I admit that I’m picky when it comes to certain things. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been on the hunt for a featured post content slider for AnotherWindowsBlog. A content slider is a very simple way to let your readers and visitors know what your most popular articles are on your blog. If you also own a small time blog like me, you have to remember that almost 90% of your visitors will have landed on your blog via a search engine like Google. When they land on your blog, they usually don’t know anything about you or your site. Once they have finished reading that one article they landed on, there usually isn’t an incentive for them to remain on your blog for long. This is bad in terms of trying to gain loyal readers and bringing in more traffic to your site. By incorporating a content slider, you allow a reader to preview some of your most treasured articles in hopes to stay a little longer. One of the main goals of writing a blog is ultimately to gain a loyal following. If a reader finds that you write a lot of interesting articles, the chances of them returning or bookmarking your blog is very high. You can do that right now by using a content or featured post slider of some sort.
What is a Content Slider?
A content slider is basically a gallery or slideshow that transitions from one slide to another either automatically after a set interval or manually controlled by the user. When incorporated on a blog, typically each slide will feature one post the blog owner will want to display prominently for all to see. This continues for each additional slide. There are many types of sliders and many differ based on the physical look of the slider and the transition effects going from one slide to the next. Usually, each slide will contain the title of the post, a small-medium image, a short description or sample of the blog post and the link to the actual article. Whenever a slide grabs the attention of the reader, they can usually click on the image, title or a “read more” link to go directly to that specific article. Simple right?
Before joining WordPress, I was a very happy camper using the Blogger platform. Obviously now that I have gotten more familiar with all the features of WordPress, I feel confident in saying that I will not be going back to the other side. Or at least anytime soon. Although there weren’t any shortages of featured post sliders for Blogger, many of them were a pain to install and maintain. Since Blogger doesn’t support plugins, almost everything had to be done manually. While I got some of the sliders to work, maintaining them were just a drag. Almost everything I had to enter myself. From the title and description to the actual link for each article I wanted in the slider. It worked but it just wasn’t practical, especially if you wanted to rotate new content in the slider frequently.
Now that I have learned about the usefulness and powers of WordPress plugins, I thought it would be best if I went out and see if there was a content slider that would fit my needs. Because Blogger doesn’t use plugins, configuration options and settings for many of their sliders were very generic at best. With content sliders created for self-hosted WordPress blogs, the sliders can be much more interesting and at the same time, more configurable due to plugins. Of course, this all depends on the skills of the developer but in most cases, I’m sure it will still be miles ahead of the sliders created for Blogger.
Introducing Smooth Slider
After a while of searching and trying out different sliders, I came across one that fit my needs and wants perfectly. This plugin is called Smooth Slider. Here are some of the features that I look for in a slider (in no particular order):
- Simplicity. The slider must have a simple look. I understand that many believe in order to catch someone’s attention (which you certainly want to do with a content slider), it has to look very sophisticated. However, I also believe that sometimes, simple is better. I want readers to focus on my articles and not on how pretty something is.
- Amount of Slides. I’ve written many articles and it’s hard to pick my best one’s. Therefore, my slider would definitely have to allow for dozens of slides/posts. If you think about it, you really don’t have to put your absolutely most awesome articles in your slider. You can also put some of your less read and visited blog posts in hopes to lure readers to them. Sometimes, it’s not that the reader doesn’t want to read your articles but it’s just they are too lazy to search for them. If you put it right in front of their faces, you’ll get more clicks.
- Randomization. It’s the simple things that I love the best. Having the content slider randomly display my slides is a big feature that I’ve always wanted. Sadly, none of the previous sliders I’ve tried gave me this feature. Randomizing your slides is awesome if you have a huge amount of content to show off.
- Ease of Use. This one is a must. For many plugins, the technical work is usually taken care of by the developers of said plugin. We as the user usually just tell the plugin where to show up on our site.
- Customizations. A plugin is especially special if it gives a user the option to configure it to their liking. The slider must have some way for me to configure the time in seconds before moving onto the next slide as well as pausing whenever a user’s cursor is over the slideshow (which usually means that the person is reading something on the current slide). Also, there must be a way for the user to manually trigger the next slide animation.
- Image Upload. The slider must allow me to use an image on a slide via URL hotlink and not via the “Featured Image” feature of WordPress. Long story short, I want to be able to directly link to an image I have hosted elsewhere to use as a slide image without having to go through WordPress’s Media Library.
After activating the plugin, you’ll be required to put a snippet of code in your template files to instruct where you want Smooth Slider to appear. Since each WordPress theme differs from one another, my instructions here may or may not apply to you. However, they should be very similar. I wanted the slider to appear at the very top of both my blog home page as well as each individual post page. Therefore, I placed the below code right after my breadcrumb navigational header in both my template-blog.php and single.php files.If you want to be a perfectionist, you can skip inserting the code snippet until you have completely customized Smooth Slider to your liking. Within the configuration page of the plugin, there is a preview of how your slider will look and behave based on your settings. Once you’re done with all the tweakings, you can then proceed to install the code snippet in your template files.
That’s it as far as coding goes! All we have to do now is configure how Smooth Slider should behave and start selecting posts to be featured in the slider. My advice is to leave all the Smooth Slider settings to their default for now and see how Smooth Slider operates first before making any changes. However, before we can see that, we need to start adding some featured posts to the slider. There are different ways to do this but the method I’ll be showing you here seems the best to me.
Many well developed plugins give you, the user, the ability to configure basically all settings and options under one page. Smooth Slider is a perfect example of this. When you head over to their settings page, you’ll notice a ton of things to configure. Of course, you can easily just accept the default but if something doesn’t look right, feel free to adjust it. Everything from fonts, font sizes and colors can be adjusted. If you’re not sure of what the changes will do or look like, make only one change at a time. In my opinion, the default settings look pretty good, although a bit on the boring side.
This post provides a very limited view of Smooth Slider. If you want to read more on Smooth Slider’s awesome features, definitely visit their homepage which I’ve listed above. Smooth Slider exceeded my expectations for a simple content slider. It easily gave me all the features I’ve always wanted in a slider. I’m sure Smooth Slider won’t win any presentation awards but I think it doesn’t need to. If you want readers to have a reason to stay on your site a little longer, there’s no easier way to do that than by incorporating a content slider. You’ve worked hard on writing all those articles so shouldn’t you take the time to show them off a bit?!If you’ve have found Smooth Slider as pleasant as I have, please consider donating a bit.