Our ultimate list of the best free WordPress themes
This is our pick of the best free WordPress themes for 2016, judged on appearance, performance, and usability.Read More
Content may be king, but images are what keep that content on the throne. Images draw readers in, keep them interested, illustrate the points you’re making. A blog post or page without photos or graphics is like a monarch with no kingdom.
Sadly, images cause many of the most common problems that websites face. These include slow loading times, and images not looking good or not being responsive on mobile and different screen sizes.
There are plenty of plugins available to solve these issues. While we don’t recommend you install all of the plugins below, the right plugin at the right time could save you a lot of hassle.
Remember the days when your modem was noisy and you could go and make a cup of coffee while you waited for an image to load? Website owners back then knew that uncompressed images on their page meant even longer wait times and lost visitors — so compressed images were standard.
Well, those days are back.
With mobile connections being as unstable as they are and data plans not getting any cheaper, most users appreciate it when your site can tell its story without having to load heavy images. Not to mention that Google will penalise you if you don’t respect their PageSpeed recommendations.
This is why having a Kraken.io account is one of the best investments we have ever made. Like the marketing pitch says:
Kraken.io is a robust, ultra-fast image optimizer and compressor with best-in-class algorithms. We’ll save you bandwidth and storage space and will dramatically improve your website’s load times.
Indeed they do, and all of our sites are proof of that: we offer their image compression service as a bonus to all our hosting clients.
With so many gallery plugins available, it’s hard to find a site using the default WordPress gallery. It’s simple in look and easy to use, but this simplicity can be a turn-off.
A popular solution comes in the form of the Tiled Galleries module on Jetpack. If you’re already using Jetpack, Tiled Galleries is a great choice. It’s completely free and that masonry effect looks so good. Plus, all you have to do to get started is click “enable.”
If you are not using Jetpack, don’t install it just for this module! Instead, use the plugin “Tiled Galleries Carousel Without Jetpack”. It does what it says on the tin, and no WordPress.com connection is required.
WordPress version 4.4 images are responsive by default. So, installing something like the RICG plugin is no longer required. Just make sure your theme or theme developer doesn’t mess up the default image code in any way!
After compressing images, the best next thing you can do is load them only when needed. And for that task, the lazy loading effect is a godsend. It’s pretty easy actually — you install a plugin and WordPress will automatically load pages in sections, with a smooth transition that adds to its charm.
If you know your way around HTML, putting an image in a widget will be a simple task for you. Just insert the code in Text Widget and you’re done.
But for the other 99% of the world, the easiest solution is to install a plugin that will enable you to add images with a click of the mouse.
There are several plugins that accomplish this simple task. Jetpack is one of them, so if you already have it installed, there’s no need to install something else. Just enable the “Extra Sidebar Widgets” module and the “The Image Widget” will be available to you.
If you don’t have Jetpack, the popular Image Widget plugin will do the trick nicely.
All content must include images — and to get them, you can either become a photographer or pay for a membership on a stock image service. The poor man’s third option is to use a free-to-use stock site, like Pixabay or Flickr’s creative commons section.
If you want to make the process as simple as possible, you can install a plugin like ImageInject or Pixabay Images, which act as an image search engine inside WordPress — just like Giphy does inside Twitter.
Oh yes, the main event. While some images look great from the start, most can be improved through editing. That’s why Photoshop is so popular, and also why it’s so expensive.
The good news is that there’s an alternative: Canva. It’s a web-based image editor with an extremely easy-to-use interface and a free membership tier. Plus, their range of templates makes it easy for even the most design-challenged of us to create attractive images.
Canva is not a WordPress image plugin (although there is one available if you really want it), but if you work with images, it is a tool you will certainly need at some point. And did we mention it is free? Well, it’s free.
Remember: what a piece of content looks is at least as important as what it says. Make sure your content gets the attention it deserves by managing your images well — and that might mean installing a WordPress image plugin or two!