Looking for the best image gallery plugin for WordPress? NextGEN Gallery is one of the oldest and most popular image gallery plugins in the WordPress.org directory, but is it the best? Read our NextGEN Gallery review to find out if it lives up to the hype.
Do You Need an Image Gallery Plugin?
If your website is heavily image-focused, you’ve probably noticed WordPress’s shortcomings in that area. WordPress was built primarily for blogs with a focus on written content.
If you’re a photographer, designer, artist, or any other profession that relies on visual content, you’ll have a lot of images to share with your website visitors.
And, no question, the best way to organize and display those images is with image galleries.
The only issue is finding an image gallery plugin that’s easy to use, and makes your images look great.
NextGEN Gallery Features
NextGEN Gallery has a number of ways to help you organize your images, including:
- batch uploading images
- importing metadata from your photos
- grouping galleries into albums
Once you’ve uploaded your images, you can group them together to create either a slideshow or a thumbnail gallery.
For each gallery you can control the size, style, timing, transitions, controls, lightbox effects, and more.
There are also plenty of premium add-on plugins available. Each plugin adds a new type of gallery, such as mosaic, grid, or list style galleries. You can purchase either NextGEN Plus for 8 new types of gallery displays, or NextGEN Pro for the 8 galleries plus more add-on plugins and pro support.
How to Create Your First NextGEN Gallery
After installing and activating the plugin, you can choose to allow or skip the usage data collection and reporting.
You’ll be taken to the welcome screen, where there’s a short video that shows you how to create a basic gallery with the default options.
If you first navigate to Gallery » Gallery Settings, you can customize your gallery options. You should do this before you set up your first gallery, because some of the new settings won’t apply retroactively to galleries you’ve already created.
The settings are organized by the type of gallery you want to create. You can change the number of columns, the number of images to display, maximum image dimensions, etc. If you mouseover the information icons, you’ll see a tooltip with more details on what each option does and how it works.
When your settings are saved, you can create your first gallery. Either create a new page or post, or edit the existing page or post you’d like to insert your gallery into.
To add your gallery, you can click either of the green buttons (the one that says “Add Gallery,” or the green button in your editor toolbar) — they both open the same window.
Click the Add Gallery / Images tab at the top to upload or choose the images you’d like to include.
After uploading or choosing your images, a popup will appear. Don’t click the link!
If you click the “Manage Gallery” link, it will open in a whole new window. Instead, just click the “X.”
Now click on the Display Galleries tab to insert your gallery on the page.
But don’t click the Insert Displayed Galleries button yet! It will insert an empty gallery. Instead, you have to click the What would you like to display? section to expand it.
Then under “Sources,” select “Galleries.”
Under “Galleries,” click the empty field to display a list of your galleries. The one you just created should show up. Be sure to select it.
Now you can click the Insert Displayed Galleries button, and the gallery you just created should appear. However, you won’t see it in the visual editor. Instead, you’ll see this thumbnail:
You’ll have to save your draft and preview the page to make sure it’s working.
Documentation and Support
NextGEN provides extensive documentation for each and every feature on their website, with walkthroughs of all the technical details, as well as help for troubleshooting and solving most common issues. They also offer a selection of tutorial videos.
The developers do offer active support in the WordPress.org support forums. However, some of the reviews complain about the quality of support.
NextGEN Gallery vs. Envira Gallery
Want to make your images look great, without spending lots of time trying to figure out how to use a new plugin?
Then you need the best image gallery plugin available: one that can create beautiful galleries, have lots of customization options while still being easy to use, and not slow down your site.
Unfortunately, NextGEN falls flat on a lot of these requirements. See our verdict below for why.
Of the two plugins, only Envira Gallery meets all those expectations. It’s easy to use, intuitive, fast, and creates beautiful galleries. See our full Envira Gallery Review for more details.
If you’ve already started using NextGEN Gallery and want to switch to Envira, it’s easy — just see this guide on How to Switch From NextGEN to Envira Gallery in WordPress.
If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to create beautiful galleries on your WordPress site, we believe that NextGEN Gallery is not a good choice.
While NextGEN has been one of the most popular image gallery plugins for almost a decade, its reviews are not so good: it’s rated just 3.2 out of 5 stars on WordPress.org.
The main issue is that NextGEN Gallery has a steep learning curve — the user interface is incredibly unintuitive.
And while it does have a huge array of customization options, they’re difficult to navigate and find the options you need. While you can create nice galleries with NextGEN Gallery, it will take you some time to learn how to configure your settings and get your galleries the way you want them to look.
We’ve also noticed that NextGEN seems to use a lot of resources and slow down the WordPress admin. (See How WordPress Plugins Affect Your Site’s Load Time for more details.)
We give NextGEN Gallery 3 out of 5 stars. Here is the breakdown of our review scores:
Ease of Use