Is choosing the right theme for Elementor important?

WordPress Mobile Speed

Updated


There are no affiliate links on PagePipe.

There are several themes proven to work great with Elementor. But it’s not the theme’s fault if your site is slow. Is there a best theme?

The three best themes for Elementor users.

GeneratePress

Most of the people we know use GeneratePress with Elementor because it’s built for speed. Here are some key speed features:

Astra

No WordPress theme has gotten more Elementor-related hype than Astra. Judging by the comments on Elementor groups, you’d think  Astra is the leading theme. But when we’ve seen surveys counting actual users, Astra comes in below GeneratePress. Astra contains speed potential. But a novice overloads this theme like any other. It’s lightweight (less than 50K on the frontend). We tested that spec and it’s true. Astra has the potential for *unparalleled* speed as the authors claim.

REFERENCE: http://pagepipe.com/extreme-astra-maximum-mobile-benefits-from-free-theme-features/

Regardless of the theme, every website needs help to reach the greatest speed. Find out the basics of what you need to know: Start here.

Hello

The Hello theme is from the same team that created Elementor. You might think that means it would be best for working with Elementor, but you would be wrong. The Hello theme has been around for years. It didn’t get much traction until recently when they released the theme to the free WordPress repository. Lots of people jumped on it right away. But many of these people realized that Hello was not the answer for them. Why? Hello is so barren of features that it’s unusable for anyone who isn’t proficient in CSS. Another sticking point is the fact that Hello requires Elementor Pro ($49 annual rent). It won’t work with just the free version of Elementor.

Regardless of the theme, every website needs help to reach the most speed potential. Find out the basics of what you need to know: Start here.

Which is best?

Unless you’re good with CSS, Hello is a non-starter. Hello fails to take part in the race. The others are both great themes, are fast, and have good support from their developers. And they work great with the free and the Pro version of Elementor. They also have premium features available at reasonable prices.

But premium will double the theme page weight – and slow down your site. They forget to tell you that.

For example, Elementor boasts they replace 17 plugins with Elementor widgets. They claim this saves you money and improves speed. But the 17 plugins they claim to replace, we would never add these features to any website. They cause slowdowns or poor UX:

  • Maintenance Mode/Coming Soon
  • Popup Builders
  • Motion Effects
  • Forms
  • Media Carousel
  • Countdowns
  • Email Marketing Services
  • Image Gallery
  • Pricing Tables
  • Testimonial Carousels
  • Google Maps
  • Social Icons
  • Header & Footer
  • Facebook Embed
  • Tabs
  • Accordion
  • Slides

As a  final insult, Elementor says 20 plugins is the largest number of plugins you should have on any website. That is hokum. We often have 50 to 70 plugins and our pages load in under 1 second on cheap hosting. The average number of plugins on WordPress sites is 25.

What about speed?

What will ruin the speed for your site is not the theme – unless it’s a slow one like Divi. It’s all the junk you add to it. It’s designer apathy that ruins speed.

Keeping themes fast requires site owner self-discipline.

Surprise! We don’t recommend Elementor.

REFERENCE: http://pagepipe.com/how-elementor-page-builder-affects-mobile-page-speed/

We’re sharing speed numbers from a recent test. We built a fast Elementor page using our origin optimization recommendations. Then we built the same page without Elementor – and threw in an extra-large featured header image.

What should you use instead? A responsive grid column plugin. But only if you need columns.

Mobile users only need one-column pages!

What theme did we use for this Elementor test?

Automattic introduced the Twenty-seventeen default free theme way back in the fall of 2016. It loads in about 25 milliseconds. But only after stripping the theme and WordPress core of unnecessary features.

REFERENCE: http://pagepipe.com/how-we-cheated-the-speed-tests-using-twenty-seventeen-theme/

That’s right. It’s not even on the popular speed theme list above. Do we use this theme? Yes. Why? Because it won’t retire. It’ll be maintained for 10 years. That’s based on the historical performance of past default WordPress themes. Longevity. It won’t disappear soon. And it’s free. No pro or premium version to pay rent every year!

What do the pages look like for comparison?

ABOVE: With Elementor. Click to enlarge.

And below without Elementor:

After without Elementor

Do we remove or recommend removing Elementor? That may sound  like a piffle. But when TTFB on a slow server (like BlueHost) is 1.7 seconds, you only have 300 milliseconds left to load everything. That’s achievable but it’s a speed miracle. Gaining extra overhead to pad your web performance budget is a relief.

So the new version 2.9.7 of Elementor is 1M lighter than the rollback version (2.8.5) when decompressed. Elementor trimmed down the newest files. This is unusual. The newer version removes 1MB of Javascript. Both versions still claim 30 widgets.

Both test pages loaded in 1 second (+/- 30 ms) using WPT.org.

On Pingdom:

page weight 314k, 549ms, 18 requests without Elementor

page weight 715k, 1.57s, 19 requests with Elementor

1 second load time difference with this test! The two test sources reveal different results. Which do we trust in the end? Neither. We trust our browser timer most.

Why? Voodoo.

Timer results: 1.2 seconds with Elementor pagebuilder and 930 milliseconds without Elmentor. Both pages with unprimed cache. 270 millisecond is the difference on Firefox browser desktop.

1.71 seconds  (with Elementor) vs 850 milliseconds (without Elementor) on Google Chrome browser. That’s 860 milliseconds faster. Go figure.

But no matter which speed test you use, it’s intuitive Elementor is slower. Elementor makes significantly more requests and adds more scripts and styles to pages than using a simple column grid plugin with a fast theme.

Below: 3-minute demo video.
“How to use the free Lightweight Grid Columns Plugin” developed by GeneratePress.

So does using Elementor slow down desktop pages significantly? No.

But the difference in page weight will slow down mobile. There is no noticeable difference in load time on desktop. It only matters to mobile users with limited remote bandwidth and/or metered data. How bad is that?

For some sites, that’s 70 to 80 percent of visitor traffic.

NOTE: The test pages are both optimized and enhanced for speed with the same performance plugins. Both are on the same site, host and theme.

While internet mobile speeds dropped by 7 seconds this last year. The average load time is still 15 seconds. Horrible mobile connection times.

This link below gives solid information about the state-of-the-moment for what is normal and bad mobile speed:

https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/marketing-resources/data-measurement/mobile-page-speed-new-industry-benchmarks/

Don’t think for a minute Google is always right – but their sample size is reported. They recommend less than 500k pages for mobile. We agree.

Avoiding pagebuilders for mobile speed.

Godspeed-

Steve Teare
performance engineer

 

More Unconventional Speed Tips from PagePipe

Instead of band-aid approaches, we drill down to the root cause of your slow site. This is origin optimization. Also known as site tuning. To do this, we analyze site components:

  • Hosting
  • Theme
  • Plugins
  • Scripts and third-party services.
  • Images and media library.
  • We minimize globally loading plugin effects.

Find out more details about Site TuningGet Speed!


 

Other Related Resources

Build with Empathy
GIVE SPEED