Envira vs. Essential Grid for image galleries

Lately I’ve been paying a bit more attention to grouping together photo galleries on this blog rather than simply pointing offsite to my Flickr albums, with more than 11,700 photos. I did a test run of two WordPress plug-ins in my photo galleries here and thought I’d share the results.

Essential Grid photo galleries

Essential Grid came with the premium Anariel theme I purchased for WordPress. The documentation is thin at best. When you create a photo gallery, it’s easy enough to add photos, rearrange them and add caption information (aka titles) for display. You get a choice of “skins” that display the photo grids with different looks.

Now, you may or may not know what you want to happen when you display a photo album on your blog, but here’s what I want:

a) the ability for users to click it and immediately see the photo at a larger size

b) the ability at the same time to see what it’s a photo of — by including a caption.

Essential Grid doesn’t do this. (I’ll explain why Envira does a much better job below.) Go ahead, mouse over a thumbnail in this gallery and try to click it.

Essential Grid skin choices

In the WordPress dashboard, Essential Grid doesn’t tell you what their grid choices look like — you have to try out each one and see which look you prefer — so here’s a rundown:

Washington skin: On mouseover, the user sees options to enlarge the photo as well as a link and a “title” or caption. This is the default choice in Essential Grid.

Adams skin: On mouseover, the user sees options to enlarge the photo, plus a link, title and an optional excerpt. The image is screened out when you mouse over it.

Essential Grid

An Essential Grid gallery with the Jackson skin is here.

Jefferson skin: On mouseover, the user sees a link, an option to enlarge the photo, a title and a category list. The image is blocked out with a red screen. This is a weird skin.

Madison skin: On mouseover, the user sees an option to enlarge the photo, a link, a title and an optional excerpt. The image is screened out with gray.

Monroe skin: On mouseover, the user sees a white-lettered title overlaying the thumbnail. Then when you click, you see the date overlay and an optional Read More button.

Quincy skin: On mouseover, the user sees an option to enlarge the photo, a link and a title on top of the thumbnail at about 50 percent opacity. This is a nice choice for image galleries.

Jackson skin: On mouseover, the user sees an option to enlarge the photo, a link, a title and an optional category. The image is screened out with white, but the text is more legible; this is also a nice choice for image galleries.

VanBuren skin: On mouseover, the user sees a title and a date (though I didn’t see any dates on my photos) with text on a nearly black screen atop the thumbnail image at about 10 percent opacity. There’s no option to see the thumbnail image at a larger size. I’m not a fan of Martin Van Buren or of this skin.

HenryHarrison skin: On mouseover, the user sees a title with white lettering above a light blue tint and screened thumbnail, with a plus sign that takes you to the uploaded image (at a greatly reduced size) on your site.

I wound up using the Jackson skin (choice No. 7) for my swim gallery above.


Here’s a two-minute video that highlights Envira’s strengths.

Envira Gallery: The Cadillac of photo galleries

Envira Gallery is one of the most popular photo gallery plug-ins on WordPress, and it’s easy to see why. It’s responsive, easy to use, displays photos beautifully — and the free version, which I’m using, is free. Premium versions offer various bells and whistles.

drone thumbnails

Thumbnails displayed with the Envira Gallery in WordPress.

Here are three photo galleries where I used Envira Gallery:

Drone imagery & drone meetups

Photos of Social Media Breakfast East Bay

Photo gallery: Silicon Valley tech luminaries

The reason why this is clearly superior to Essential Grid? Compare the two. When you mouse over an Essential Grid thumbnail, you have to make a choice on what you want to do next, when obviously what you want is to enlarge the photo and see the caption.

With Envira, when you mouse over the thumbnail, the caption’s right there. When you click the thumbnail, the photo’s enlarged — and you still see the accompanying caption. Where Essential Grid adds unneeded complexity, Envira provides elegant simplicity.

Which do you like better?

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JD Lasica
Written by JD Lasica
JD Lasica is an entrepreneur, author, journalist, photographer and blogger. | CONTACT