6 suggestions for radical site speed surgery.

Updated: July 2018

1Use a theme that’s fast loading. And we don’t mean “mediocre” fast. We mean faster than greased lightning. Built and tested for speed. Don’t believe the theme author’s speed bluster. Test it – or don’t buy it. If you must use a page builder, we recommend Elementor (with caution) – or wait (forever?) and see what Gutenberg offers.

Setting limitations upfront determine what kind of theme you can use. And how many images you can have. We’ve found it’s best to steer clear of “premium” (paid) themes. Why? Because they’re loaded with unnecessary features (bloat). Achieve better speed from a stripped-down free theme. Then add only the plugin features you need. The number of plugins is not a problem. Plugin quality – not quantity – is the real speed issue. This recipe produces a faster origin site.

We prefer a free theme because they’re not loaded with features. Paid themes are usually gold-plated and over-engineered with non-features. Free speed theme recommendations include:

Many don’t activate code baggage like jQuery or Font Awesome. You can strip them of anything lacking substance.

NOTE: The pro (premium paid) versions of the above speed themes double the page weight. This is not super significant. But we find the inefficiency and lack of documentation annoying. They brag about the free version’s speed. Then don’t publish the extra drag added by the premium version. That’s an advertising sin of omission. So if you’re into extreme speed, use the free theme without the extras. That takes creativity.

Creativity is the inverse of dollars. C=1/$

Do you think these insignificant improvements? Think again. Speed theme authors are deliberate in removing non-features for mobile speed benefits. It’s unconventional and bold. If pages weigh 5 megabytes to 3 megabytes – or even 2 megabytes, they’re doomed to fail for mobile user experience. The goal is superb quality pages weighing 100k to 500k.

Add features using discrete plugins. Not multipurpose plugins like Jetpack or Yoast SEO. This means also living within the theme limitations. Keep It Simple, Stupid. The KISS principle.

3Install proven fast-loading plugins. Avoid popular plugins like Yoast SEO and Contact Form 7 and many others. This includes WP Rocket, which functions great, but adds drag. Yep. 32-milliseconds of site drag to every page. Yes – believe it – a caching plugin slowing things down while speeding things up – an oddity. We build WP Rocket’s features with discrete plugins. It takes at least 4 plugin – but adds only a mere 4 milliseconds to load time instead.

With discrete plugins, activate features where most needed – instead of globally.

The Facebook like-box is another common slow down. It’s known to add 40+ HTTP requests. On a clients site, we saw that it added 700 KB to page weight, which is not good! – Source

Find ways to either not use Facebook – or using it in a limited way. Reduce the load as much as possible. Is Facebook making you money? Be honest. Or do you dream it might? We don’t hate Facebook because we’re demure introverts and antisocial. We despise Facebook for what they did to speed innocents. Dirtbag destroyers of velocity. Apathetic to speed.

5Abandon the grandeur of Google fonts. If they’re in the theme you choose, disable them with a plugin. Even though they only add 100 to 300 milliseconds. On a fast mobile site that’s a 30-percent loss. Google Fonts are stinky bad for mobile. Use system default fonts instead.

6Don’t use HTTPS/SSL certification. Don’t give into Google’s social pressure (green-shield blackmail). SSL adds 400 to 500 milliseconds to your TTFB (time-to-first-byte) server overhead. Wasteful. Don’t be weak. Go ahead test Google’s home page speed. It used to be under 100 milliseconds. With self-imposed SSL edicts, Google speed sucks now. They can’t even match their own PageSpeed Insights recommendation. That’s a TTFB below 200 milliseconds. Ouch. Embarrassing. Are you using WooCommerce? OK. Keep the SSL.

Non-surgical extras for speed we place into the fine-tuning, tweaking basket. Testing tells which ones help your speed.

Do you suppose images are your biggest problem? They’re not. It’s rarely the case anymore. The two biggest factors are usually theme-related, slow plugins, and Facebook. Even worse than much-hated, third-party ads – but barely. NOTE– We optimize your image library for speed as part of our speed services. Every millisecond counts.


Thanks for trusting us to help improve your site’s mobile health.

Let’s go – faster.
Our secret for fast, mobile-first, web pages: we surgically remove your slowest plugins. Our optimization services speed up your site – and save money, too. That’s origin optimization.


Steve Teare
performance engineer

Mobile WordPress Speed – without coding!

What others think of us:

"I'm a non-programmer and have been breaking my head trying to figure out slow performance of my site. I found my answer stumbling upon your blog and also saved me $$$ from buying pro versions of plugins. Thanks a ton for your efforts." Fabstori.com  India

by - Jabal Shah

Best WordPress Performance Tuning
How expressive and classic design aesthetic affect mobile speed.