WordPress Image Sliders
An effective blog should incorporate eye-catching images, to pique the interest of readers. However, adding too many static images to a post or page can quickly leave your site looking cluttered, and negatively affect readability.
Image sliders are a great workaround for this problem. By adding a slider to your WordPress website, you can showcase images (or other media files) while keeping plenty of screen real estate freed up. Readers can therefore enjoy an optimal user experience, and have a reason to come back for more.
In this post, we’ll introduce image sliders and their variety of uses. We’ll then discuss their benefits and drawbacks, and highlight some of the best image slider plugins WordPress has to offer. Let’s get started!
What Is an Image Slider?
Image sliders (sometimes referred to as image carousels or slideshows) are a media display tool. They enable you to display various types of media files (including images and videos) on your pages and posts, organized into a gallery that rotates from one image to the next.
As mentioned above, sliders offer many benefits to bloggers and other content creators. Most notably, they enable you to add multiple attractive images to posts and pages, without greatly increasing the content length or cluttering up the page.
Sliders also put engagement in the hands of your visitors, since people can click on the slides to enlarge the content and get a closer look. By giving users more control over what they view, you can improve their digital experience significantly.
While sliders offer a unique way to display media content, they can impact your site’s speed negatively if you aren’t careful. After all, it takes longer to load a large amount of media, which can slow down your entire site as a result.
Page Speed and SEO
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of improving your website’s visibility on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). The higher you are on SERPs, the more visible your content is to your target audience.
There are many factors that impact SEO, including page speed. When search engine bots crawl your website, they’re able to measure how long it takes for the site to fully load. A slow loading speed will mean a negative mark on your overall ranking, which can drive down your position on SERPs. Once again, this means it’s important to use sliders carefully, and optimize the files they contain.
The Best Image Slider Plugins
Now that you understand how sliders work, let’s take a look at some of the best plugins out there that can add slider functionality to your WordPress website.
As one of the more basic image slider plugins available, Ultimate Responsive Image Slider offers simplicity but limited customization options. It creates sliders that are adjustable to any screen size (making it a solid choice for mobile websites), and one slider can hold virtually unlimited images.
Ultimate Responsive Image Slider works through a simple drag-and-drop interface. This makes it easy to rearrange the order of media in your slider however you’d like.
Cost: The Lite plugin is free, but you can upgrade to the Pro version starting at $21.
Pros: You get virtually unlimited images per slider, and the result will be fully responsive.
Cons: The free version is fairly minimal, lacking many of the features offered by other WordPress slider plugins (links, alt text options, etc).
If you’re in need of a basic and easy-to-set up image slider plugin, Ultimate Responsive Image Slider fits the bill.
MetaSlider is the most popular slider plugin in WordPress, with over 800,000 active installs. It’s most notable for its Search Engine Optimization (SEO) features, including alt text settings. This plugin is also incredibly beginner-friendly, and delivers a broad scope of customization options.
With MetaSlider, you have four jQuery sliders to choose from. It also supports full-width slideshows, drag-and-drop image reordering, and various configuration options (such as transition effects, slideshow speeds, etc).
Cost: The Lite plugin is free, but you can upgrade to the Pro version starting at $39.
Pros: The Lite version offers plenty of media customization options, and is multisite compatible.
Cons: The design options are limited, and the transitions and other effects are sparse when compared to other plugins.
If you’re looking to get an optimized and professional-looking (if basic) image slider up and running quickly, MetaSlider is an excellent choice.
Slider by Soliloquy is one of the more robust options on our list. The plugin’s lite features include a drag-and-drop editor, mobile responsiveness, custom metadata, and media buttons for easy slider insertion.
As this tool offers extended functionality in the form of add-ons, the base plugin is very lightweight. This means your site speed won’t be as impacted by the presence of its sliders, and you can pick and choose the features you actually need.
Cost: The Lite plugin is free, but you can upgrade to the Pro version starting at $19.
Pros: The available add-ons make it easy to extend functionality, while minimally impacting your page speeds.
Cons: Without the premium upgrade (and its various add-ons), functionality is fairly limited.
If you’re willing to pay for the Pro version, Slider by Soliloquy is a smart choice. Its strong offerings and fast performance certainly make it one of the better slider plugins for WordPress.
With six sliders and nine background animations included in the free version, Smart Slider 3 is one of the more feature-heavy plugins on our list. This tool is fully optimized for mobile devices and SEO-friendly, and the live editor makes slider creation a breeze.
Cost: The Lite plugin is free, but you can upgrade to the Pro version starting at $25.
Pros: Six sliders and nine background animations come with the free version, plus image, layer, video, and post slider support.
Cons: The profusion of features may be overwhelming to beginners.
If you want a robust slider plugin, Smart Slider 3 may be your best bet. This is especially true for developers and advanced WordPress users, who will get the most from this plugin’s functionality.
This Slider plugin can be added as a widget, as a plugin, or as be included in your theme using PHP. You can connect images and videos from Youtube and Vimeo with transition effects and layer support. You don’t have to worry about a slide limit with this plugin as you can add as many images as you want. Per usual, the plugin provides social share buttons.
Cost: The Lite plugin is free, but you can upgrade to the premium version starting at $20 for the basic package.
Pros: Unlimited slide and sliders, layer effects to increase engagement, watermarking, and customization options.
Cons: Parallax, filmstrip, and carousel effects are great, but they’re limited to the premium version.
WP Engine for Image Content
There’s no doubt that image sliders can add personality and dimension to your website. However, the possibility of slower loading times can be off-putting.
By choosing a reliable hosting service such as WP Engine, however, you can be confident that your website’s speed and reliability are a top priority. To learn more about our offerings and how they can benefit your website, you can take a look at our variety of managed hosting plans.