After working through a series of blocks that help me style various text blocks, I reviewed all the various media blocks to handle images and video that are available in the eight collections that I’m reviewing (default ones, JetPack, Advanced Gutenberg, Atomic Blocks, Kadence, Qodeblock, Stackable, and Ultimate Addons).
I am obviously going to keep the default image block. It is the simplest and easiest way to insert a photo from the media library OR an external URL. I am trying to control my media library a little bit more aggressively so that random photos just don’t get added there during an embed, and since I have the NextGen Gallery installed, it’s easy to upload my photos to various NGG galleries and hotlink to them. I wish NGG Image Chooser had a block associated with it and I may actually pay someone to develop one, but for now, I’ll stick with the image block plus the NGG Gallery block.
After the default, the world of image blocks gets a LOT more complicated. There are image blocks, slider blocks, gallery blocks, and even header/cover blocks (like your page header, with the ability to put text over them). I’ll avoid the speciality blocks for things like author pages or pricing blocks that have images in them, at least for now, as they are not really about image display as simply having an option to include an image. Let’s dive deep on the rest:
- Default cover — Like the main header on a page, you can post an image and put a title over it, but that’s about it. Too limited. Pass.
- Default media and text — This one combines something from the media library with some content/description beside it. I would be tempted NOT to keep it except for one thing — it will let me embed local videos with text beside it. Simple, easy, bam, your video is there. You can even stack it on mobile. Definitely a keeper.
- Default embed of GIF — It is a bit different than the normal image blocks, and not something I would use often, but I’ll keep it.
- Stackable’s image box — This allows you to put several images side-by-side (a mini gallery), as long as they all come from the media library. I can add titles, subtitles and descriptions. All of Stackable’s options are generally awesome, I just wish it would allow me to insert images from somewhere other than the media library. Pass.
- Stackable’s header — Like “cover”, this allows you to put some text over top of media. I say media because it is NOT limited to images. Sure, the source has to be the media library, but it is pretty solid. I am considering a default “blockquote” upgrade where there would be an image in the background, or perhaps a layout option for quotes/humour/etc. I would prefer a fully “merged” image that you could share (i.e., some way to share the image and text on social media together), but I don’t think that is possible. If I want higher quality images, I can always go premium, but most of the premium ones are things I can do in PowerPoint myself just as easily. Not as “slick” or as “easy” as paying for a one-click option, but still decent. Except, again, it ONLY works if you use images from the media library. I’d love the option to have a lot of different backgrounds, but I don’t want to clutter up the media library…I’ll pass on this for now, and keep it mind as a possible way to do blockquotes.
- Advanced Gutenberg’s Advanced image — Similar to other ones, it allows you to add text over the image, but nothing special. Pass.
- Default gallery block/tiled gallery/slideshow — While I like the premise, it only allows images from the media library. And since I don’t keep much in my library in the way of images, I have no real need to keep it. If it let me do VIDEO galleries, that would be something worth doing. Pass.
- Advanced Gutenberg’s images slider — Good, but I have no need for it, particularly only pulling from the image library. Pass.
- Kadence’s advanced gallery – I have NGG, so no need for this. If it pulled from NGG, without embedding the same image in the media library, then I might use it. Or if it allowed video. Pass.
As you saw, many of the options that I ditched above were nothing special for images and they didn’t include options to embed a video (either locally or externally), so no “extra” reason to consider them. Of course, there is the default video block, and it allows upload, inserting from the media library, and inserting from a URL. This is the the same power as the default image block that I like so much, so my first reaction was that of course, I would keep it.
Similarly, there are default embeds that give options for lots of video options that I might use, like YouTube or Vimeo, as well as a long list of other sites that I won’t. Since most of the “other ones” can be handled by the default video block, my intent was to keep the default plus one or two “special” embed options.
Then I tried the “Advanced Video” block from Advanced Gutenberg, which comes with a LOT more controls. It includes options to link to external sites (like YouTube), to play local videos, load image previews, open in a lightbox, adjust playback controls, etc. Which are pretty great. Which then made me wonder…why do I need the previous ones? I tested a local video, and it worked, check. YouTube also worked, check.
There’s a default embed block for TED videos so I thought I would try one of those in the Advanced Video block. In normal insertion mode, the TED video doesn’t show in a preview. Hmm. I tried adding it in a lightbox. Okay, there it is…but when the page is loaded, it still wouldn’t play. I went back and tested the default video block, and the default embed for TED, and those work just fine. Hmm…I tried different forms for the URL, I tried getting to it from a direct “video” file URL rather than the page URL, nada. It would NOT play. I tried a bunch of options, searched through help files online, nothing. Finally, I reached out to the plugin creator and waited a couple of days for a response. At which time they said, “oops, we should fix the description for that block, it ONLY plays local + YouTube and Vimeo, no other embeds”. So TED didn’t work because TED isn’t one of the options. Which is REALLY weird because it isn’t that much more complicated to add other URLs and sites. For most other video players, once you figure out how to pull from sites like YouTube, everything else is a piece of cake. Nope, no TED.
Hmm…well that’s a design question for me. The default video option handles everything. I can do some additional embeds for a few external ones like YouTube or TED, but do I really need it? The default can handle TED and YouTube just fine.
Nope, the overhead to run those other embeds and blocks is too high. I’m going to pass.
I’m reminding myself that I am also likely to use the default media and text block anyway for videos. It lets me put a bunch of text next to it, which is pretty sweet, and most videos I play are local.
Stackable includes a video block too, called Video Popup, and it has some interesting features and format options, but like Advanced Gutenberg, it only does YouTube and Vimeo videos. It doesn’t even have a local option. Pass.
So I’m sticking mainly with six media blocks:
- the default image block
- the NextGen Gallery block
- the default media and text block
- the default GIF embed block (although I won’t use it much),
- Stackable’s header block for possible use with blockquotes later, and
- the default video block.
Everything else media-media related? Gone like the wind.
Update: To see my current collection of blocks, check out the blocks I use.