Within the first few seconds on a new website, users quickly decide whether to stay or bounce. This short attention span has driven the need to provide instant user engagement, hence the proliferation of rotating banners in modern web design. The good news is, there are a plethora of free options available for nearly every skill level and website type. I took to the web to narrow down a few great ones for a variety of needs—the non-coder, the product promoter, the K.I.S.S. (keep it simple, stupid) Adherent, the Photo Lover, and the WordPress Fanatic.
Wow Slider // For the Non-Coder
If you don’t know how to code and have no interest in learning, the Wow Slider is a perfect solution for you. This slider comes with a wizard that enables you to customize the banner in a simple interface. You can drag-and-drop or import photos, drag to reorder, and give each image a title and description to appear on the slider. The program allows you to easily set parameters like time between slides, transition effects, templates, and dimensions.
To place it on your site, you can open your HTML page within the wizard and simply click where you want it to go. You can also output to a folder, FTP, or as a WordPress Slider or Drupal Module. It’s only free for personal or nonprofit use—otherwise, you’ll want to buy a commercial license. At the time of this writing, simply downloading the free wizard yielded a discount of $10 off an unlimited website license, bringing it to $59—or you can get a single website license for $49. Not a bad price for such a handy tool!
3D Cloud Carousel // For the Product Promoter
Slides for Query // For the K.I.S.S. Adherent
Refreshingly simple, the Slides plugin for Query has the essentials for a clean rotating banner. HTML, CSS, and very basic JS knowledge can get you far with their simple installation instructions. But the real beauty of this tool is its ability to grow with your needs. Included in the free download are a set of customization examples that demonstrate how the tool can fit a variety of needs. For example, the Product option transforms the basic slider into an elegant gallery. Or, just extend the existing slideshow with captions or links. You’ll be surprised how far this basic plugin will take you!
Flickrshow // For the Photo Lover
Imagine creating a special album on Flickr that streams whatever photos are in it to a slideshow on your website or blog. Sounds ridiculously easy to update, right? Whether you’re a Flickr fan or just interested in displaying great photos on a rotating banner (in which case you’ll quickly become a Flickr fan), the Flickrshow slideshow is free to use for commercial and non-commercial projects. Installation is as simple as adding provided markup to your HTML and linking to the site-hosted script (or you can choose to download your own). You’ll want to adjust the markup to link to your gallery and configure the settings for your needs, which requires a bit of coding knowledge, but once it’s installed you’ll be able to curate your photo slideshow with ease.
Dynamic Content Gallery // For the WordPress Fanatic
Take your WordPress site from lackluster to engaging with a featured post slideshow. The Dynamic Content Gallery plugin from Studio Grasshopper does just that. The plugin gives you the option to display your latest or featured content automatically along with the post or page title and a custom description. Images can be linked for usability, including external URLs. Because you’re customizing a CMS plugin, the installation process is a bit more complicated than a basic HTML website—but never fear, a 10-step comprehensive start-to-finish configuration guide is available on their website.
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