WordPress Sliders: the Good, the Bad, the Ugly [Tools Included]

WordPress Sliders. Carousels. Slideshows. However you wanna call them, they are visual elements that bring in flexibility to website design, and diminish potential information cluttering. They can even help your users better navigate your website.

Simple display or bolder ones, you can achieve this while you build your WordPress website.

In this article, We’ll dig deeper into the topic. Here’s what I’ll be covering:

  • What are WordPress sliders, carousels, and slideshows?
  • What can you include in a slider?
  • How to build WordPress Sliders using WordPress builders and the Gutenberg Blocks
  • 4 WordPress Slider plugins examples
  • Pro and against sliders
  • Tips and tricks for user-friendly WordPress sliders design
  • Conclusion

Let’s get started!!

What are WordPress sliders, carousels, and slideshows?

It seems that the world hasn’t yet agreed to a proper definition of these three, because they kinda overlap in functionality.

The most common definition of a website slider sounds like this: a slideshow on a website. 

Going further, we can also introduce the term “Gallery” which consists of a collection of images presented via carousels or sliders.

On the other side, carousels have a 3D feeling and have depth of field.

In recent years, sliders have evolved beyond simple images and text. Video was added to the mix, animations, various layers being combined. 

Image Source: https://www.gsd.harvard.edu/

But remember, it should all have a purpose and add value to the user, not the designer!

What can you include in a slider?

  • Product categories, products line-up. If you want to show off your latest or most popular products in a category, a slider would do the trick.

Ebay

  • Images of a product. Such a slider could be a good fit for products and services that are visually appealing (like in the travel or food industries) or fashion.

Airbnb

Cropp.com

  • Reviews. If you don’t want to create a separate section for product reviews, or don’t want to lengthen your web page, a slider could help you out, or a “read more” option with collapsible content.
  • Main offers/programs of the week/season. Do you have a Valentine’s day offer, kids offer, wrist watches specials, a new service you’re offering, and you want to show them off in the same place? Then a slider could do the trick. 

Ebay

Amazon

Walmart

  • Case studies. If you are in B2B you most likely need to create some case studies to prove your skills and knowledge to gain the trust of your website visitors. Usually on your homepage you will have to include some social proof: testimonials, reviews, case studies, logos of companies you work with. The thing is you still need to keep everything frictionless and not clutter too much information. So, sliders to the rescue. Same things goes for your product/services page.

Netguru

  • Testimonials or any other social proof. As I’ve said before, social proof is a great website asset. They will build trust around your brand. Now, if you want to keep things simple and not overwhelm your website visitors, you could use a slider for your testimonials or any other social proof items.

Uipath

  • Projects/services or their features. Visual appealing sliders can better convey your message than plain images and text. They bring in a different feeling that can make your visitors better engage with your website.

Earls

  • Onboarding steps. Let’s say you have a SaaS product, an app or any other service that requires onboarding. You can use a slider to explain the steps needed to take by the users when using your product or service. 

Image Source: https://kpis.studio/

  • Presentations. Sliders have evolved from presentations. This is what makes them the obvious choice, because the user expects to see them in presentations.

Source: Slideshare

How to build WordPress Sliders using WordPress builders and the Gutenberg Blocks

Now that we settled what you can do with a WordPress slider, let’s build one.

WordPress by default doesn’t have a built-in option for sliders. You need to use plugins or other tools. 

The thing with plugins is that you will realize that you need more to boost your website and to add more features and functionalities. The problem is that the use of too many plugins will slow down your website, and this might hurt you SEO-wise and from the conversion rate perspective.

So, instead of using multiple tools for multiple extra added features, we definitely recommend using WordPress website builders.

In this example I will show you how to add sliders using the pro version of the Colibri WordPress  Builder.

Step 1: Go to the WordPress Dashboard and select “Customizer”, from the “Appearance” menu.

Step 2: From the “+” sign you will see a new window popping up with blocks and components. From the “Components” section select a slider or a carousel.

Step 3: Drag the slider/carousel to the place on your website where you want to position it.

https://share.getcloudapp.com/5zuG6OGR

Step 4: Customize the carousel. You can use the left-hand side menu to change backgrounds, add imagery, change sizing and add animations. The possibilities are endless.

Now, moving over to the Guternberg experience, there’s still space for improvement.

Right now, the option you have is pretty basic, and it goes like this:

https://share.getcloudapp.com/4gu9BRW7

You can go to your page or post and add a “Slideshow” block from the “+” sign. 

Next you can upload your images.

And that’s all, as basic as it gets. If you want more, you will need a…plugin, you guessed it all right.

4 WordPress Slider plugins examples

If you don’t already know how to install and activate a plugin, make sure you watch this 2 minutes tutorial!

I tried to pick some of the most intuitive plugins that you could use for WordPress sliders. Let’s get going.

1. Soliloquy

Let’s take a look at some of its characteristics:

  • SEO friendliness. You can add metadata, titles, alt text and captions to each slide.
  • Sliders built with Soliloquy are mobile friendly.
  • Build WordPress sliders by drag and drop.
  • Templates available.
  •  You can create dynamic sliders from blog posts, Instagram images, and more.

2. MetaSlider

Probably the most popular slider plugin out there, it has over 800k+ active installs.

Among its perks we have:

  • Unsplash integration.
  • SEO optimizations available.
  • Gutenberg-ready.
  • Build WordPress sliders by drag and drop.

3. Smart Slider 3

Smart Slider 3 boasts with:

  • pre-made slides
  • responsive and touch friendly sliders
  • SEO features
  • 600k+ active installs

4. SlideDeck

SlideDeck is a flexible choice for your WordPress sliders that supports a wide range of content sources.

Other perks:

  • custom HTML embedding.
  • dynamically pull content from Instagram, YouTube or RSS feeds.
  • 18 configurable slider themes (lenses) to choose from.
  • Mobile responsiveness

When you pick your plugin, make sure to always check the reviews and demos to see if they can offer what you need.

Pro and against sliders

There’s a whole debate over sliders. Discussions vary from love to hate.

Let’s see which are the arguments some designers and conversion rate optimization specialists use against sliders:

  • Some sliders are not mobile responsive.
  • Visitors treat sliders like ads and just skip them.
  • Sliders may affect pages loading speed. This will have an impact over SEO and conversion rates.
  • There are certain patterns that users follow, and if your slider does not match the pattern, you’re ruining the user experience.
  • “Too many messages equals no message” via ConversionXL

Tests have been made to prove the effectiveness of sliders. And most of them pledge against them. You can read about a Nielsen usability study for Siemens, here. One thing to bear in mind though, in controlled usability tests, people behave somewhat differently than in the real world. 

Now, let’s get to the other side – the sliders lovers:

  • Sliders can save up space and shorten the length of the page they’re on.
  • Sliders can be engaging if they use proper visuals
  • Slider give users more control over what they want to see on a page
  • When putting all images together in a slider, you can avoid any other distractions on the page.
  • Sliders can better make use of information that otherwise could be overwhelming.
  • Sliders can help users make a decision more quickly.

Both the slider lovers and haters seem to agree on something: sliders are useful in e-commerce. And, you’ve probably noticed them all over the place, from Amazon, Ebay to the tiniest online store.

In the end, I’m sure it’s not all black and white. I can understand arguments from both sides. I’m pretty sure it all depends on the audience, the promotional channels. 

If you’re not sure if a slider would do the trick on your website, you can always A/B test, but, bear in mind the statistical significance.

Tips and tricks for user-friendly WordPress sliders design

I’ll keep this short and simple:

  • Use carousels when there’s a precedent for a carousel (where people would normally expect one).
  • Don’t use ad-like sliders, because users are affected by ad blindness.
  • Don’t use autoplay, users need to have control over your sliders. Make use of arrow, or even better, dot-navigation like below, to help users move to corresponding slides. When using these visual cues, make sure you have proper contrast!
https://share.getcloudapp.com/geuzNdxZ

Boldare

  • Don’t use sliders that might distract visitors from the page’s purpose.
  • Make sure your sliders don’t create confusion.
  • Make slider navigation easy and intuitive using arrows or dot-navigation.

More smart advice here.

Conclusion

Building a slider can be easy.

The tough thing is realizing if you really need it or not.

The safe choice: use a slider or carousel when and where people expect one.

We are used to patterns. People expect carousel-like designs when presenting photos, timelines.

Next, check your website loading speed and its mobile responsiveness and see if there’s an impact. This being said, use sliders wisely!