When used properly, sliders can be helpful. I’m hard pressed to find a site these days that doesn’t have one. But coding up a slider module can be very difficult. And now that responsive design is all but mandatory, it’s even more so. That’s why Thomas Griffin built Soliloquy.
Responsive and Easy
What really jump out for me are the layers the plugin is built on. On the surface, it’s really easy to get started with your first slider. Thomas even brags that it can be done in 60 seconds. (In my experience, it’s more like a minute and a half…)
Just go to the admin panel, upload or select your images, add metadata to each image and save your slider. Then go to any post or page and use the Add Slider button or shortcode. Congratulations, you’ve got your first slider.
It’s also responsive by default, which is smart. You set the width and height of your slider, but these are just the maximum size it can grow to. The slider will automatically scale to match the width of its container. By the way, when setting your width and height, make it match the largest image in your slider.
A tip for those starting out. This is more general advice about sliders in general, but make sure that images have a fairly consistent size, especially if you are taking advantage of navigation. Yes, your width and height are just baseline sizes, but the aspect ratio will be extremely important to holding the slider together.
Clean and Usable
If you’re doing it right, your website won’t have too many sliders. But creating just a couple and keeping track can get cumbersome. So a good user experience is paramount for Soliloquy. And it delivers.
The admin panel uses a custom post type, standard practice by now, but creating sliders itself is not at all painful. You can add images, videos and HTML slides, all from the same uploader. Just go to Soliloquy -> Add New, then create a title and select a few images using WordPress’s default media uploader. They’ll be automatically saved in the back-end so there’s no clunky loading. You can reorder the slides by dragging and dropping them. Then, there are just a few options to customize, such as size and transition type.
Each slider will also have a custom function, which you can copy and paste in the admin panel listing of all sliders if you want to use them in your theme files. It does a good job of keeping various options compartmentalized and where they need to be.
Extendable and Stable
If you’re looking to get a bit more out of your sliders, Soliloquy gives you the torch to blaze your path. Soliloquy supports video slides that can include videos from YouTube and Vimeo, and custom HTML slides that can contain anything you want. Out of the box. I’ve never seen a slider plugin that can do that.
Sliders are output using semantic, human-readable HTML markup. If you need to make style tweaks with CSS, it’s fairly simple to dig in. Each piece of the slider is made up of unordered lists, with unique IDs assigned at every level. So, you can customize an individual slider using IDs (#soliloquy-container-110) or make more global changes using classes (.soliloquy-item).
As with most plugins that are at this level, there are also a few ways to hook into a solid API and customize output on the back-end or front-end. So, you can limit admin access or white-label the plugin on the back-end. Or, you can remove, add or dynamically generate slides on the front-end. All in functions.php with just a few lines of a code.
But here’s where I had the most fun. If you have a developer license, you’ll also have access to about a dozen add-ons that extend functionality. These add-ons address more fringe use cases, such as the inclusion of Instagram or Pinterest photos, the use of a lightbox, automatic cropping, and photographic filters (Sepia tone FTW!). I want to list them all, but I can’t here, so you should just take a look.
I can tell you that as I was running my tests on the plugin, I had a great time seeing what each add-on can do. Go to Soliloquy -> Add-ons and you’ll see the whole list. You can activate or deactivate any add-on from there. And every time you add one, it gets its own custom metabox in the user interface where you can enable and customize its feature set.
Basically, it’s easy to transform Soliloquy from the plugin it is to the plugin you want it to be.
That Little Something Extra
It’s important to think through the functionality of your plugin to include just enough to be relevant for WordPressers. So you’ll probably stumble upon a few features that are really just nice to have. Not everybody out there will use them, but they are super helpful for those that do.
For instance, you can click on any slide in your slider editor to add metadata—like alt text, URL, or caption. Mobile device touch and swipe support is enabled by default. It has a widget and works with multisite installs. It communicates frequently with the server so that slider data is not lost. It has all of the back-end solutions a plugin needs.
But really best of all, it is really hard to break this plugin. Trust me, I’ve tried. I put unwieldy HTML in caption fields. I added images with vastly different widths and heights. I added dozens of slides to the same slider with far too many videos. I took dynamically generated content to its limit. And all I could do was trigger some weird CSS extremes, such as images breaking out of their container when I set the height of a slider to something that was way too small. But even then, the slider still works. Everything in this plugin is beautifully self-contained and error free. That should be a real relief for you. For me, that’s what separates it from the rest of the pack.
A Word from the Developer
I asked Thomas Griffin, creator and developer of the Soliloquy plugin, a few questions of what it’s like behind the scenes. Here’s what he had to say.
JH: Soliloquy offers a fairly extensive API with a good amount of add-ons, but what’s one feature people may not know about?
TG: Soliloquy is incredibly fast, both in speed and ease of use. It is ridiculously easy to setup, and at the same time it is ridiculously fast on your site. You get the best of both worlds without having to compromise any part of your workflow.
What’s next for Soliloquy?
I’m working in some pretty sweet new add-ons that will make editing captions and adding dynamic layers to your slider easier than ever without sacrificing speed. So not only do you get awesome sliders, you get them with blazing fast speed as well!
Thanks Thomas, glad to hear that you put speed and performance before anything else.
Soliloquy has three pricing levels, Single site ($19), Developer ($99) and Lifetime ($249). Developer gets you access to all premium add-ons, and Lifetime gives you the even more extensive Dynamic add-on.
Have you used Soliloquy for sliders? What was your experience? Have you worked with any other slider plugins?
Jay Hoffmann is a WordPress developer hailing from NYC. In the strictest sense of the word, he is a WordPress enthusiast with an eye for front-end development and design. He has been working with WordPress since 2006 and currently works for a popular children’s media company. This year, Jay started Tidy Repo, a curated list of the best and most reliable plugins from around the web. You can also follow Jay on Twitter.