Content Sliders

For the past few days, I’ve been testing out different content sliders (also called carousels) for the Venice Hongwanji Buddhist Temple web page (of which I am one of the web masters). My goal was to create a “featured posts” type of slider on the home page, where I could display posts from the Announcements category, which were about upcoming events. I’ve found quite a few through a couple different review articles, and I’ll go through some of the ones I’ve tested.

My criteria were:

  • Free or low cost (I have no budget, really).
  • No Flash. I wanted the slider to work on an iPad/iPhone.
  • Shortcode used to embed slider. I didn’t want to have to make mods to the template. Not that I couldn’t, but I wanted to keep it simple. If the plug-in author couldn’t (or wouldn’t) go through the trouble of enabling the use of shortcodes, then to me, that implied a certain lack of knowledge.
  • I would prefer to be able to use existing posts/pages instead of creating separate slides, but that’s not a big deal.
  • I would prefer not to have to make changes to a CSS file in order to get the appearance that I want. I would if everything else about the slider was what I wanted.

The first slider I tried was Smooth Slider.

Pros:

  • Very easy to install.
  • Don’t have to create slides for your slide show if you want to include existing content. You go edit an existing post and check off a box in the Smooth Slider section if you want the post to appear in the slider.
  • A separate image can be included on the slide, even though it’s not part of the original post, by using a custom field (slider_thumbnail).
  • Can arrange the slide order through a drag-and-drop interface.
  • You can set the slider not to strip off certain HTML tags. Useful in preserving the formatting of the post.
  • Content can come from the entire post, the post excerpt, or a custom field (slider_content).
  • Automatically creates a Read More link that points to the original post.

Cons:

  • Fonts are limited to these: Arial, Book Antiqua, Bookman Old Style, Calibri, Century Schoolbook, Courier New, Geneva, Helvetica, Monotype Corsiva, Times New Roman, Trebuchet MS, and Verdana. Now, I use one of the Google web fonts as my base font, so right away the fonts on the slider aren’t going to match the rest of my web page. There should be an option to use the theme’s font family. In fact, that should be the default.
  • If you have a border drawn for the slider, the navigation page number boxes are butt-up against the bottom border of the box. Didn’t want to muck around with editing the CSS file, so turned the border off and used an enclosing DIV around the slider with its own border turned on.
  • Documentation is somewhat incomplete. For example, in the Smooth Sliders Settings page, there’s a section where you can customize the Navigation buttons. One option is to “Enter Custom Text or HTML” with an input field, but there’s no documentation that I could see as to what values to put in that field. Same with many other options on the settings page.

 

The first few sliders that I tested came from an article on the WordPress Mayor site. I ignored the sliders which were Flash-based, since I wanted the content to appear on iPads/iPhones. I also avoided premium/commercial sliders since I don’t really have a budget.

First Post

OK, I’ve finally set up a blog on WordPress.com. I have set up three other sites using WordPress, but all three are self-hosted. One goal in starting up this blog is to find out the strengths and weaknesses behind hosting on WordPress.com and self-hosting. Another goal is to document my journey as I become deeper involved in learning about WordPress and how I can use it in a professional capacity.

To that end, I’ll be going off on a number of topics, including the WordPress Codex, useful plugins, creating child themes, etc.