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Multi-part Post Navigation in WordPress Using Menu Items



Navigating through multi-part articles is a crucial aspect of user experience in online content consumption. These articles, typically divided into series or parts, offer extensive insights on a topic. Effective navigation ensures readers can effortlessly transition between different segments, enhancing their engagement and comprehension. This post will dive into creating a user-friendly navigation system for multi-part articles on WordPress. Our method combines the functionality of WordPress menus with custom PHP functions to provide a seamless browsing experience.

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Brief Overview of the Importance of Navigation in Multi-part Articles

Navigation plays a pivotal role in the success of multi-part articles. When readers encounter a series segment, the ability to easily move to other parts is essential. This is not just about providing convenience; it’s about sustaining the reader’s interest and engagement throughout the series. Inadequate navigation can lead to confusion and frustration, potentially increasing bounce rates and diminishing reader involvement. Implementing effective navigation in multi-part posts on WordPress is thus fundamental to keeping your audience engaged and eager to explore the entire series.

Explanation of the Approach: Using a WordPress Menu and PHP Functions

Our approach to enhancing multi-part article navigation in WordPress involves a two-pronged strategy: utilizing WordPress menus and integrating custom PHP functions. Of course, you can add all the links manually to the appropriate articles. However, this gets complicated if you have dozens of articles in the series, and each edit becomes tedious. So, we will automate the process. WordPress menus are known for their ease of use and adaptability, allowing site owners to organize links to various parts of their content effortlessly. By creating a specialized menu for the multi-part series, we set up a straightforward and consistent pathway for readers to follow.

The integration of custom PHP functions, added to the functions.php file of your WordPress child theme, takes this a step further. These functions enable us to dynamically generate ‘previous’ and ‘next’ navigation links, connecting each part of the series logically and intuitively. This method enhances the user experience and ensures your content is organized and reader-friendly.

Understanding Multi-part Post Navigation in WordPress

Multi-part articles have become a staple in digital content, especially for comprehensive topics or extended storytelling. WordPress, as a versatile content management system, offers an ideal platform for creating and managing these multi-part narratives. Understanding the structure and significance of multi-part articles is critical to effectively implementing multi-part post navigation in WordPress.

Definition and Significance of Multi-part Articles

Multi-part articles are essentially a series of connected posts or pages that collectively cover a broader subject. Each part focuses on a specific aspect of the topic, making the information more digestible for the reader. This format is particularly beneficial for extensive guides, long-form storytelling, tutorials, and series that require a detailed, chapter-by-chapter approach.

The significance of multi-part articles lies in their ability to keep the audience engaged over a more extended period. They encourage return visits, as readers often return to continue with subsequent parts. Additionally, this format can enhance SEO efforts by targeting a range of related keywords and phrases, including those related to multi-part post navigation in WordPress.

Common Challenges in Navigating Multi-part Content

While multi-part articles offer many advantages, they also present unique navigation challenges. Readers might find it difficult to locate different parts of the series or be unaware that the article is part of a more extensive series. This can lead to a fragmented reading experience, potentially increasing bounce rates and reducing time spent on the site.

The main challenges include:

  1. Lack of Visibility: If subsequent parts of the series are not immediately visible or easily accessible, readers may not realize there is more content to explore.
  2. Complex Navigation: Overly complex or unintuitive navigation can discourage readers from moving through the series.
  3. Inconsistent Linking: Inconsistencies in how parts are linked can confuse readers, making it hard to follow the series in its intended order.

Addressing these challenges is crucial in enhancing the user experience. Implementing effective multi-part post navigation in WordPress is a strategic way to overcome these hurdles, ensuring readers can smoothly move from one part of the series to the next.

Preparing Your WordPress Site

Before diving into the specifics of implementing multi-part post navigation in WordPress, ensuring that your WordPress site is appropriately set up and ready is essential. This preparation involves verifying that you have a functional WordPress installation and, importantly, using a child theme. A child theme is crucial for customizations, especially when adding custom PHP code. It is a WordPress theme that inherits the functionality and styling of the parent theme. Using a child theme is essential for implementing custom navigation functions because it allows you to make changes without losing them during theme updates.

Creating a Menu for Multi-part Post Navigation in WordPress

Creating a well-organized menu for multi-part articles is critical in enhancing multi-part post navigation in WordPress. A dedicated menu for your series not only aids in navigation but also improves user engagement by making your content more accessible and easier to follow.

Step-by-Step Guide to Creating a New Menu in WordPress

Accessing the WordPress Menu Interface

  1. Login: Start by logging into the admin area of your WordPress website.
  2. Navigate to the Menus: Go to Appearance > Menus in your WordPress dashboard. This is where you manage and create new menus for your website.
  3. Create a New Menu: Click the ‘Create a new menu’ link. Give your new menu a name that reflects its purpose, like “Article Series” or “Guide Chapters,” then click the ‘Create Menu’ button.

Adding Articles to Your Menu

  1. Select Articles: On the left-hand side of the menu editor, you’ll see boxes that list your site’s content, like Posts, Pages, and Categories. Choose the posts that are part of your multi-part series.
  2. Add to the Menu: Select the posts, then click the ‘Add to Menu’ button. These posts will now appear in the menu structure on the right-hand side.
  3. Custom Links for External Content: If any part of your series is hosted elsewhere, use the ‘Custom Links’ panel to add the URL and link text, then add it to your menu.

Organizing Menu Items for Multi-part Articles

  1. Arrange in Order: Drag and drop the menu items to arrange them in the order that the articles should be read. This order is crucial for maintaining your series’s narrative or logical flow.
  2. Don’t Nest Items Under a Main Category: Our approach doesn’t include nested menu items. You should consider changing the code to add to the ‘functions.php’ file if you need them.

Best Practices for Naming and Structuring Your Multi-part Menu

  • Clear and Descriptive Titles: Ensure each menu item clearly describes the part it links to. Avoid vague titles; use descriptive or numbered titles like “Part 1: Introduction,” “Part 2: Setting Up,” and similar.
  • Consistency is Key: Maintain a consistent naming convention across all parts of your series. This helps users understand the sequence and context of the content.
  • Responsive Design Considerations: Remember that your menu must also work well on mobile devices. Test to see how it looks and functions on smaller screens.

Introduction to PHP in WordPress

In WordPress, PHP plays a crucial role, especially when customizing and enhancing features like multi-part post navigation in WordPress. PHP, as a server-side language, is the backbone of WordPress, powering the functionality of themes and plugins. Understanding the basics of PHP and its application in WordPress themes is essential for anyone looking to add custom features to their WordPress site.

Basic Understanding of PHP in WordPress Themes

WordPress uses PHP to retrieve data from its database and generate page content. It’s embedded within the HTML of WordPress theme files, enabling dynamic interactions and functionalities. When a visitor accesses your WordPress site, PHP code is executed on the server to display the requested page. This process is fundamental to how WordPress operates, from showing posts to customizing user experiences, such as implementing multi-part post navigation.

The Role of functions.php in a WordPress Child Theme

The functions.php file in a WordPress theme is like the brain behind the theme’s functionalities. It’s where you can add custom PHP code to extend or modify WordPress’s default behaviors. Here’s why it’s crucial:

  1. Adding Custom Functions: The functions.php file allows you to write new functions or modify existing WordPress functions. This capability is essential for implementing features like custom navigation links for multi-part articles.
  2. Safeguarding Customizations: By placing your custom PHP code in the functions.php file of a child theme, you ensure that your customizations are not overwritten when the parent theme is updated. This maintains the integrity of your multi-part post navigation in WordPress, even after theme updates.
  3. Hooking Into WordPress Core: The functions.php file enables you to hook into WordPress core functions using actions and filters. This means you can execute your custom code at specific points during the WordPress process, such as adding extra widgets or modifying post output, which is crucial for effective multi-part navigation.

Writing the PHP Function for Multi-part Post Navigation in WordPress

A custom PHP function for navigation links is pivotal in enhancing multi-part post navigation in WordPress. This function is designed to dynamically generate links that allow users to navigate through the parts of a multi-part article series easily. Understanding how to craft and integrate this function into your WordPress theme is crucial for a seamless user experience.

Overview of the PHP Function’s Purpose and Functionality

The primary purpose of the PHP function for navigation links is to create a user-friendly way for readers to move between different parts of a multi-part series. This function dynamically generates ‘Previous’ and ‘Next’ navigation links based on the order of articles in your WordPress menu. Doing this gives readers a logical and intuitive path, enhancing their engagement and ensuring they can easily follow the entire series.

Understanding the Logic Behind the Function

The function operates by identifying the current post and determining which posts in the series come before and after it. Here’s a simplified breakdown of its logic:

  1. Identify Current Post: The function first determines the current post the reader is viewing.
  2. Find Neighboring Posts: It then locates the previous and next posts in the series based on the order you’ve set in your WordPress menu.
  3. Generate Navigation Links: Finally, the function creates navigation links to these neighboring posts, labeled as ‘Previous’ and ‘Next.’

This logical flow ensures readers have a clear path through your multi-part content, streamlining their navigation experience.

Detailed Walkthrough of Adding the PHP Function of Multi-part Post Navigation in WordPress

Creating a PHP function to facilitate multi-part post navigation in WordPress involves several steps, each crucial for the overall functionality. This detailed walkthrough will guide you through setting up the function in your child theme’s functions.php file to fetch the previous and next links and customize the output of these navigation links.

Setting Up the Function in functions.php

  1. Open Your Child Theme’s functions.php File: In your WordPress Dahsboard, on the left menu bar, hover over [Appearance], then click on [Theme File Editor].
    In the right “Theme files” menu, click on ‘functions.php’.
  2. Add a New Function: Add the function below at the end of the functions.php file.
  3. Update ‘functions.php’: Click [Update File].
  4. Purge Caches: Purge all your website caches in your configuration.

Function to Add

Note: You need to change the menu name in the function:

function insert_custom_navigation($content)

From ‘Sidebar Menu’ to the name of the menu you created.
The code enhances a WordPress post by inserting custom navigation links (based on a specific menu) after the first paragraph and at the end of the post content. This helps readers navigate through a series of related posts more easily.

// POST NAVIGATION START =============================================
function build_custom_post_navigation($current_post_id, $menu_items) {
    $current_key = null;
    $menu_count = count($menu_items);

    // Find the current menu item
    foreach ($menu_items as $key => $menu_item) {
        if ('post' === get_post_type($menu_item->object_id) && $menu_item->object_id == $current_post_id) {
            $current_key = $key;

    // Initialize the navigation markup
    $navigation = '';

    if ($current_key !== null) {
        // Look for the previous post skipping categories
        for ($i = $current_key - 1; $i >= 0; $i--) {
            if ('post' === get_post_type($menu_items[$i]->object_id)) {
                $prev_item = $menu_items[$i];

        // Look for the next post, skipping categories
        for ($i = $current_key + 1; $i < $menu_count; $i++) {
            if ('post' === get_post_type($menu_items[$i]->object_id)) {
                $next_item = $menu_items[$i];

        // Construct the navigation markup
        $navigation .= '<p>';
        $navigation .= 'The current article is "' . esc_html($menu_items[$current_key]->title) . '" of our <a href="https://www.yourdomain.com/your-post-category/first-post-in-the-series">Multi-part Post</a>.';

        // If there's a previous or next item, add them on a new line
        if (isset($prev_item) || isset($next_item)) {
            $navigation .= '<br>'; // Line break for the second line

            // Previous Post Link
            if (isset($prev_item)) {
                $navigation .= 'Previous Article: <a href="' . esc_url($prev_item->url) . '">' . esc_html($prev_item->title) . '</a>';

            // If both previous and next items are available, add a separator
            if (isset($prev_item) && isset($next_item)) {
                $navigation .= '. ';

            // Next Post Link
            if (isset($next_item)) {
                $navigation .= 'Next Article: <a href="' . esc_url($next_item->url) . '">' . esc_html($next_item->title) . '</a>';

        $navigation .= '</p>'; // Close the paragraph

    return $navigation;

function insert_custom_navigation($content) {
    if (!is_singular('post')) {
        // Only modify content on single post pages
        return $content;

    // Get the menu name
    $menu_name = 'Sidebar Menu'; // Replace with your actual menu name

    // Get the menu object
    $menu = wp_get_nav_menu_object($menu_name);
    if (!$menu) {
        // Menu not found, return the content unchanged
        return $content;

    // Get the menu items
    $menu_items = wp_get_nav_menu_items($menu->term_id);

    // Build the navigation
    $navigation = build_custom_post_navigation(get_the_ID(), $menu_items);

    // Split the content to insert navigation after the first paragraph
    $paragraphs = explode('</p>', $content);
    if (count($paragraphs) > 1) {
        // Insert navigation after the first paragraph
        $paragraphs[0] .= '</p>' . $navigation;
        // Reassemble the paragraphs
        $content = implode('</p>', $paragraphs);
        // Append navigation at the end of the content
        $content .= $navigation;

    return $content;

add_filter('the_content', 'insert_custom_navigation');
// POST NAVIGATION END =============================================

Function Code Elaboration

Let’s break down each part of the function:

1. Function build_custom_post_navigation:

  • Parameters:
  • $current_post_id: The ID of the current post.
  • $menu_items: An array of menu items (typically retrieved from a WordPress menu).
  • Process:
    • Finds the current post in the menu items using a loop.
    • Initializes an empty string for the navigation markup.
    • If the current post is found in the menu:
      • Looks for the previous post by iterating backward through the menu items.
      • Looks for the next post by iterating forward.
      • Constructs navigation markup with information about the current, previous, and next posts. It uses esc_html to escape the title for safe HTML output and esc_url for the URL.
  • Return Value:
    • Returns the constructed navigation markup as a string.

More detailed breakdown:

  • Function Definition:
    function build_custom_post_navigation($current_post_id, $menu_items)
    • Parameters:
      • $current_post_id: The ID of the current post.
      • $menu_items: An array of menu items. These are typically objects containing details about each menu item.
  • Initializing Variables:
    • $current_key = null;: This variable stores the current post’s array key within the $menu_items array. It’s initially set to null.
    • $menu_count = count($menu_items);: Counts the total number of items in the menu.
  • Finding the Current Menu Item:
    • A “foreach” loop goes through each item in $menu_items.
    • For each item, it checks if the object_id of the menu item (which is typically a post ID, page ID, and others) matches the $current_post_id and that the item is a ‘post’.
    • If a match is found, it assigns the key of this item to $current_key and breaks the loop.
  • Initializing Navigation Markup:
    • $navigation = ”;: A string variable initialized to store the HTML markup for the navigation.
  • Constructing the Navigation:
    • The function checks if $current_key is not null, meaning the current post is found in the menu items.
    • Finding Previous Post:
      • A for loop iterates backward from the current post’s position to find the previous post, skipping over non-post items (like categories).
    • Finding Next Post:
      • Another for loop iterates forwards to find the next post, again skipping non-post items.
    • Navigation Markup:
      • The function then starts building the navigation HTML. It includes the title of the current article (escaped for safety using esc_html) and a link (hardcoded in this case) to a related page or resource.
    • Adding Previous and Next Links:
      • If there are previous or next posts, it adds links to these posts. The URLs and titles are escaped using esc_url and esc_html for security.
      • It includes a separator if both previous and next links are present.
  • Returning the Navigation:
    • The function returns the HTML markup for the navigation.

2. Function insert_custom_navigation:

  • Parameter:
    • $content: The content of the current post.
  • Process:
    • Checks the current page to see if it is a singular post page; if not, return the content unchanged.
    • Retrieves a specific menu (named ‘Sidebar Menu’) and its items.
    • Calls build_custom_post_navigation to build the navigation based on the current post ID and the menu items.
    • Splits the post content into paragraphs and inserts the navigation markup after the first paragraph.
    • Also, appends the navigation at the end of the content.
  • Return Value:
    • Returns the modified content with navigation inserted.

More detailed breakdown:

  • Function Definition:
    function insert_custom_navigation($content): This function takes one parameter, $content, representing the content of a WordPress post.
  • Conditional Check for Post Type:
    if (!is_singular(‘post’)) { return $content; }: The function first checks if the current page is a single post (using the is_singular function with ‘post’ as the argument). The function returns the content unchanged if it’s not a single post page.
  • Get the Menu Object:
    • $menu_name = ‘Sidebar Menu’;: The function sets a variable $menu_name with the name of the menu to use. In this case, it’s hardcoded as ‘Sidebar Menu, ‘ but this can be changed to match the menu name used on the WordPress site we created in the previous section.
    • $menu = wp_get_nav_menu_object($menu_name);: This line gets the menu object using the menu name.
    • If the menu is not found (!$menu), the function returns the original content without any changes.
  • Get Menu Items:
    $menu_items = wp_get_nav_menu_items($menu->term_id);: Retrieves the items from the specified menu. These items will be used to build the navigation links.
  • Build the Navigation:
    $navigation = build_custom_post_navigation(get_the_ID(), $menu_items);: Calls the previously defined build_custom_post_navigation function, passing the current post’s ID and the menu items as arguments. This function generates the HTML for the custom navigation.
  • Insert Navigation into Content:
    • The post’s content is split into paragraphs using explode(‘</p>’, $content);.
    • If there is more than one paragraph (count($paragraphs) > 1), the function inserts the navigation after the first paragraph.
      • It does this by appending the navigation markup to the first paragraph ($paragraphs[0]) and then reassembling the paragraphs back into a single content string.
    • The navigation is also appended at the end of the content.
  • Return Modified Content:
    Finally, the function returns the modified content, which now includes the custom navigation after the first paragraph and at the end of the content.
  • Overall Functionality:
    The insert_custom_navigation function is designed to enhance the user experience on a WordPress site by adding contextual navigation within the content of a post based on a defined WordPress menu. This is particularly useful for a series of related posts or providing easy navigation to related content.

3. add_filter Call:
Adds the insert_custom_navigation function to the the_content filter hook in WordPress. This means insert_custom_navigation will be called whenever post content is being prepared for display, allowing it to modify the content by adding navigation links.

Testing and Troubleshooting

After implementing the PHP function for multi-part post navigation in WordPress, testing and troubleshooting are essential to ensure everything works as expected. Proper testing guarantees functionality and ensures a smooth user experience across your multi-part series.

  1. Navigate Through Each Part: Start by navigating through each part of your multi-part series using the new navigation links. Ensure that each ‘Previous’ and ‘Next’ link takes you to the correct part.
  2. Test on Different Posts: Make sure to test the navigation on various posts, especially the first and last posts in the series, to confirm that the navigation behaves correctly (e.g., no ‘Previous’ link on the first post, no ‘Next’ link on the last post).
  3. Check for Broken Links: Click through each navigation link to ensure none are broken or lead to a 404 page. Every link should smoothly transition to the respective part of the series.

Ensuring Consistency Across Parts

  1. Uniform Navigation Experience: Verify that the navigation looks and functions consistently across all series parts. The placement, style, and behavior should be uniform, offering a cohesive user experience.
  2. Responsive Testing: Check the navigation on different devices and screen sizes to ensure the links are responsive and accessible on mobile, tablet, and desktop views.
  3. Cross-Browser Testing: Test the navigation in various browsers (like Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge) to ensure compatibility and consistent functionality across different platforms.


This comprehensive guide explored the essential steps to create and implement effective multi-part post navigation in WordPress. This journey has covered everything from the initial setup of your WordPress environment to the intricacies of PHP coding and the final testing phase.

Recap of the Steps Covered

  • We started by preparing your WordPress site, ensuring a child theme is in place for safe customizations.
  • Then, we moved on to creating a dedicated menu for your multi-part series, emphasizing best practices in menu organization.
  • We introduced PHP in WordPress, explaining the crucial role of the functions.php file.
  • The core of our guide involved writing a custom PHP function for navigation links, detailing every step from setting up the function to fetching previous/next links.
  • Next, we discussed integrating this PHP function with your WordPress menu for a seamless navigation experience.
  • Finally, we highlighted the importance of thorough testing and troubleshooting, offering practical tips to ensure everything works flawlessly.

Encouragement to Experiment and Customize Further

While we’ve laid out a structured approach to enhance multi-part post navigation in WordPress, there’s always room for further customization and experimentation. Feel encouraged to tweak the code, explore additional styling options, and maybe even integrate more complex functionalities like AJAX loading for a smoother experience. The flexibility of WordPress and PHP allows for a broad range of creative possibilities that can uniquely align with your site’s theme and audience.

Final Thoughts on the Importance of Effective Navigation in Multi-part Articles

Effective navigation is not just a convenience but a necessity in multi-part articles. It keeps readers engaged, reduces bounce rates, and enhances the user experience. By implementing intuitive navigation, you guide your readers through your content in a structured and coherent manner. This not only improves the accessibility of your content but also reinforces the professional and user-centric design of your website.

Mastering multi-part post navigation in WordPress is a valuable skill that can significantly uplift the quality of your content presentation, ensuring your multi-part articles are as compelling to navigate as they are to read.

The current article is "6.19. Multi-part Post by Menu Items" of our Complete SEO Guide Box.
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