Dynamic Header Images in WordPress – The Ultimate Solution

I’ve just been experimenting with dynamic headers on my development site, and the solution I’ve found is very cool. Imagine being able to set a different header image for each page on your WordPress-powered site. Now imagine being able to do that, and being able to set a different header for each post. Yes, I know, super cool right?

The solution I found is the Dynamic Headers plugin created by the team at Nicasio Design. I downloaded and installed the plugin, and I have to say, not only is this one of the most useful plugins I’ve come across in awhile, but also one of the most impressive for it’s ease of use, and the possibilities of feature extensions in the future.

Let’s cut to the chase, shall we? After installing this plugin, you will see a new management panel in your WordPress Dashboard, most likely all the way on the lower left.

Dynamic Headers Management Panel
Dynamic Headers Management Panel

What I especially like about the management panel for this plugin is the very top item, Directions. I have experimented with hundreds of plugins and most of them have directions in a readme.txt file. Having the directions available right from the dashboard is very convenient, and a nice user-focused touch. (A testament to the Nicasio Design team’s design philosophy?)

After reading the directions, I created a couple of test headers and uploaded them using the “Add New File” option.

Add New Header Image
Add New Header Image

The next step was to make a simple edit to the header.php file in my theme. I know, in a perfect world, you don’t want to edit any files, both WordPress core files or theme files, but for some features, editing your theme files is necessary.

The edit you need to make is outlined, conveniently, under the Directions section. All you do is insert a template tag that this plugin creates into your header.php file in the place where you would like your Dynamic Header images to appear.

This is the Template Tag:

<?php show_media_header(); ?>

…and I placed it at the top of my header DIV…

<div id=”header”>
<?php show_media_header(); ?>

The next step is to either edit a post/page or to create a new post/page. Once in edit/write mode on a post or page, you will see the Dynamic Headers option at the bottom. Simply choose the image you want to display in the header for that post or page, and publish. Remember, the images you choose from will have already been added above.

Choose Header in Edit/Write Mode
Choose Header in Edit/Write Mode

For my testing purposes, I edited the “Contact Us” page on my development site. This is what the page looks like normally:

before-dynamic-headers

…and after I edited the page and choose a header image…

after-dynamic-headers

Can it get any more simple!?

Why Use It?

Using this plugin will allow you to target your header images to match the content of your posts and pages. At first thought, it’s mostly for aesthetic reasons. If have a post about my family, on that post I could have a header image showing a group photo from a family reunion. On another post about my dog’s latest visit to the dog park, I could have a header image showing a collage of images of just my dog.

However, you may want to use this plugin’s features as an extra marketing tool for your site, or even for your other sites. Let’s suppose you want to use a header image to advertise some specific part of your site. For instance, if I have a post detailing how to add an affiliate store to your WordPress site, then at the top of any post that discusses anything to do with affiliate marketing, I can have a header that advertises that part of my site. Are the wheels turning?

There’s only one shortfall with this idea. If you advertised an area of your site (or another one of your sites) using this method, there is no way to hyperlink these dynamic header images that I’m aware of. Using the example above, I would want to link my header image to a page, post, or category archive page that deals with affiliate marketing. To my knowledge, this cannot currently be done in with regular images that is. EDIT: I was just notified by Dan Cannon that this functionality is planned for future versions!

This plugin also accepts Flash files, which I am guessing could contain url links. I have not tested this as I am not familiar enough with Flash creation to try, but if this is the case, would it then be possible to create not only header images with links, but completely different Flash navigation menus and insert those into your theme files as well?

What do you think? How could the Dynamic Headers plugin be used other than what is described above?

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