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Which Is The Fastest WordPress Image Slider Plugin?

Ask most performance-minded web developers how they feel about image sliders and you might have to duck as they throw a coffee mug at your head. But a lot of WordPress users and premium theme developers sure do love them. So if you are one of those folks that loves to use them, let us at least help you make an informed decision. We tested some of the most popular slider plugins to see what kind of damage they will do to a page and which is the least evil.

Testing Environment

  • I used a shared host (Bluehost)
  • My WordPress install was running the Genesis theme
  • Active plugins: WP Rocket 2.7, the slider being tested, iThemes Sync and Sucuri (both backend plugins).
  • Speed tests were all done using the San Jose location in Pingdom

Plugin Configuration

  • For the slider itself, with each plugin I created a slider of 1100 x 400, using the same 3 images each time. I didn’t compress or size them properly because generally speaking, the average user doesn’t seem to do that.
  • The file sizes of the 3 images were: 106kb, 198kb and 533kb.
  • WP Rocket configuration – I didn’t activate any additional options such as LazyLoad or minification.
  • For the most part I used default options within the slider plugin themselves. In a couple of cases there was an option to resize the images within the plugin and where I used that, I tested with and without that option
  • Each slider was tested on a full-width page with a couple paragraphs of text.

Plugins Tested

Criteria

Obviously speed is the primary criteria here. But I’ve also noted how many additional HTTP requests were generated by each plugin, and how much weight they added to the overall page size. Finally I also checked to see if the plugin loaded its scripts and styles only on pages where the slider was being used, or if they were loaded across all pages no matter whether needed or not.

Caveats

In this test, I’m not trying to optimize these plugins to the max to make them perform the fastest, I’m trying to replicate an average use case and assess the speed impact of adding a slider. So you could make all these plugins perform faster by optimizing/sizing the images, activating more options in WP Rocket and fiddling with the options of each slider plugin.  But since most people don’t take the time to do that, I went with what I consider to be a typical configuration.

The Results

I used the San Jose location because it’s closest to where my site is hosted. For each configuration I did 3 tests and then averaged out the speeds. The benchmark represents a basic page without the slider, so that you can compare additional HTTP requests etc.

Top Performers

WordPress Sliders - The Best

Using their default options, Cyclone Slider 2 and Meta Slider come out on top for speed

The two that came out on top were Cyclone Slider 2 and Meta Slider (the free version). In the above configurations I used the default settings which included their resizing features. This gives them the edge because it reduces the filesize of each image, which reduces the page weight by about half (as you’ll see below).

Sizing images to the dimensions at which they will be used is something that everyone should be doing for themselves, but usually don’t. “Smart Crop” is a default setting within Meta Slider, and it’s tucked away under the Advanced tab, so the average user would likely be using this. “Resize images” is the default setting in Cyclone as well.

As you’ll see below with the next set of results, Meta Slider still comes out on top, even after I turned off the Smart Crop feature.

Meta Slider (free) comes out on top in both performance & ease of use Click To Tweet

Solid Performance

WordPress Slider Plugins - The Contenders

Meta Slider is still best of the bunch even when using the full size images.

It adds the least number of requests as you can see. Soliloquy is a well-known plugin and I expected it to fare a little better here. Huge IT Slider was something I personally hadn’t used before, but found in the WordPress plugin directory and decided to try since it has over 100 000 installs. I found it to be very solid, performance-wise.

The Slow Pokes

WordPress Slider Plugins - Slowest

The 2 most common, Slider Revolution and Layer Slider, are among the worst for performance! Click To Tweet

Notice anything interesting here? The two most commonly used plugins Slider Revolution and Layer Slider are among the worst for performance! These two are often bundled into premium themes on Themeforest, yet they are the least efficient. For my tests, I created a very basic image slider although all 3 of these last plugins could be used to create very complex animated sliders. But I imagine that if they perform the worst for a basic slider, the more complex you make it, the worse it may get, performance-wise.

Adhering To Best Practices?

One of my criteria was how these plugins handled themselves on pages where they weren’t being used. These were the ones that loaded all their JavaScript and CSS files even on pages with no sliders:

  • Slider Revolution
  • Layer Slider
  • Cyclone Slider 2

Again, the 2 most prominent are offenders here. Now imagine those premium themes that bundle BOTH sliders and recommend you activate them. You’re going to be adding a lot of unnecessary HTTP requests and page size completely needlessly!

As a side note, I found Revolution and Layer to have the worst user interfaces and workflow for making a simple slider. So my recommendation would be to only use one of these if you absolutely need a slider with animated layers (and let’s face it….who REALLY needs that? 😉 )

Real Life Considerations

It’s true that my test site is not a representation of most modern websites. It’s very basic and even on shared hosting, it’s pretty fast. So you may look at the above speeds and think 700ms – that’s still super fast – nothing to worry about! But a lot of people are using themes that are not as fast as Genesis right out of the gate. So you may be starting out with twice the load time right there. You probably have more images, plugins etc. So a real life implementation is going to be a lot slower and that’s why those milliseonds count. When you are not a developer, it’s really important that you make the best decisions possible when choosing your tools so that you can have all the features that you want, but without destroying your site’s performance.

Conclusion

Here’s the complete list of plugins with times, requests and page sizes:

WordPress Slider Plugins Compared

For your everyday slider needs, I would go with Meta Slider. It’s free, relatively lightweight, really easy to set-up and will have the least negative impact on performance.

Of course, two huge factors are the number of slides and the size of your images. Both those are completely under your control, so make sure to limit them! To learn more about optimizing your images, read our guide, and check out our new image optimization tool: https://imagify.io

Did I miss your favourite slider? Have some feedback of your own? Drop a note in the comments!

About

Lucy is a long time user of WordPress, (since 2004) and has provided WordPress training for bloggers and businesses for over 5 years. She has spoken at several WordCamps and is an active member of the WordPress community. You can follow @webtw on Twitter.

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25 comments

Comment

I would like a similar test with owl 2 slider.

Can you make this?

Its not a plugin btw.

Great comparison and useful information. Never would have guess that Rev Slider and LayerSlider would perform so poorly in this benchmarking.

One slider I’d like to see similarly benchmarked is Smart Slider 3 (free version) — I’ve been looking at it as a potential replacement for Rev Slider as easier for clients to use. Would be interested to know how it compares.

Nice comparison but to be honest it´s a bit like comparing apples with oranges. Revslider and Layerslider are very much more than just ordinary imagesliders. And using them for just displaying some images with caption would be completely overdone.

You say Revslider and Layerslider have the worst UI. I don´t think so. And you ask who really needs animated layered sliders? I would say who the hell really needs a simple image slider? Animated Sliders can do a great job for interaction and you can even build great animated onepagers.

With a smart hosting and WP-Rocket doing its job so well you get a site up to speed even with a huge slider on the frontpage.

Slider does not covert, does not help users, almost nobody clicking on them. It is just for purpose to fill up space where content is missing 😉
I prefer functional clean websites with information, instead of sliders, pop ups and other “fancy’ junk.

Please stop using sliders, for love of the internet 🙂 Put there some content instead.

It’s also important to note that both layer and revolution have the option to load only when needed. And revolution slider can load the JS in the footer and with deferred attribute. Which is quite impressive for something that is way beyond just an image slider. I can also confirm that revolution slider works perfectly fine when using autoptimize to compress JS and CSS.

Things don´t get more true even if many people don´t get tired to repeat them over and over again 😉

Quote: >> Slider does not covert, does not help users, almost nobody clicking on them. It is just for purpose to fill up space where content is missing <<

Even if not completely wrong it´s not the full truth. It´s not ALWAYS all about conversion. Sometimes it´s for the sake of nice design as well. And what – if not content – is the images, videos, text and buttons insinde a slider. To claim a slider is not content is simply nonsense.

The internet (yes even the 2016 type of) is far beyond beeing a "dessert" of text and links. Sometimes you want it just look nice as well and slider CAN do this job well.

To be very clear on that: I´m not saying sliders are the solution to anything and the use of sliders must make sense (whatever that in a perticular project means). Don´t use sliders just for the sake of using a slider (or just because your Themeforest theme includes four "awesome" sliders). But that is valid for most elements of a website.

Use them where they make sense and don´t use them where not. And sometimes you just want to create something that looks darn nice and you don´t look at a website through the eyes of a pure developer or a marketing guy.

The web will be a better place if we stop beeing dogmatic and if we stop creating for Googles search results only and start beeing creative and design and develop for the people that use it.

This discussion can be continied without coming to an end but maybe we can agree that the use of sliders should be well deliberated and it must make sense for the individual website.

I think there are 3 mindsets to sliders out there, depending on experience.

1: The beginner developer who has discovered sliders for the first time and uses them anywhere and everywhere (often in the wrong situation)
2: The intermediate developer who has discovered http://shouldiuseacarousel.com/
3: The experienced developer who knows when and when not to use a slider

Take the top 5 sites on Alexa for example:

Google.com – Slider on image search results & google maps images
Facebook.com – Sliders for image albums
YouTube.com – Sliders everywhere
Baidu.com – Can’t see any
Yahoo.com – Sliders everywhere

And then the 2 sites where conversions probably matter most: ebay.com and amazon.com.

Anyway, great article, very interesting reading 🙂

Try Avartan Slider Plugin.

@Peter Cralen I could not agree more! Totally right on point!

@Michael Oeser Read some user studies! Sliders DO NOTHING important for a website!

That’s kinda odd.
Chris Lema claims Soliloquy is the fastest. (though Meta Slider wasn’t included)
I haven’t seen benchmark test that includes Meta Slider.
Some kind of conspiracy?
Besides it seems that Chris is close to developer of Soliloquy.

http://chrislema.com/comparing-premium-sliders-for-wordpress-by-performance/

WP Rocket Support Team

@Ash – It’s really not odd. Chris’ test doesn’t include either of the two that came out tops in mine. Of the ones that we BOTH tested, we agree Soliloquy is the fastest. Very doubtful that Chris is trying to be conspiratorial on his blog….Both Soliloquy and Meta Slider have free versions available in the WordPress directory, so you can see which one works best for you.

Possibly Chris tested with paid version of Soliloquy.
Free version might not have much speed optimizing function as paid version.

Also I wonder why Slider Pro came out with very different result.

BTW slider benchmark test nowadays better to include fullwidth slider and mobile view.
Because most sites are using fullwidth slider but slider benchmark tests are apparently using regular slider.
Also Soliloquy creates small image for mobile view so it’s quick on mobile device.

Hello, so, I’m fairly new to wordpress. I’m currently working with a few other people, making our website. The leader of our group put an image slider in, and it showed up on every single page.

How could I make it only show up on one page?

    WP Rocket Support Team

    Hi Reynald, you should ask this question to your slider plugin support. They will be able to help you better than you regarding your issue 🙂

This run down is brilliant. I use revolution slider on all my themes just because that’s what everyone wants and it does make some nice looking sliders. But I’m eager to try some of the better performing ones in your list.

Hi Lucy,

This is wonderful article.

I really comfortable for the performance of Soliloquy. I am facing some challenges for contact forms. Recently I found WPForms Lite plugin. It is very easy to use contact form plugin. Check it out here:

https://wordpress.org/plugins/wpforms-lite/

Personally, I am a fan of Slide Deck 3, which was not included in the test. Would be interested to see how it compared.

very surprised by the revolution slider scores….that looks from the admin side like a big clunker of a video editing suite…..it beats soliloquy on requests and ONLY slower by 60ms LOL….full featured slider neck to neck with the simple ones

btw, Metaslider seems to be a collection of free sliders…so which one did you use? thanks

Hey,

Just an update from a Slider Revolution standpoint (as of 11/21/2016):

– Global Settings now allow you to include the libraries only on certain pages. If that’s too much of a task, using Plugin Organizer (free) to globally disable Slider Revolution, and enable on certain pages also works.

– Global Settings now also includes an option to load the scripts in the footer instead.

– “Uncheck” their parallax functionality per slider created to exclude that js library if you’re not using it.

Not a fanboy by any means, but using WP Rocket to minify the scripts loaded by Slider Rev can help load times.

Great test, Lucy. Thanx a lot. I’m a big fan of MetaSlider. I have also used it to insert formatted (css-formatted) single-image-boxes on a page, because it’s easy to handle for the inexperienced user. This means that I may have several Metaslide-boxes on one page. Did you see any slowdown in these situation?
And another question:
Metaslider comes with 4 different flavours of sliders (Flex, Revolution, Nivo, and Coin). Did you test for and register any difference between these four?

Hey All!

Anybody knows a Wordpess slider that do actually serve smaller images (using srcset) when on mobile? I’m trying to find one, for a plain slideshow with only images. Every time I test a slider using Chrome inspector to behave like a mobile, I see in the source code that images are resized to fit mobile width, but the natural size are always the large image (usually over 1000px wide). Why all slider, in 2017, do not use src for mobile optimization?? If you have any clue for me, please let me know. Thanks!

Thank you very much for your advice! i am happy with wp rocket best cache plugin yet.

I am using wcf for wordpress for a carousel of sponsor images, and I am using easingslider for posts on widgets, I’d like to know if using one plugin to do both would be better, and which would that be, Mataslider? Thank you

Jérôme Lacroix try smart slider 3. While it doesn’t use scrset you are able to select images for mobile only.

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