WordPress is the undisputed leader for creating powerful, engaging websites for personal blogs, small business, and even enterprise solutions for global businesses and eCommerce.
One of the most effective attributes of websites is the incorporation of media such as images, audio, and video in web pages.
WordPress facilitates the inclusion of pictures and groups of pictures through the use of image galleries that store pictures or other content for the purpose of organizing and adding them to posts or web pages. Thus, the WordPress image gallery plugin makes an integral role for blog development.
What Makes an Image Gallery Plugin the “Best”?
There are hundreds – perhaps thousands – of image gallery plugins available to WordPress developers, but how do you pick the best one, and what makes a particular plugin better than another?
Finding the best WordPress image gallery plugin can be a true challenge.
WordPress comes equipped with its own gallery feature, but as with many software packages that try to do everything, the result is often that individual functions may not be as robust or easy to use as you might prefer. The built-in gallery is a perfect example.
Creative minds have developed plugins that improve performance and greatly enhance the visual presentation of images on your website, improving the appearance of your web pages to enhance the experience of your visitors.
Some of the advantages presented by image gallery plugins include:
- Improved Performance – Many plugins available provide lackluster performance, even with plenty of server power and bandwidth backing your WordPress site. Speed is a critical factor in selecting your image gallery plugin. It’s essential not only for your user interest but also for SEO.
This is especially true if your site will include a large number of images such as social media posts or travel websites.
- Features – You want a plugin that will have at least a reasonable number of features that will simplify development and provide dazzling presentations, but sometimes less can be better.
Features such as navigation through images, the creation of albums, and presentation effects can be very useful, but too many functional details can be over-complicating, especially for beginners.
- Ease of Use – Hand-in-hand with features comes usability. If the plugin is too technical or takes weeks to understand and become productive with it, it’s probably not the best candidate for your development.
There are a few stand-out image gallery plugins that are worth a close look. These include the desirable attributes of being fast and easy to use, while still possessing the features most WordPress users find useful.
Finding the Best WordPress Image Gallery Plugin – for You
Everyone has different needs and uses for WordPress and images, so finding the image gallery plugin that’s right for you may require in-depth comparison of features, options, and pricing.
Upfront Gallery in WordPress
With Upfront Gallery, WordPress users can add, organize, and edit images into posts and web pages quickly and easily, creating galleries in seconds, rather than hours or days.
Even inexperienced WordPress users can produce beautiful pages and enhance posts by including responsive images with drag-and-drop ease.
Adding styling to images is a snap, allowing you to enhance the appearance of your web pages, changing attributes to suit your personal taste and to dazzle visitors of your website:
- Change borders
- Add captions
- Adjust thumbnail settings
Just drag an Upfront element to the page where you want to display the gallery, drop the images you want visitors to see, then add the styling that transforms the page into the masterpiece you want your visitors to see.
This familiar drag-and-drop approach to editing your web pages makes the use of the plugin very familiar and smooths out the learning curve. You can position images, entire galleries, or even other elements onto your posts to design the web pages that best suit your taste.
Envira Gallery measures up as one of the fastest plugins for images available. That alone brings Envira high up on the list.
Other factors that make Envira attractive, especially to beginners:
- Envira generates and displays the shortcode immediately when you create a gallery. This makes it very simple to include the gallery on your WordPress posts or web pages.
- The template tag is also created, for ease of including galleries into your theme files – very handy when you’re creating image galleries for specific themes, such as for a client or individual topic.
One notable design element of Envira is its attention to efficiency for mobile use. The result is ease of use in choosing layouts, selecting thumbnail sizes, adding meta tags, and more from one single interface.
Envira is an incredibly intuitive plugin, with ease of use for moving beautiful images around on your posts with drag-and-drop simplicity, selecting columns and spacing to present your artworks effectively.
Add-ons – Envira has plenty of extras that you can add as you become more proficient and gain experience:
- Social sharing
- Albums and slideshows
- Fullscreen mode
- And many more
An added attraction is that Envira adheres closely to WordPress’ standard coding, look, and feel. This makes it ideal for WordPress beginners since it’s not necessary to become familiar with two totally different ways of doing things.
Don’t forget backups of your image gallery. Since Envira follows WordPress methodology and best practices, images are stored right in the database as custom post types. That’s significant since it means that when you back up your database, your Envira galleries are also backed up.
Envira also allows you to import/export galleries individually. That makes your image galleries transportable from one WordPress site to another.
Pricing for Envira begins with a free version (Lite), which is a great way to get started and see if the plugin is right for you. Once you’re sold on Envira, you will undoubtedly want to move up to the full gallery plugin for $19, then determine if you can benefit from additional add-ons to gain even more power:
- Gallery themes
- Tag function that provides the ability to add tags to your gallery images
- Password protection to protect your images
- Pinterest add-on that creates a simple-to-use “Pin It” button
Need even more functionality? Move up to the $99 Gold level for the ultimate in add-ons:
- Fullscreen for lightbox display
- Album add-on to organize images into albums
- More add-ons that stretch and challenge your creativity
Regardless of the features and add-ons, you select, you get an impressive tool to create and manage your media and WordPress website easily and beautifully.
NextGEN has taken a somewhat different approach, building its own user interface rather than adopting standard WordPress methodology.
This may cause some developers to back off a bit, just due to the variation from traditional WordPress appearance that can make NextGEN appear intimidating. Still, there are thousands of NextGEN users who consider it the best WordPress image gallery plugin available.
Along with the variation in appearance, NextGEN also stores data in its own set of database tables and image folders. With its own way of getting work done, new WordPress users may struggle a bit getting reasonably productive with NextGEN. Uploading and creating galleries can be more challenging than other plugins.
A downside of using its own database tables is that, because of this, NextGEN does not support import/export functions.
Backup is also a separate issue, as the NextGEN tables must be backed up as a separate function, or incorporated into your backup plugin.
NextGEN is a very mature plugin and has been around longer than most. As such, there have been many features included in the base plugin that others make available as add-ons.
Even with all the features packed into NextGEN, there is still room for additional functionality, if you move up from the free version to Pro and Plus versions.
Gmedia combines power and simplicity for getting started creating a wide variety of galleries including playlists with photos, audio, and even videos.
Organize your items into albums and create tags like a pro, with little or no skill or experience.
Gmedia is ideal for novices who want to hit the ground running and be productive with image galleries quickly. Gmedia’s search bar even helps you find your albums and galleries easily.
With over 20,000 installations, Gmedia Gallery plugin is enabling WordPress developers to load and manage photos, videos, and music files to incorporate on sites, even managing them from anywhere utilizing the iOS app.
Benefits of Gmedia:
- Organize files easily into albums
- Add tags as desired
- Drag-and-drop sorting for images
- Image editor including filters
- Insert images or files into a post or web page with a single click
- Responsive – adjusts to your visitors’ device seamlessly
Pricing for Gmedia Premium is based on the number of website licenses needed, beginning at $29.99 for a single site license.
Besides the advantage of the iOS app, Gmedia has an impressive selection of add-ons to handle every need you have for developing dazzling web pages and posts, among them:
- PhotoCluster – categorize images and other media as your personal preference
- AlbumsList – search and locate albums with a single click
- Cubik Lite – 3D cube gallery
- WaveSurfer – music module that allows you to create and save music waveforms
Gmedia also integrates with WordPress comments, allowing visitors to your blog or website to post comments on your media galleries.
When considering any of these image gallery plugins for your WordPress development, consider these findings:
Envira offers the best rating in pure speed and combines that with ease of use to help you become productive with its features and functions quickly. The combination of features and ease of use makes Envira a truly attractive choice for most WordPress users, especially novices.
NextGEN is hands down the most feature-laden plugin, although you may find it intimidating or overkill for your needs. But if you need the feature-laden plugin that gives you the most power and functionality, take a close look at NextGEN.
While NextGEN is somewhat more costly than other options, those who need the full array of options it provides may find the price and complexity outweigh any negative factors.
As a WordPress developer/user, the use of a powerful image gallery plugin that gives you the features you need without slowing your website performance is a very effective investment.
Selecting Your WordPress Image Gallery Plugin
Creating an image gallery in WordPress is an important feature for embedding uploaded images within posts and WordPress web pages. The use of image gallery plugins makes the process easier and faster for developers.
Finding the best WordPress image gallery plugin that suits your purposes may take a little time, but the return on your investment is well worth the due diligence.
Picking the right plugins for your website means evaluating each option on its own merits, and selecting the one that’s right for you. Your choice of image gallery plugins is dependent on several factors:
Ease of use – if you can’t use the plugin effectively, it’s not right for you.
Some plugins include a staggering array of features that may be great for those seeking in-depth manipulation of images such as lightbox and animations, but beginners can quickly become frustrated by complex features that are not needed.
Speed – As with any WordPress task, stepping through the process quickly optimizes your development efforts
Performance – You will want to be sure the plugin performs well for your website without impacting overall website response
Other Features – Image gallery plugins vary in design and user functions/interfaces. Pick the one that has features that are relevant for you.
With a little research and evaluation of available plugins, you will be able to select the image gallery plugin that will allow you to easily include images with your WordPress posts and web pages.