Updated: June 2018
Plugin Surgery

Our speed experiment started with recommended collections of 386 free, responsive WordPress themes. They came to our attention via recent newsletter advisories. To reduce the number, we only reviewed themes that decompressed to 1MB or less. That reduced our database to 169 themes. We installed each theme and compared for speed evaluation. All these themes are from the WordPress Repository. Just one exception, “Frank,” which is available on GitHub. It’s designed for speed – even though it isn’t the fastest theme.

We examined each theme’s:

  • Original .Zip file size.
  • Decompressed folder size.
  • Extra files included such as icons, fonts, background images, etc.
  • Fonts used.
  • Page weight.
  • Cached weight.
  • Number of HTTP requests.
  • Empty-cache Home page load in milliseconds.
  • Primed-cache Home page load in milliseconds.

We then reduced the database again by discarding themes that took longer than 1000 milliseconds to load. That left 15 themes as prime candidates for further testing of aesthetics and customization. As you will see, many themes are plain and even boring.

Our “SPECIAL SPEED REPORT” eBook.
D
ownload the PDF for free.

We ran our speed tests using YSlow and WebPagetest, two highly regarded testing services. Our setups ran on GoDaddy’s cheap, shared hosting – no CDN – plugins only as required by the themes, and we compressed all files with gzip.

Note: With shared hosting you just can’t get sub-second loads, without gzip. Not on any of these themes. You can set up gzip with a plugin or by editing the .htaccess file – but whatever you do, don’t expect a high-speed website without gzip.

There are 338 words of text content on the sample test pages. No imported images were used except those provided with the theme.

Is it really possible to achieve a one-second load with more than just text on the page? Yes. But it takes strategy and modifications. We’ll test these final 15 themes with before-and-after custom-aesthetic design. Stay tuned.

I also believe that themes need to stop trying to do it all and this would reduce the need for so many updates / feature packing. If themes stuck just to design aspects and let plugins do the building we wouldn’t have to have so many themes. Timothy Brand (@brandgraphics)

No one notices when a website loads fast, but everyone notices when it’s slow. And that slowness may be the last thing people notice if your site takes too long to load. People are impatient and quick to hit the Back button – unwilling to wait even a few seconds. Human perception of machine delays have remained intact for forty years – this isn’t anything new.

response-timeWhen a page changes within 100 milliseconds, the viewer has the illusion of instant response. At 1 second (1,000 ms), they still have a seamless flow of thought. This is a flow state. Nothing distracts them from the site content or what they are looking for. If a page is delayed by over one second to ten seconds, they will abandon the page.

What if your page loads in 20 seconds? Face it. No one will see the hard work you put into website aesthetics and content. It’s as if a slow site doesn’t even exist. Visitors will be gone.

The hallmark of a fast-loading theme is always a small download folder size. The theme may be plain and simple – but it will be fast.

Learn more about the results here >

 


LOOKING FOR A NEW THEME FOR 2018?

thumbnail of THEME-ME-10-v1.compressed
THEME.ME: What is the fastest free theme? There are 5,100 free themes in the WordPress theme directory. Of those, only 1,602 are responsive. All the rest are fixed-width junk. How did we sort the remaining 1,602 free responsive themes to find the fastest loading?

Twenty-seventeen Default Theme Tips Read our torture-test results of this popular free theme. Don’t get locked in for recurring *annual renewal* theme memberships. Save your money. The Twenty-seventeen Torture-tested Themes ebook contains honest and common-sense reporting and tips about mobile WordPress speed!


The 386 initial themes included:

A
abaris, accelerate, adamos, adaption, advantage,
adventurous, advertica-lite, albar, aldehyde, alexandria, alizee, allmed, almanac, alpha-trinity, andrina-lite, anew, anew-child-master, aplos, aquarius, archy, areview, asteria-lite, attitude, avenue, avrora

B
Barebones-master, baskerville, beluga, bharat, big-impresa, bizflare,
bizmo, biznez-lite, bizsphere, bizstudio-lite, bizway, blackbird, bliss,
blogly-lite, Bodega, boemia, boksy-lite, book-lite, BootstrapParallax-Package, bosco, bose, bota, briks, business-lite, business-one, butterbelly

C
canoe, capture, cara, caresland-lite, carton, casper, casper-wp-master, catch-flames, catch-kathmandu, celebrate, celestial-lite, celestino, chelonian, circa, city-informer, cleanport-lite, clearly, clear-tranquil,
codium-light, coeur, colorway, convac-lite, corpo, counterpoint, crawford, cubby, current, cwp-youit

D
daisy-blue, dazzling, delivery-lite, dellow, de-naani, diarjo-lite, dice,
digest, directory, discover, d-lite, duena, dw-timeline, dw-wallpress

E
edin, editor, effect, eighties, elucidate, EmptyCanvas, enfold, enigma,
enlightenment, enterprise-lite, eptima-lite, espied, espressionista, esteem, evolve, expresscurate

F
facade, family, faq, fastr, fictive, figero, finale-theme, finch, fine, firmness, first, fizz, flat-bootstrap, flaton, Flatty-master, floki, flounder,
focus, formation, Foxy, franklin, Frank-master, fresh-and-clean, fukasawa, fullfolio, future

G
garfunkel, genbu, Glider-master, golden-eagle-lite, gommero, goran, graphy, gravit, gray-whale, green-lantern, gridiculous, gridly, gridz, griffin, guardian, gump

H
halcyon, hardpressed, hashi, heavenly, hellish-simplicity, hemingway, hexa, highwind, hoffman

I
i-am-one, ice-fresh, iconic-one, ifeature, ignite, ih-photographer, illustratr, imbalance2, impero, impulse-press, influence, inkzine, interface, intergalactic, intuition, invert-lite, invisible-assassin, isis, isola, itek, i-transform

J
jkreativ-lite, justwrite

K
kelly, kirumo, klasik, kodax_10, komachi, kotetsu

L
lean, Less, libra-free, lifelog, lingonberry, link, litesite, local-business, lupercalia

M
MagazinePlus, manifest, mantle, mantra, maryanne, material, memento, meris, mesocolumn, mh-elegance-lite, microfusion, minezine, minimable, minimagazine, minimaliste, minimatica, minnow, mn-flow, modish, moesia, multipurpose, museum, MyCorp, my-passion, mywiki, naked-wordpress-master

N
national-basic, naturespace, naya-lite, newmedia, newpersonal, news-magazine, news-mix-light, nirvana, nouveau-riche, nova-lite, nulis, nu-white

O
office, omega, one-page, onetake, onetone, opal, opus, origami, osiris

P
padhang, panthea-free, papercuts, parabola, parallax, perfetta, pho, phogra, photomaker, photopia-lite, pilot-fish, pinboard, pinkrio, pinpress, pisces, plainly, portal, preus, prism, professional, prompt, puro, quality, quill, radcliffe, radiant, radiate, rams, ravel, razor, readly, ready-review, rectangulum, resolution, responsive, restaurateur, restimpo, reviewgine-affiliate, rewind, road-fighter, rt_halcyon

S
saga, seller, semicolon, semplicemente, sensitive, serene, shaken, shamatha, shapeSpace, sheeva, shift, simone, simple-business-wp, simplecorp, simple-life, simpleo, simple-theme, simplicity-lite, singl, sixteen, sketch, skt-biz, skt-parallaxme, skt-photo-session, smartshop, socially-awkward, socute, sorbet, so-simple, sparkling, stairway, StanleyWP-Package, starkers-master, stork, storto, sublime-press, subsimple, suevafree, sundance, svelte

T
takeoff, taraza, tashan, tatva-lite, tdpersona, tdsimple, the-box, thememagic, themia-lite, themify-base, Thoughts, time, times, tiny_theme-master, tonal, toommorel-lite, top-mag, torch, tracks, tuned, twentyfifteen, twentyfourteen, twentytwelve, typal-makewp, Typesense-master

U
unite

V
vaaka, vanilj, vantage, verbo, verge, virtue, vision, volta

W
wallstreet, ward, water-lily, weavr, weblizar, welcome, Wembley, white, whiteboard, why-hello-there, wilson, windsor-knot, wortex-lite, wp-barrister, wpex-proyecto, wp-folder-files, wp-framework, wp-svbtle-master

Y
yarn

Z
zeedynamic, zeefocus, zeeminty, zeenoble, zeetasty, zerif-lite, zinnia


LOOKING FOR A NEW THEME FOR 2018?

thumbnail of THEME-ME-10-v1.compressed
THEME.ME: What is the fastest free theme? There are 5,100 free themes in the WordPress theme directory. Of those, only 1,602 are responsive. All the rest are fixed-width junk. How did we sort the remaining 1,602 free responsive themes to find the fastest loading?

Twenty-seventeen Default Theme Tips Read our torture-test results of this popular free theme. Don’t get locked in for recurring *annual renewal* theme memberships. Save your money. The Twenty-seventeen Torture-tested Themes ebook contains honest and common-sense reporting and tips about mobile WordPress speed!

Godspeed—

Steve Teare
performance engineer

Mobile WordPress Speed – without coding!

What others think of us:


"Hi Steve, Thank you so much for that insightful speed review! I appreciate the time you took to explain the issue of the website I'm working on. I'll be looking into some of the recommendations you have and advice that you have given." skiveworks.com, Singapore

by - Jaaze Lim

Review: Sobe WordPress theme for speed.
PDF Download: PhotoGrid WordPress theme speed case study.

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