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WP Featherlight: An Ultra Lightweight Lightbox Plugin for WordPress

Today we’re happy to release a nifty little WordPress plugin that you can use to display your images in a beautiful lightbox, without adding a bunch of bloat to your site. It’s incredibly efficient and admittedly scratches our own itch, but since we took the time to build it, we figured it made sense to share it with the rest of you too. You can download it and install it now.

The Problem with Most WordPress Lightbox Plugins

The reason that Rob set out to build WP Featherlight is because we were having a really hard time finding a lightbox plugin that was simple to customize, but that was also lightweight, flexible, and didn’t add a bunch of bloat to our website. As you already know, we’re pretty obsessive when it comes to performance, so we scrutinize the plugins and code that we add to our sites quite a bit.

We also didn’t need a lot of the features that are popular in other lightbox plugins. Sharing buttons definitely fell in the “nice to have” category, but weren’t an essential part of what we needed, and definitely weren’t worth the weight that they added to our pages. That’s not to say we won’t ever add social sharing to WP Featherlight, but it’ll likely come in the form of an integration with another popular sharing solution, instead of including something custom in our plugin.

Back to the page weight item… Most lightbox plugins available today load scripts and styles on every single page of your site, whether the lightbox is being used or not. We wanted to include a way for users to easily disable the scripts and styles from loading if they didn’t need the lightbox on any particular post or page.

disable-lightbox
Simply check the box and disable WP Featherlight any place it isn’t needed

The other challenge that we frequently ran across was the ability to customize styles. Inline styles can create some real challenges when trying to achieve a custom look at feel. WP Featherlight comes with a super minimal set of styles out of the box, and doesn’t include any inline CSS at all!

Easily change the look and feel of your lightbox.
Easily change the look and feel of your lightbox.

You can customize WP Featherlight to your heart’s content and won’t be fighting stubborn CSS along the way.

Gallery Support

Another issue we’ve run into in the past is support for WordPress galleries. Support has been kind of hit and miss with other plugins we’ve used, but WP Featherlight comes with full support for native WordPress galleries, and even has support for the popular Jetpack galleries. For the time being we probably won’t be adding support for any other gallery plugins, mainly because we want to keep this plugin as lightweight and easy-to-use as possible. (click the image below for a quick gallery demo)

lightbox-demo
Click me to see the galleries in action.

What Else Can I Expect from WP Featherlight?

Like I mentioned before, the whole point of this plugin is to be performant, easy-to-use, and easy to customize. The more features and overhead we add, the more locked-in we become. That said, we definitely plan to actively develop and support WP Featherlight for a long time to come.

Is WP Featherlight mobile responsive?

Absolutely. WP Featherlight makes your images look great on any mobile device, and is a great way to draw attention to your media.

Will WP Featherlight work with my Content Delivery Network?

The short answer is, that it should. We’ve done quite a bit of testing with content delivery networks and it does work. CDNs just introduce a lot of variables, so if WP Featherlight isn’t working for you, hit us up in the support forum and we’ll help you out.

Will WP Featherlight work with external images like Flickr and the like?

In order for WP Featherlight to work, it requires the images be part of the WordPress media library, so it doesn’t work with images loading from external sources like Flickr.

Where can I learn more about it?

Check out this video tutorial that we put together that goes over how to setup images and galleries to work with WP Featherlight.

Also be sure to checkout this review and kind words from the folks at 1WD.tv. They created a walkthrough video as well, and had some great feedback to add.

How do I get my hands on it?

If you’re ready to try out WP Featherlight, you can download it for free on the WordPress repository, or by searching for ‘featherlight’ from the Add New Plugin menu in your WordPress dashboard.

This is awesome, who do I thank?

You should send Rob Neu a tweet. He gets a kick out of happy users. You can also leave us a 5 Star review on WordPress.org as that helps us build reputation for the plugin and gets it into the hands of even more happy users. You should also be sure to thank the creator of the Featherlight script, Noel Bossart. The github repository for the jQuery Featherlight script is here.

What if I run into problems?

Please don’t send Rob Neu a tweet in this scenario 😉 . If you find any bugs or issues, please report them on the WordPress.org support forums and we’ll be happy to help you out. You can also hit us up in the comments of this post if you have any questions about how it works or if it might be right for your particular use case.

We’re excited to get WP Featherlight into your hands. So please try it out and let us know what you think!

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17 Comments

  1. Matthew

    Hi,
    Featherlight is really awesome!

    But today sth change in WP and doesn’t work anymore. Please check it.

    Best regards,
    Matthew

  2. Luis Medilo

    Thanks! Just installed it on my site. It does the job but it would be great if it can be customized to look different. However, that would defeat the purpose of being lightweight in the first place. I like the option of disabling it on certain posts and pages, since I don’t use lightboxes on all of my pages.

  3. Stephan

    Just what i was looking for. A responsive lightbox plugin WITHOUT bloat and other useless stuff that messes up performance. Props for paying attention to performance, i wish more plugin developers would!

  4. Ryan Smith

    Awesome, just what I was looking for. Other lightbox plugins add a ton of inline code to the pages that was causing issues. This doesn’t seem to add any just the small js file. One thing I wish it did was allow for a slideshow of all the images on the post, unless I’m missing something. But that would probably add to the code which is the whole point.

    1. Ryan Sullivan

      Hey Ryan,

      Glad it’s working out for you and thanks for taking it for a spin! We’re not totally opposed to adding the feature you’re talking about (we’ve had a few other people request it) but we’re doing everything we can to not include an options panel in this plugin to keep it as simple and efficient as possible. We’ll do some testing on our end to see if it’s feasible to add something like this without adding a bunch of overhead. Glad it’s working out for you so far!

  5. Stacy Butera

    Beautiful plugin that makes photos and galleries elegant. I’d love one thing though, support for using WP featured photos.

    Thanks!

  6. Barbara

    Nice plugin. It’s now installed at both my work sites. I think I’ll add to my personal blog, too. Thanks!

  7. Stephen Clark

    This is great! I just installed it and it is amazingly quick!!

    Only question I have is if there is a way to display the image ‘title’ or ‘description’ in the lightbox overlay – maybe as text under the image but on the grey background? I read through the GitHub specs but didn’t see anything – but I could have missed it too.

    You can see the images and galleries I have on my site – lots of Desktop Wallpaper collections and galleries and I’d just like to display the image name/description

    http://www.sgclark.com/sandbox/wallpapers/epl

    Thanks!
    Stephen

    1. Ryan Sullivan

      Thanks for stopping by, Stephen. While we definitely think something like that would be nice, it would require a bring big deviation from the current direction of the plugin. We like that it’s lightweight and incredibly simple to use (no options), and doing things like title overlays would definitely require a settings page of some kind. It’s not to say we won’t do it some day, but it’s definitely not in the roadmap for now. Really appreciate the feedback and the kind words!

  8. Connor Rickett

    I’m going to give this a try on one of my sites. This is definitely a niche that hasn’t been–well, I don’t want to say no one’s filled it, because there are lots of options out there–but certainly one that’s not been overwhelmingly successful.

    I wish more developers paid more attention the speed of their plugins. A little bit can make a big difference when you consider everything a site is running at any given moment. Of course, part of that is just the way WordPress does things, but it seems like there’s been more slop in the past couple years.

    Anyway, I’m rambling. Cool plugin. I’m going to give it a go, and, if it does what promised, I’ll give you some stars!

  9. Peter

    Really good job. Thank you for useful plugin. This is exactly what I needed long time for pictures.

  10. Dan

    Ah YES! This is awesome. I was just looking this week for a simple solution. I tried Simple Lightbox which is so popular, but it cased a memory issue on my site immediately. This works like a charm 🙂

    I have a new project for your next plugin, please make a simple bloat-free author box plugin 🙂 Pretty please?

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