Finding the best WP image gallery plugin is a tough task. If you search "image gallery" in the WP plugin repository, you'll find 171 pages with results and plugins that crossed multiple 100k downloads.
So how do you pick that one gallery plugin that works for your site? Do you just go with the plugin that has the most downloads? Or is there a way to make a better decision?
The guys of WP Modula hooked me up with a free license of WP Modula Basic so that I can review their plugin and shed light into the darkness.
After doing a poll in a Facebook group, there was a clear set of features WordPress users expect when chosing a gallery plugin;
- Easy to use and fast to learn
- Variable and responsive layouts
- Needs to be accessible
- Fast loading times
- Works with images and videos
Image galleries have many applications, especially for photo-heavy websites like those of photography sites
Let's dive into the WP Modula plugin step by step and measure it against each of these five criteria.
Easy to use and fast to learn
Obviously, the image gallery plugin of choice needs to be easy to use. Who can afford spending hours on learning how a plugin works these days?
Since I rarely use image galleries in my own content, I mostly touch them when working on client websites. As I'm writing about WordPress on WP Mastery, most image galleries would consist of screenshots of settings pages. Doesn't sound too appealing 😀
However, even with not being used to using WP gallery plugins, WP Modula has been super straightforward.
You can create a new gallery with a click of a button and then simply drag and drop your images into the editor to upload them - or select images from your WP media library.
Reordering the images is a breeze as well, as it works with drag and drop.
Chosing the various types of gallery settings in WP Modula too. Right below the editor for your images, you can access:
- General settings, including
- Gallery dimensions
- Gallery type
- Lightbox effects
- Shuffle images
- Gutter between the images
- Random factor
- Filters to make the image gallery filterable by keywords
- Caption settings to customize how the captions are displayed
- Settings for social sharing icons
- Loading effects
- Hover effects (there are 12 of them!)
- General styling settings
- Pro options for speeding up the loading time with the Modula Speed Up CDN
As you can see, configuration options are plentyful in WP Modula. Luckily, the out-of-the-box settings are quite good - so that you're not forced to dive into the configuration.
Variable and responsive layouts
One of the most important features the most-downloaded WP image gallery plugins all need to serve are variable layouts.
They all come with a series of different layouts, all easy to install and responsive for mobile screens.
WP Modula is no exception here and packs a feature I've rarely seen executed this well: custom grid layouts.
While the preset of gallery types might look disappointing at first, don't be fooled here. You can choose between
The creative gallery is a fully-automated image gallery that is organized in a masonry layout automatically. You have nothing to do except for adjusting the margin you want to display between the images. If you just want to display images on your site, the creative gallery setting is ideal for you.
However, the best WP image gallery plugin needs to do more than just display image, right? All you photography and picture nerds want to have granular control about how your images are displayed, don't you? 🙂
With the gallery setting "custom grid", you can specify each image's position in the gallery individually. Using your mouse, you can resize and reorder each and every image to its ideal place. It's easy as pie!
Now with usability and the available layouts (masonry + custom grid) out of the way, let's talk about accessibility.
Accessibility in image galleries
Accessibility means that a website is accessible to people with handicaps, e.g. bad vision. They might rely on screen-reading software to understand the contents of a website.
Making an image gallery accessible is a tricky part, as the images will need to have ALT-tags, which screen-readers would read to the website visitor.
WP Modula ticks this box and makes it easy for the website owner to manage the ALT-tags. In the gallery editor, you can click on each image and not just give it an ALT-tag but also a title and a caption to provide even more information about what's on the image.
To give you more background information about web accessibility, here's a 7-minute video by W3C Web Accessibility Initiative.
Fast loading times
With loading speed optimization being one of the core services WP Mastery offers, I took a deep dive into how WP Modula galleries impact the loading time of blog articles.
To do that, I analyzed the loading speed for my recent article on WooCommerce image size plugins without a gallery and with a WP Modula gallery added. The results were quite surprising.
As you can tell by this screenshot, the post with the WP Modula gallery actually loads FASTER than the post without the gallery.
Obviously, all other factors are better in the post without the gallery, as that version simply needs to load less resources from the server. I certainly expected to see these results, but I am very surprised to see that the WP Modula gallery overall adds no additional loading time.
I did this comparison a couple of times while writing this post, simply because I couldn't believe what I saw. But the results all were similar, the gallery did not slow down the post.
My best guess is, that WP Modula takes loading speed very seriously and that it plays nicely with the Swift Performance Pro plugin I use on WP Mastery. Anyhow, kudos to the guys at WP Modula.
Works with images and videos
The last point that came up over and over again in the Facebook group chats was the demand to work with multiple types of media. It seems that the best WP image gallery plugin needs to offer more than just image galleries.
People were asking for video support and even gif support for little animations in the gallery.
There's not much more I can say here, as I personally did not do in-depth testing on those features. I've worked extensively with the image gallery features and had no problem adding a video or gif occasionally.
Seeing the detailed documentation on the plugin's website, I have no reason to doubt the functionality 🙂
Conclusion: WP Modula definitely is a strong contender for the title "best WP image gallery plugin". While I have very limited use-cases for image galleries on WP Mastery, I will keep referring this plugin to clients and everybody who's searching for an easy way to add professional-looking galleries to their site.
Please forgive me for not adding a gallery to this post as a showcase. As you know, I'm very serious about having a fast website and thus I cannot justify having WP Modula installed without using it. I hope the gifs in this article provide enough insights.