Adding an image slider to your WordPress website is very straightforward. The hardest part might be choosing which plugin to use.
In this guide, we introduce you to our recommended free slider plugin. We then take you through the steps of creating an image slider for your website. Finally, we look at a few paid options for those that would like more functionality.
What is an Image Slider?
Just in case you’re not sure, an image slider usually refers to a collection of images, such as photos, that website visitors can scroll through, viewing each image individually.
Some image sliders simply contain photos, while others include additional elements just as text, buttons, and videos. Some slider tools let you layer multiple elements on top of each other, giving you the ability to create advanced interactive presentations.
Choose a Free WordPress Slider Plugin
If you search the WordPress plugin directory for a slider plugin, you’ll see that there are many free options.
So which one should you choose? Based on years of experience, trying out different options, and creating a range of sliders, Smart Slider 3 is a great option. Here are some reasons why:
- Easy to use
- Fully mobile responsive
- Free version has two slider types and 14 templates
- Integrates with many WordPress page builder plugins
- Supports touch screen gestures
- Minimal impact on site performance
- Positive average rating of 4.9 stars out of 5
- Over 900,000 activate installations
- Affordable upgrade option for those that need more
As you can see, there are many good reasons to consider using Smart Slider 3.
How to Create a Slider with Smart Slider 3
As it only takes a few steps to create a basic image slider with Smart Slider 3, you should be up and running in no time at all. Here’s how to do it…
1) Install the Plugin
As Smart Slider 3 is available from the official WordPress plugin directory, you can install it from inside your WordPress dashboard. To do so, log in to your dashboard and then navigate to the Plugins screen by clicking on the Plugins > Add New menu item.
From the Add Plugins screen, enter Smart Slider 3 into the search field. As mentioned, there are other good free slider plugins out there, but Smart Slider 3 is a solid option.
Once the search results have been returned, click on the Install Now button for Smart Slider 3.
Click on the Activate button and then you can start creating the first image slider for your WordPress website.
2) Create a Slider
The plugin adds a Smart Slider button to the dashboard sidebar menu; so click on that to get started.
The first time you use the plugin, you should see a helpful tutorial video that introduces you to the basics of Smart Slider 3. Whether you watch the video or not, click on the large, green New Product button to begin.
Smart Slider 3 gives you two main options for creating a slideshow. One is to start from scratch, while the other is to start with a customizable template. You can also import your own slider files if you have them.
The free version of Smart Slider 3 comes with some good templates you can use as the foundation for your sliders. However, for this guide, let’s start from scratch by clicking on the Create a New Project option so that we can see exactly how to build a slider with this plugin.
Smart Slider 3 gives you two types: slider and block. The slider option is what most people would think of as a slider. It’s a collection of more than one slide, which can be scrolled through, automatically, or controlled by the user.
The block option contains a single slide. You can add elements to it, such as images, text, and buttons. A good use for the block option is to add an interactive element to a page, such as a header illustration, or even build a complete interactive page design.
For this example, we will use the slider type.
You can give your slider a name and set the dimensions once you’ve chosen the type. Unless you know what dimension you need your slider to be, keep the default settings for now.
After you’ve hit the Create button, you add some content to the slides of your slider.
As this guide is primarily focused on how to add an image slider to a WordPress website, you can achieve this by dropping the image files from your computer onto the slider screen. If the files have already been uploaded to your WordPress Media Library, you can select them from there.
You can change the order of the slides by dragging and dropping them into a new position. Once you’re happy with the number of slides and their order, you can add the slider to a WordPress post or page. You can also add the sliders to your site via a widget or to the WordPress theme files if you want more options.
3) Publish the Image Slider in a Post or Page
For this guide, we’ll add the slider to a WordPress page. Either create a new page or open an existing one.
Once you’re in the WordPress editor, click on the plus symbol to add a new block to your post or page.
If you search for the Smart Slider 3 block and then click on it, it will let you choose which slider to add to your post or page.
After you’ve chosen the slider you just created, it will be added to your post or page. Now when you publish that piece of content, the slider will be visible to your website visitors.
If you’re using a page builder plugin, such as Elementor, then you can add a Smart Slider 3 slider to your page via the page builder interface.
4) Editing Your Image Slider
If you’re happy with your image slider, then you’ve archived your goal of adding one to your WordPress website.
However, you can do a lot more with Smart Slider 3. So with that in mind, here are some ways you can customize your slider.
To edit a slider, either navigate back to the Smart Slider 3 area in your WordPress dashboard or click on the pencil button on the slider you just added to your post or page.
Now you can change the size of the slider if you need to. You can also change the layout from full width to boxed. Selecting the latter ensures the slider doesn’t extend horizontally outside of the main content area of the post or page.
You can also customize the controls of the slider, with the option of adding bullets so that users can instantly skip straight to a specific slide. You can also add a row of thumbnails to the bottom of the slider so that people can see what each slide contains.
Other customization options include adding animations to the slide transitions, enabling autoplay, and displaying the file names of the images on the slides.
5) Editing the Individual Slides
As well as customizing the global settings for your slider, you can also edit the individual slides.
Smart Slider 3 has a pretty powerful editor. It lets you add text, images, and buttons to your slides. Each element is stored on its own layer. You can then use the layout tools to organize the layers so that the slide looks exactly how you want.
Smart Slider 3 also gives you a good level of control over the visibility of slide elements, based on which type of device the slider is viewed on. Thanks to this, you could easily hide an image or text layer when the slide is viewed on a mobile device to create a less cluttered user experience.
As you make changes to your slider and save those changes, the published slider that’s visible to your audience is automatically updated to reflect the latest changes.
That covers how to add an image slider to your WordPress website for free.
Need More Features? Premium Slider Options
If you want to create more advanced sliders or you’d like access to more features, you can either upgrade to the Pro version of Smart Slider 3 or choose from one of the other premium slider plugins for WordPress. Here’s a quick look at some of those options…
Smart Slider 3 Pro
If you’re happy with the user experience of the free version of Smart Slider 3 but would like more functionality, the Pro version is the obvious choice.
The price starts at $49, which includes access to all features and covers use on one website. It’s a one-time fee so you get lifetime access to plugin updates.
Some of those features include:
- 4 slider types and 26 layers
- Over 180 templates
- Open slides in a lightbox window
- Add videos to slide backgrounds
- More animations and effects
- Load dynamic content from different sources
- Display WooCommerce content in sliders
- And much more
Master Slider Pro
Master Slider Pro also comes in free and premium versions. The free version is easy to use and comes with some templates to help you get started. While Master Slider has a positive user rating, it’s not as widely used as Smart Slider 3. The paid upgrade costs $34 and includes lifetime updates. The Master Slider team has also recently released another free slider plugin called Depicter, which is worth checking out.
Some of the premium features of Master Slider include:
- Over 90 editable slider templates
- Support for YouTube and Vimeo integrations
- Animated layers
- Animated slide transitions
- WooCommerce integration
- Display content from dynamic sources
- And much more
Soliloquy is another option that’s available in free and paid versions. The free version gets a good rating from users but again, it isn’t as widely used as Smart Slider 3. The free version is more of a traditional image slider in that it doesn’t use layers or let you add text and other images to the slides in your slideshow.
If you upgrade to the paid version, you get access to lots more features, including:
- Library of editable slider themes
- Display content from dynamic sources
- Video slider support
- Create Instagram sliders
- Ability to create scheduled sliders
- Add right-click protection to sliders
- WooCommerce integration
- And much more
Now you know how to add an image slider to your WordPress website with a free plugin.
As we’ve just seen, the free version of Smart Slider 3 is a very capable tool for creating slideshows that contain images, text, and buttons. As sliders can be used to simply display photos as well as publish interactive elements to your website, these plugins are well worth getting familiar with as you never know when you might need to create something they can produce.
If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below.