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How To Set a Fallback for Your WordPress Menu

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WorddPress 3 has been out for a long time now yet there are still TONS of people who have no idea how to use the new WordPress custom menu admin. For this reason as a theme developer it’s important to show a fallback for your menu so your buyers/theme users don’t think that something is messed up with your theme. Below I will show you what I think is the ideal solution, creating a custom fallback with a link to “wp-admin/nav-menus.php” so when the user installs the theme they can click on the link and go set up their menu right away.

Step 1: Create The Fallback Function

First thing we are going to do is add a new function to your functions.php file (or whatever file you use to register your custom menu areas). Add the following code, preferably right after the register_nav_menu function for better usability. This function will grab the new file that you will create in step 2 with the code for your default/fallback menu.

// Menu Fallback
function wpex_default_menu() {
    get_template_part( 'template-parts/default-menu.php' );

Step 2: Set Up Your Default/Fallback Menu

Now you need to create the file that the function added previously will grab and display when a menu isn’t defined in the WP admin for your menu area.

a. Create a new folder called “template-parts” in your theme folder if one doesn’t exist already

b. Create a new file called default-menu.php

3. Insert your code for your fallback menu in this file (make sure it matches the code used on your site so it looks nice). Below is a basic example:

    <li><a href="<?php echo admin_url('nav-menus.php'); ?>"><?php esc_html_e( 'Set Up Your Menu', 'text_domain' ); ?></a></li>

Step 3: Call Your Fallback function in your menu

Now you’ll want to go back to your “wp_nav_menu” function and add your fallback as a part of the array and call the function  you created in step one, such as the example below:

//define main navigation
wp_nav_menu( array(
    'theme_location' => 'main',
    'fallback_cb'    => 'wpex_default_menu',
) ); ?>
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  1. martha dolan

    So this may be a dumb question but I am struggling with a responsive template that does not have a setting to choose which menu is the mobile menu. The main menu that it is defaulting to is huge and unreasonable to use for this purpose. How would I go about setting a menu to be the default mobile menu?

    • AJ Clarke

      Sorry for the delay Martha…if you still need some help with this I suggest you check out, there are some free plugins on there for mobile menus.

  2. Christos Kavousanos

    Nice tip AJ! Just one small suggestion. Since many plugins may change the default administration folder name, I would replace php bloginfo(‘url’); ?>/wp-admin/nav-menus.php with admin_url(‘nav-menus.php’)

    • AJ Clarke

      Definitely, this is an older post, I will update it 😉

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