Essential Grid is a plugin that aims to be an all-purpose grid building solution for WordPress. Once this plugin is installed on your site you can then create grids which are inserted into your posts and pages, as well as displayed in the sidebars of your site. Depending on how your site is configured, you can also display these grids on the homepage, making them an attractive way to showcase your content to visitors as they arrive at your site.
The type of content that can be displayed in the grids created with this plugin includes posts, pages, products, images, videos, and many more types of WordPress content. Essential Grid comes with many different layouts and skins for setting the appearance of the grids you create, and there is even a skin editor for even more customisation possibilities. The plugin also includes lots of settings for determining which content is displayed in a particular grid and how it is presented.
The plugin has been developed by Theme Punch who has also produced a number of other plugins for WordPress including the incredibly successful Slider Revolution plugin that has become the industry standard slider for many premium WordPress themes available today.
The Essential Grid plugin has been created to allow you to add grid layouts to your WordPress posts and pages, which can also be set to be displayed on your site’s homepage. The plugin also includes the ability to add grids to your sidebar areas via a widget.
While this might not sound too exciting, when you take a look at the type of grids you can add to your site, and the options for customising them, you should be able to quickly see the potential of this plugin and the countless ways it can be used on almost any type of site to enhance its visual appeal, while also providing a useful interface for your visitors to use to access and consume your content.
This plugin comes with a large selection of layouts for the grids; however each of them can be fully customised to suit your needs. Thanks to the many included layouts, getting started with Essential Grid is very straightforward and WordPress users with limited experience of the platform and plugins like this will still be able to quickly get something very attractive up on their site.
However, more advanced power users and those who want more control over how the elements they add to their site should be pleased with all the customisation options available with Essential Grid.
To help illustrate this point, it’s worth mentioning that Essential Grid includes over 30 skins for quickly applying a new appearance to your grids. However, the plugin also features a visual skin editor to help you really customise the included skins and even create something of your own.
The content you can include in the grids is not limited to any particular type of WordPress content and the plugin includes the ability to create grids containing the following elements:
- Posts including custom post types
- Products (WooCommerce compatible)
- Image / Media Galleries
Pretty much any type of WordPress content can be added to your grid layouts, and the content can all be filtered by post type, category, tags and much more. This enables you to ensure only the content you want is displayed in a particular grid.
When it comes to the types of grids you can build, once again no stone has been left unturned. With Essential Grid you can add the following types of grid layouts to your site:
- Variable width columns
- WooCommerce product displays
- Video layouts
- Price tables
- Full width
- Full screen
Each of the items in the grid can have rollover effects that are activated when the mouse cursor hovers over that particular item. This can include displaying a colour overlay, showing some text, links to view the image or view the post content. These rollover effects are really eye catching and give your site an extra layer of interactivity to impress your visitors.
As you would expect with a modern WordPress plugin, Essential Grid is fully responsive for displaying its content on a range of screen sizes, from tablets to small screen smartphones. Any grids you add to your site will resize and rearrange to ensure they fit the user’s available screen space.
The grid item functionality such as the buttons and links are all responsive too and can be activated by using a touchscreen interface.
Using the Essential Grid Plugin
With so many features and options for adding a grid to your site, you might be wondering how easy this plugin is to use, and if the wealth of settings are more of a hindrance than a help when working with Essential Grid.
In this part of the review we will take a look at how you can go about creating a grid and how the many options for customising it are handled.
Once the plugin is installed, two new menu items are added to your WordPress dashboard entitled Ess. Grids and Ess. Grid. From the first option you can manage any existing grids on your site, but from the second menu item further down the page, you can create the grids.
From the Ess. Grid control panel, clicking on the ‘Create New Ess. Grid’ button will take you to the grid builder.
As you can see the interface for creating a grid is very clean and fairly similar to the standard WordPress user interface. The backend of the plugin is all responsive so if you are creating grids on a smaller screen device, you shouldn’t have too many problems.
The workflow for creating a grid is as follows:
- Name the grid
- Select a source for the content
- Set a source for the media
- Define the grid layout
- Add navigation controls to the grid
- Choose how the content will be sorted
- Select a skin for the styling of the grid
- Set the animations and rollover effects
- Add any videos
- Setup the lightbox effect
- Choose a loading spinner
- Save the grid
12 steps might sound like a lot but most of the steps don’t require much input from the user unless you really want to tweak and edit the existing settings. For each step you can also preview your grid as it develops, allowing you to easily see what effect the changes are you making to the settings are having.
The grid preview is displayed on the same page as the options, underneath the settings. This allows you to see the preview without switching windows or tabs, making it very convenient to use.
The plugin comes with detailed documentation that covers each and every setting of Essential Grid so you can easily make sense of the different options on offer and start creating personalised responsive grids for your site.
The skin editor included with this plugin is a feature that those who are perhaps designing sites for client’s, or just want even more control over how their grids are displayed, will really appreciate. With the skin editor you can create a new skin or edit an existing one to give you a base to work from.
The skin editor features a drag and drop interface so you can easily add any of the available elements to your skin. These elements include items such as the buttons to read more, icons for previewing the content, and the text overlays which can be added to any grid content.
For even more control over how your skins look, you can bring up the CSS editor for the skin you are working on and make changes directly to the underlying CSS. This is a great feature to have access to if you really want to great your own grid layouts using this plugin.
These skins and the grids you create can be exported for use on other sites using this plugin or for including them in WordPress themes.
This is a premium plugin but priced at just $24, it really offers excellent value for money. Essential Grid is packed with features and truly is a comprehensive package for adding content grids to your WordPress site.
This is a really impressive plugin that anyone who has ever thought about adding grids to their site which can display many different types of content should definitely check out.
The developers of Essential Grid have done a really good job of creating something that is easy enough to use so that a beginner can quickly start using it to add a great looking grid to their site; as well as building something that has enough settings, options, and flexibility on offer to keep developers and power users happy.
If you are happy to use the default settings, you can still create a fairly unique and personalised grid layout for your site. However, if you are willing to explore the settings in more depth and perhaps even use the skin editor, there are really no limits to how personalized your grids can be.
This is an excellent value plugin that does a very good job of doing what it set out to do, which is adding content grids to your site with countless configuration options. The fact that it’s available from a reputable developer means it’s very likely this plugin will continue to be improved and upgraded for the foreseeable future.
If you want to add grids that contain posts, products, images, or video, to your site that will work with any theme and most devices, then Essential Grid comes highly recommended.