Audience for this article: anyone who is interested in well-executed WordPress Plugins.
After a lot of experimenting with various WordPress photo gallery plugins, I came across a plugin called Similar Posts (there are actually several related plugins on this site) that really did the trick for me. What I wanted was to do as little work as possible when adding an image to the store, and not to have to maintain two separate sets of images or do anything extra other than adding a new post.
In other words, I wanted a plugin that would simply pull back the thumbnails which are already attached to existing WordPress posts, and allow me to order them, and format them with css. Period.
I didn’t want any fancy Ajax effects (though I could add them if I want) and I wanted to have the thumbs automatically added to my own theme as I add new image posts. The popular photo galleries that I mentioned are prone to breaking as new releases of WP or PHP are introduced which makes your gallery (in my case the store) unusable. Whereas if Similar Posts were to break, the thumbs would break, but the images and structure of the site would still be usable.
The issues I had with NextGen and a few other gallery plugins, was that they were trying to do too many things; weren’t really integrated with my existing posts; and in general, the documentation (esp. with NextGen) was scattered all over the place. NextGen is also loading tons of stuff in your headers since it wants to be able to do so many things.
Again – I also felt that the gallery plugins weren’t good at working with existing WordPress posts. In other words, if you already have a bunch of posts with images, and now you decide that you want to integrate NextGen with these posts – it can be done, but it’s extra work. You’ll have to manually add the URL for each existing post and relate it to the NextGen image.
It’s also not particularly SEO friendly – whereas Similar Posts can only help with SEO.
NextGen is probably the most popular WP photo gallery out there right now, but I don’t know how many people are using it in conjunction with a storefront. Possibly if I had started with it from the very beginning I’d feel differently about it. There I go – I hate to say bad things about these sorts of projects that have had so many skilled people working on them. Still, it wasn’t for me.
Similar Posts is a general plugin that gives you many ways of matching posts which are related to your current post. There are separate plugins for other functionality, such as Most Popular Posts. This is the structure I like. Use what you need.
It supports the thumbnails that are made when you add an image to your post, and it will also allow you to resize them. That I’ve chosen not to do. The little square thumbs – well – I could make them bigger later, or keep them in their original size, but for now, I like this setup.
Again – you don’t need to use the plugin to show images, you can use it to show “similar” posts. But it offers a great deal of control for someone who knows their way around CSS, and it’s fast and reliable. The adminstration panel is top notch. And from what I can see – the support is good as well. I actually sent a donation which is rare for me.
If you want to fool around with it and look at some of the other plugins, here’s the link.
One caveat, if you change the size of your thumbs in the wordpress settings, you’ll need to regenerate thumbs to the new size. WordPress (at least to the best of my knowledge) doesn’t do that for you. It only creates the new size thumbnail when you add a new post. But thankfully, there is another plugin, regenerate thumbnails (you can look it up in WordPress Plugins) which works perfectly.
And you can see the current implemtation of this plugin on any of the Gallery Pages in the store. For example: the New York Gallery. (Scroll down to see the thumbs).