Add slide shows to WordPress sites with SlideDeck

According to usability guru Jakob Nielsen, when someone visits your website, you have 10 seconds to capture their attention before they decide to move on. Having a fresh slide show lets you combine images, animations, and bold typography to catch a visitor’s eye and get them to click deeper into your site. SlideDeck (starting at $79 for a single site) is a sophisticated WordPress plug-in that lets you create high-quality, customizable slide shows that can pull in content from all over the Web, including Google+ Images, Instagram photos, Twitter timelines, Vimeo videos, and much more.

Once you install SlideDeck, it shows up as part of the WordPress admin interface with a dedicated menu entry leading to an elegant configuration system. The system matches the general WordPress look, but adds its own visual flair with embossed icons and typography.

Creating a new SlideDeck slide show is easy. SlideDeck offers five presets: ImageDeck, for showcasing images; SocialDeck, for showing Google+ public posts, Instagram posts, or tweets; PostDeck, for showing your own WordPress posts, an RSS feed, or Google+ public posts (again); VideoDeck, for showing YouTube, DailyMotion, Vimeo, or other kinds of online video; and FeedDeck, for pulling in RSS feeds and Google+ posts. The number of duplicates on this list is confusing, but you can also just switch directly to the Sources list and pick the source you want to create a SlideDeck for. Being able to pull in content from almost any conceivable service means you can use your online presence elsewhere to bolster your website, making the content you create do more.

Once you pick a data source, it’s time to decide what your slide show should look like. SlideDeck ships with eight skins, or “lenses,” each compatible with a number of content sources. For example, the Proto Video lens works only with video sources, while the O-Town one works with just about all sources. Each skin has numerous configuration options, split into vertical tabs. You can decide whether or not to randomize the order of content shown, what colors to use, whether to use a light or dark variant of the skin, and more. If the numerous configuration options still don’t give you the look you’re going for, and you know HTML, JavaScript, PHP, and CSS, you can even create a copy of any lens and customize it further–at least in theory.

I also had some trouble embedding the beautiful slide show I created on my test WordPress website, which used a relatively narrow theme. I was able to make the slide show narrow enough, but it would not render correctly. Switching themes fixed the problem, which means it is not inherent to SlideDeck, but was caused by some conflict between SlideDeck and the original theme I was using. That’s the flip side of the coin to SlideDeck using standard technologies rather than Flash: CSS and JavaScript conflicts can happen.

Despite these technical glitches, I came away impressed with SlideDeck 2. You can debug any theming conflicts relatively easily with any modern browser that has an Inspect Element function, or in Firefox with the excellent Firebug add-on. SlideDeck’s appealing admin interface, the great variety of possible sources, and the beautiful and detailed lenses that ship with the plug-in convinced me: This is one high-quality way to set up a slide show for your WordPress website.

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