I am often asked to create a “basic” or “simple” image gallery that the site owner can update themselves. There are a number of front end options to consider when creating this kind of gallery.
Many galleries have a page of thumbnails that you click to get a popup with the full size image. These are not very user friendly unless there are previous and back links in the popup. I think it’s even better to have the full size image replace the thumbnails in the main window in order to avoid opening extra browser windows.
With small galleries the thumbnails and large version could occupy the same window. In that case you could just rollover the thumbnails to see the large image (like we did on the L&O and Katered Kanines projects), though this will make the whole page load more slowly since you need to preload all the images so that the rollovers respond quickly. With these projects the large images aren’t very large so it’s not really a problem.
If you’re going to use next and back links it really helps if the next link always appears in the same spot so the user can keep clicking without moving the cursor and page through all the photos very quickly. Another thing I saw recently that was really sweet and simple is setup so the user can just click on the photo itself in order to see the next one.
There are some fancy galleries that include an automatic slideshow feature with pause and play buttons. I personally don’t like these. I’d rather just click through each image. The internet is all about interaction, not just sitting back and watching and there are some photos you want study for a few minutes and some you want to click right past. These kinds of galleries also usually have fade in and out effects which I can incorporate into any kind of gallery, not just a slideshow, if the client feels they really need that extra slickness. The fade in and out are not too distracting in my opinion and are appropriate for certain kinds of sites.
An automatic slideshow can have it’s place also, but the only place I really see these working is on a home or portal page, where there is other content for the user to browse while one section has a slideshow of current articles, or advertisers, to catch the users eye.