGriffiths well, not quite. If a page ‘about’ is published under ‘company’, the page will remain at /company/about regardless of where you place the menu item. Similarly, if no parent/child relationship exists between the two, dragging ‘about’ under ‘company’ won’t create one (outside of the nav, anyway).
          All I’m saying is that it’s still pretty clear than the child/parent attributes and the drag/drop nav system were implemented as if the other didn’t quite exist (when that’s really only true for the latter).
          Just ranting…

        • @clarklab Clark,  We use all of the WordPress menu system with Headway.  If there are any limitations you feel need to be addressed, I would post your request with WordPress.

        • @clarklab  @GrantGriffiths As far as I know there’s not a way to keep it in sync.  
          Maybe someday 🙂

    • Hi Clarklab,

      I don’t think is a good idea to make the two contest synced.

      The first contest (pages and parents) is about the structure of the contents, and it influences the URL and the breadcrumb.

      The second contest (menu) is A GRAPHIC INTERFACE for the user, so it is important that you can create whatever you need to help the user, regardless the content.

      For example, you can put in the menu a link to a pdf file, an external link, duplicate some items, create mega menu and so on. You couldn’t do any of these if content and menu are synced.

  2. People planning to do this retrospectively should pay attention to that point that “This will change the URL structure of your page”. If search engine rankings are important to you, you should be aware that to change a URL is to create a brand new page, and in so doing to lose the PageRank the old page had built up. Using a 301 redirect can help retain some of that link love, by passing some of it on to the new page, but this is not 100% effective. Also, without the 301 redirect, anyone following external links to the redundant URL will be met with a 404 error. The advice you give in this post is useful, but people shouldn’t go making the changes without knowing the implications, IMHO. What do you think?

  3. What if you don’t have that particular page attribute available? It says ‘parent’ but there is no menu next to it but immediately followed by ‘order’!

  4. What if I want to create a page on, and I want that page to be published, but I don’t want it to appear on any menu?

  5. I’m an extreme newbie and need help. I change 3 pages to a different parent. Now my menu can’t find the pages, even after I removed them from the menu and then did “Add Items” to put them back in the menu. What do I need to do?

  6. Hey does anybody know if organising your site using the parent child relationship eliminates the need to use categories as far as seo is concerned.
    My dropdowns are fine and my breadcrumbs are ok

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