How do you find the best WordPress slider? Compare 20 of them.
In 2013 I reviewed slider plugins for performance. It's been a long time since I circled back because, after all, these are sliders and I'm not that much of a fan. But that doesn't mean clients don't ask about them. So I decided to circle back and take a look at 20 of them.
The Plugins I Compared
These are the plugins I tested—in alphabetical order. Listed below you'll see their pricing, which is something you should note as the free ones sometimes only offer key features in their “pro” plan.
- Cyclone Slider 2 – Free (Pro version – $34)
- Easing Slider – Free (Add-on bundle – $29)
- Hero Slider – $18
- Huge IT Slider – Free (Additional features – $15)
- Image Slider Lite – Free (Pro – $19)
- LayerSlider WP – $18
- LenSlider – Free
- Master Slider Pro – $20
- Meta Slider – Free (Pro – $19)
- Meteor Slides – Free
- Royal Slider – $23
- Responsive Slider – Free
- SlideDeck3 – $69 (current coupons bring the price down)
- Slider Pro – $29
- Slider Revolution – $19
- Slider WD – Free (Personal – $20)
- Smart Slider 3 – Free (Pro – $25)
- Soliloquy – Free (Personal – $19)
- Ultimate Responsive Slider – Free (Pro – $21)
- WP Slider Plugin – Free (Pro – $25)
Some observations from the comparison
The first thing to note is that sometimes free plugins push way too hard to get that extra $19.
Let me explain how I picked these plugins—I searched on the WordPress directory of plugins for “slider' and then I went to Envato's marketplace and did the same. I found twenty and decided I couldn't handle more, and pulled them all down.
Upon installing them, I had no idea, in the interface, if I had paid for them or if they were free.
That is, until the plugins told me.
Some took over every interface telling me about all the features I was missing. Other times they flat out lied by suggesting my plugin wasn't “activated” when they really meant that I didn't yet have a support plan for updates. The plugin had already activated fine.
I can only imagine how many people are tricked by that move. And it was more than one that did it.
Personally, it's my opinion that if you really need a great slider, just buy a commercial one that doesn't destroy the interface of the plugin trying to make some money.
Another thing to note about interfaces—I wonder if any of these plugin developers actually tested how many clicks they had to do in order to get a simple four-image slider to work.
I'm not looking to tell you which ones were horrible, but please watch videos and look over images of plugin screens to see if these screens are overly complicated.
Slider Revolution was one that particularly played the “not activated yet” and had tons of clicks. There, I said it. And the worst part was that I'd already paid $19.
And my last observation was that some of these plugins bring tons of features and transitions to the table—I'm talking about tons—and all of that has a consequence on performance. It felt like overkill, and you'll notice it when you see the performance results.
If you're a slider plugin developer, I simply suggest:
- Test the clicks to create a slider (a lower count is better)
- Allow users to bulk select images instead of adding slides 1 at a time
- Stop covering the screens with requests for additional funds
- Limit features and add them as add-ons like Soliloquy does
- Focus on performance
Regarding performance, I will say that several plugins performed better than I had imagined they would have. Especially given some of their feature sets.
For my tests, I created a simple four image slider that had a fading transition. For each plugin that offered me the ability to lazy load images, or to cache them, I choose that. So not all plugins were used in the default configuration.
Personally, my take is that the most important thing about a slider is that it doesn't dramatically delay the loading of your site. People already put way too much in them (big images, many images), so if the plugin adds to that, it's even worse.
In this particular case, every image was 1000 by 350px (at 72 dpi) and I created a slider for the four images that was exactly that size.
Here are the results of the plugins performance, in order of best performance to slowest. The links are to each test result from Pingdom tools.
I should note for those that get picky about these things and like to complain in the comments:
- I did the test 4 times each before saving the results (to leverage caching)
- I did each test on its own page with all the other plugins deactivated
- I used the same four images on each slider
- All of these were hosted on the same WP Engine site
So this was the best apples to apples comparison I could do (and not spend even more time on sliders – which, in case you missed it, I don't totally recommend using in the first place).
Also, the links take you to the actual tests, so that you can see exactly what files are being loaded for each—which can be really interesting.
- Huge IT Slider – 315 ms
- LenSlider – 318 ms
- Royal Slider – 342 ms
- Slider Pro – 356 ms
- Smart Slider – 404 ms
- Easing Slider – 427 ms
- Slider WD – 472 ms
- Layer Slider – 475 ms
- SlideDeck – 481 ms
- Image Slider – 515 ms
- Ultimate Responsive – 564 ms
- Soliloquy – 743 ms
- Slider Revolution – 757 ms
- Cyclone – 794 ms
- WP Slider – 834 ms
- Meta Slider – 887 ms
- Responsive Slider – 927 ms
- Meteor Slides – 1.14 sec
- Hero Slider – 1.19 sec
- Master Slider – 1.35 sec
As I said before, I was surprised by how fast some of these plugins performed. If you added layers and more transitions, I have no idea if they would slow down at all, but for the initial test, I was impressed with the speed.
What I can't test
I can't test support when it comes to these sliders. Having not added a slider to a website in a long time, I have no idea if everyone will respond equally well. I know the folks behind Soliloquy, which is why I regularly recommend them. I know their support is solid.
Clearly there are some additional plugins that are performing really well, so you'd have to check in on their support.
I can't test whether a slider will do what you want it to. Sometimes people want sliders because they can't decide (via committee) what is most important on their page. So they make everything important in a slider (which makes nothing important). Other times they want interactivity or movement.
I don't know if any of these will do what you want, in terms of conversion or engagement.
But the tests suggest that they won't all slow you down considerably, which is what I was circling back to look at.
So which is the best WordPress slider?
As you know, the best one is the one that is right for you—from budget to performance to support. I'd say checking out Huge IT and Royal Slider might be worth your time.
Did I miss your favorite one? Let me know.