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August 3, 2010

The Ins and Outs of a Website Gallery

” So my company needs an image gallery of our products. They need to upload a lot of images and arrange them into categories in an efficient way. They also need the front end to be really flashy. Is this possible on a budget??”

In short: Yes!

Galleries are a very useful feature for any type of website. Exposing as many of your visitors senses to your ideas, services or products can only help facilitate the love. Your professionally shot product images, the awe inspired landscapes surrounding your bed & breakfast, or the action shots from your daughter’s last soccer game all deserve proper attention on your website.

Caveat: Keep it relevant

As long as the imagery is appropriate for your site’s voice, then a gallery is a great element to have. People are on your website trying to make up their minds about whether or not your particular brand of awesomeness is worth the quality-driven price tag you’ve put on it. In other words: Save them from seeing your phones photos from your last outing – or last night out on the town with the boys.

You have to remember what you’re really hoping the user will get out of your online photo display:

-Is your Gallery keeping in line with the website goals?

-Are the images on your site of professional quality?

-Do those particular shots have the potential to side track people from the “buy now” button?

-Are your photos as honest as your words?

Well done image galleries can greatly help in keeping the users interest. It lets them put some imagery to that beautiful product copy they were just reading.

It’s GO time: build it, and say cheese

Now that we’ve decided that a gallery will greatly add value to the theoretical website project in question, I need to pull this off gracefully and beautifully. After a metric ton of research and testing, I settled on using a plugin for WordPress called NextGen as the foundation for the gallery. (WordPress and I are like this, if you haven’t figured that out already. 😉

NextGen would more than cover the basic requirements of administering the gallery:

-Easily manage multiple Galleries and albums? Check

-Assign titles, descriptions, tags etc? Check

-Batch upload of photos via admin or ftp? Check

-Nice, easy to understand, admin with a ton of control? Check

And, the best part? It’s extensible. NextGen by itself is very powerful, but the front end, although not horrible, does not have the “wow” factor we hoped for. This particular setup has a couple of different viewing choices for people by way of either clicking on the thumbnails to see a fancy Ajax image view or viewing it via the even fancier “view with picLens” link.

A quick Google for “NextGen” results in a long list of extra add-ons for the plugin that extend its functionality. With these add-ons you have many many different ways to show off your images on the front end of the website. In addition, there are plugins for showcasing your galleries, featured images or categories in your website’s sidebar and even adding a search that relates to your imagery.

There are various options for controlling the NextGen Smooth Gallery. Multiple image transitions, the time delay, and how to show the miscellaneous user interface features of the gallery are just a few.

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