Sliders, slideshows, carousels — no matter what you call them, they are an incredibly versatile design tool that enables you to showcase images, video, and other dynamic content beautifully and more effectively, while maximizing the space on your website.
Whether you need a simple way to display a slideshow of photos, or you want to a bold video header complete with animation effects and buttons, sliders provide an eye-catching way to promote your products or services and let visitors know what your site is all about.
Currently, the highest rated slider plugin for WordPress is Smart Slider. With a 4.9 out of 5-star rating at WordPress.org, it has more than 800,000 active installs and is also the fastest growing plugin, according to WPTrends.net. Smart Slider also comes as a Pro version. So you might be wondering if the free version is so highly rated, is it worth upgrading to Pro?
In this post, we’ll take a look at the free and Pro versions of Smart Slider in detail so you can decide which is the best option for you.
Introducing Smart Slider
Smart Slider is a powerful and easy to use slider plugin that’s feature-rich and fun to use. Whether you’re a beginner starting out with creating sliders for the first time or a developer who has been using sliders for years, Smart Slider offers features that appeal to a broad audience of users.
Here are just some of Smart Slider’s top features:
It’s easy to use. The Default and Absolute visual positioning modes are unlike anything you’ll see in other slider plugins.
The free version of Smart Slider is one of the most feature-packed plugins I’ve ever come across in the WordPress repository. It’s amazing for the price you pay, which is absolutely nothing! It has exploded in popularity over the past year, with 20,000 new active installs in just the past month.
So what makes Smart Slider so special? For one thing, it offers just the right number of features so you can create beautiful sliders with complex designs, all without feeling forced to upgrade for something as simple as layers (layers are included, unlike some other free slider plugins).
So let’s take a look at the features that come with the free version of Smart Slider.
Default and Absolute layers
There are two different visual layer positions in Smart Slider: Default and Absolute.
Using Default layers you can build much like a page builder. You can quickly build your slides using columns and rows for uniformity, and a clean design that’s fully responsive.
Absolute layers give you the freedom to work with layers unobstructed, much like you would with popular image editing tools such as Photoshop. With Smart Slider, you can drag and drop your layers and position them anywhere on your slides, even on top of each other for dynamic effects.
Create unique designs with six different layers: image, heading, text, button, Vimeo, and YouTube. What’s great about Smart Slider is that you can place your layers anywhere on your slides, so you can have text on top of images and position your layers how you like.
Smart Slider free can optimize your images by resizing them to the size of the slider. This reduces your page loading time, so you can serve content to your visitors faster.
The Slide Library provides several pre-made slides in light and dark skins to help kickstart your work. You can import slides directly into the Slide editor and start customizing them with your own content.
Ensuring that your site design is responsive is crucial now that Google has moved to mobile-first indexing. With Smart Slider, your sliders will automatically adjust for different devices.
This means your sliders can be enjoyed on any device, be it mobile, tablet, or desktop. You can choose to enable features like swipe, or simply turn off sliders for particular devices.
You aren’t limited to adding just static images, video, and text to your slides. With Smart Slider, you can populate your slides with dynamic content, such as WordPress posts.
For example, you could pull in your latest blog posts and display them on your homepage to promote your recent article.
There’s a range of different navigational controls you can add to your sliders, including arrows, bullets, and thumbnails. You can also add text bars, shadows, and autoplay your sliders.
Slide Background Animations
Smart Slider comes with nine super smooth background animations, which you can customize to change the duration and speed.
Why Use Smart Slider Pro?
The free version of Smart Slider is so popular and feature-rich that you might be wondering, “Should I buy the Pro version?”
While the free version lets you create beautiful sliders with ease, the Pro version offers a huge stack of additional features to help you build sliders with more complex designs, including more layers, more slider types, and more animations and effects.
Plus, with the Pro version, you get access to the latest updates and support. This means you’ll always have the most secure version of Smart Slider, and if you ever need any help, it’s just a ticket away. It’s worth pointing out that the free version of Smart Slider has a 4.9 out of 5-star rating — and the Pro version has even faster access to support.
The Slide Library comes with 100+ pre-designed sliders for everything from hero sliders and product carousels to magazine layouts, app showcases and testimonial sliders. No matter what kind of design your site has, there a slide you can import and customize to suit your needs.
Enhance your sliders with the full collection of 21 layer types, which you can use to create. For instance, you can add MP4 videos to your slides instead of just Youtube or Vimeo. You can create animated or highlighted heading layers to deliver your message in the most effective way.
More Slider Types
There are three additional slider types: Carousel, Block and Showcase. You can also create Full Page sliders, which fill the browser viewport.
More Dynamic Generators
With the Pro version you can populate your slides with content from even more sources — 32 sources, in fact — including WordPress posts, WooCommerce products, YouTube, Dribbble, Pinterest, and NextGEN Gallery.
You can even pull in events from popular plugins like All-in-One Event Calendar, Events Manager, and The Events Calendar.
More Background Animations
Whether you want to fade, zoom, rotate or explode your slides, with the Pro version you get access to the full collection of 70+ background animations. These animations let you control the transitions between each of your slides.
Layer Animation Builder
Smart Slider Pro features a powerful layer animation system that enables you to create motion and transitions between your layers.
Every layer animation appears on an interactive visual timeline, where the details can be changed easily.
Tons of Extra Expert Settings
When you upgrade to Pro, you unlock the full range of functionality available in the plugin, including:
If you want to create sliders with more complex designs, including layer and background animations and effects, app showcases, fullpage blocks, or dynamically pull in video, social media, ecommerce products, and other content, then Smart Slider Pro will best fit your needs.
If you have any questions about the free and Pro versions, let us know in the comments below!
Raelene Morey is the Chief Bird at Words By Birds , an agency that helps WordPress businesses make better content. Computer science grad turned newspaper journalist and ex-managing editor at WPMU DEV. Raelene has been developing WordPress sites for over 10 years.