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A Lightbox effect is a common name for an overlay that displays an image on top of a site, without opening a popup (see Figure 14-2). You need to close this to access the actual site again, which may sound like a bad idea, but compare it to having to open a new page to view the image in full size and you get the picture. Most decently designed Lightbox solutions have accessible browse buttons as well. This is pulled off with JavaScript and some design trickery, and there are a ton of possible solutions waiting for you a mere Google search away. Which solution you choose all depends on how much visual bling you want, and what sorts of effects suit you and your site. I do think you should go with one that comes as a WordPress plugin though, because that means that you won t have to add any classes to your images manually to make sure the Lightbox solution recognizes the link as
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Figure 14-2: Lightbox effect in action a Lightbox one. The plugins do this manually, and suddenly your image gallery won t have to open those attachment pages at all, and your visitors can browse your photos with ease and flair. However, there are drawbacks, the most obvious one being what happens if the visitor has turned off JavaScript, or if someone clicks the thumbnail link before the Lightbox script is fully loaded. The result is an opening of the image as a whole, outside of the design and everything, just as if the link pointed to the image itself only. Which it usually does, but then the script puts it right in the effects it adds. It isn t too pretty when that happens, especially if the visitor expects that nice overlay effect and the easy Previous/Next links it probably sports, but then again it is a fully functional solution as well, thanks to the Web browser s back button. Why wouldn t you use a Lightbox solution There aren t that many reasons actually, and the plugins available are easy enough to use on just about any theme. The issue with no JavaScript is diminishing predictably enough, but there s another problem here, and that is smaller devices. How good does
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something like this look on a seven-inch low-resolution screen Is it really useful then The same can, in all fairness s sake, be said about attachment pages, but it is a bit easier to style those on a peruser agent basis. You should make sure that the Lightbox script doesn t override any such solutions. Finally, if you make your money on page views, don t go the Lightbox route unless you think it will bring in more readers. After all, having people load a new page, and hence a new set of ads, whenever they want to view the next image in a gallery can be good business in itself!
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Finally, a few words about using gallery solutions outside of WordPress. There are several gallery scripts available, some of which are fully-fledged systems in themselves, while others just crunch images to various sizes and output content in physical folders on your server as HTML. They all have their place; I just believe that isn t as a part of WordPress. Don t get me wrong here, I m sure there s a reason to use Gallery2 (or any of the other popular image galleries) with WordPress at times, but overall I think you should think very carefully before doing so. The foremost reason for this is flexibility. WordPress can be extended with numerous plugins, and if your images are a part of WordPress they can sometimes benefit. However, if you re running your images in an outside script and just showing them in your theme one way or the other, you won t benefit. And what happens if that outside script suddenly stops working, or starts clashing with your WordPress install There may be great support and fixes available, but then again there may not. You won t get that with WordPress, and if you do have problems you know what to expect from the community. The same really goes for plugins that move the gallery functionality from the WordPress core to their own setup. This may mean that they can add new features, better sorting, or whatever, but it also means that whenever the plugin isn t being maintained anymore and it stops working because of defunct WordPress functionality or other conflicts, you ll be on your own in a way that wouldn t have happened otherwise. And besides, instead of the flashy gallery functionality that the plugin you were considering offered, why not look for something that adds that to the core image gallery features instead All that being said, sometimes you need more, and then you ll have to move outside of WordPress core features, either by relying on plugins or to external systems and/or services altogether. Just make sure you know what you re doing, and make sure you know what to do if you need to move back, or to something else. Conversion and importing tools can certainly help you to feel more secure in such cases.
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