Recently, I launched a new website for my local photo club, the South County Photo Club, and I needed a gallery plugin. Last fall I posted about Isotope, a WordPress gallery plugin, that I had recently added to this site. At the time, I had become dissatisfied with the basic NextGEN gallery plugin and went in search of another, settling on the Isotope gallery. But for my club’s site, with dozens of galleries, I felt the need for something more full-featured than the Isotope plugin. I had already done a quick survey of gallery plugins and decided to have a closer look at the NextGEN gallery. I bought a copy of the NextGEN Pro plugin—a decision that turned out to be a big mistake.
Things started out well but, as I added more and more galleries to the site, pages loaded more and more slowly. By the time I had loaded 20 or so galleries it took 30 or 40 seconds for some pages to load. Clearly, this was intolerable so I set about researching the problem. I was able to isolate the problem to the NextGEN gallery pretty quickly. In fact, if you search the web you’ll find, as I did, that the NextGEN gallery’s performance problems are well-known. It seems that, with the V2 release, its performance became horrid. That was certainly my experience. Photocrati has acknowledged the performance problems and has promised to fix them but months have elapsed and, at the time of this writing, performance is still abysmal.
I did try some of the fixes suggested by Photocrati tech support including adding WordPress caching. These techniques did help but not enough. The worst page load times were cut roughly in half, a substantial improvement, but 20 seconds to load a web page is still unacceptable.
Eventually, I came to the conclusion that I would have to find another gallery plugin. A little more searching turned up the Justified Image Grid —a plugin which has so far turned out to be very good. After switching to it our page load times were reduced to a few seconds. One big advantage for us is that the Justified Image Grid is able to use the NextGEN galleries as one of several possible image sources. This meant that all the work we had invested in creating those galleries was saved. We didn’t have to recreate the galleries for the Justified Image Grid.
There are lots of other advantages to the JIG, including its cost. At $25, it’s a little over half what I paid for the NextGEN Pro gallery. Beyond that, the JIG has numerous other features not available with NextGEN Pro. One such feature is the variety of lightboxes available. It comes with several lightbox choices and if one of those isn’t just right there are others which you can purchase.
The Justified Image Grid also offers the ability to load Facebook albums, flickr photos and Instagram photos as well as photos from the WordPress Media Library. The JIG is responsive so it works well on mobile devices as well as PC screens of different sizes. There are numerous other features, most of which I haven’t yet explored so I’ll just refer you to the Justified Image Grid website for details. There’s an example of it in use below.
The Walter de Maria 2000 Sculpture
Here are some cellphone photos taken at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The WordPress gallery plugin is the Justified Image GridNextGEN gallery is not installed/inactive!