Is your WordPress theme pernicious for mobile speed?

Updated: March 2018

Everyone wants to hear the truth about speed

– until Steve Teare opens his mouth.

Speed Truth Hurts – Sometimes

Your theme and page builder are half of page weight – and another 14 percent is Facebook overhead – can pages still load in under 2 seconds?

Maybe in Heaven.

There’s no way on Earth. Not on today’s Internet. Maybe tomorrow?

We help in the plugin department.

Removing 100 percent of your plugins isn’t an option either.

The more wasteful and diseased your plugins – the more we can help.


Theme as speed killer.

If you’re using the Divi theme, it’s doubtful to get good mobile speeds.

Or, say, Salient theme with Visual Composer (now called WPBakery page builder).

Or The7 theme.

Those “solutions” aren’t mobile speed solutions – never were. Their day in the sun is over. Appreciated and adored no longer.

Cursed instead.

With this bad news, we recommend rebuilding for speed. Insult to injury! Nobody wants to hear that! Horrible pain.

Make what you’ve got stretch for as long as possible.

Get a return on your investment.

We’re healers. Not bandits. Results are what count.

A diagnosis of terminal site cancer?

Do doctors bill for delivering such cheery news: “You’re gonna die soon, son.” Oh, great. They do charge for that.

We’re not that kind of doctor.

Sometimes healing requires chemotherapy or radical surgery or radiation treatments. Not a mere bandage.

Healing a website is painful. Painkillers, anyone?

Radical site rebuilds for mobile speed? Don’t they take time? Yeah. It’s expert, detailed work. Make mobile speed your goal and it eventually happens. Patience.

Our suggestions for radical site surgery:

1Use a theme that’s fast loading. And we don’t mean “mediocre” fast. We mean faster than greased lightening. Built and tested for speed. Don’t believe 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.

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: Basic theme, Tiny Hestia, GeneratePress, and Twenty-seventeen default theme. Many don’t activate code baggage like jQuery or Font Awesome. You can stripped them of anything lacking substance.

Do you think those are 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, “Sugar.” 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 – oddity. We build WP Rocket’s features with discrete plugins. It takes at least 4 plugin – but adds only 4 milliseconds to load time instead.

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

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?

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.

6Don’t use HTTPS/SSL certification. Don’t give into Google’s social pressure. 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 of a TTFB below 200 milliseconds. Ouch. Embarrassing.

There are more non-surgical extras for speed we place into the fine-tuning, tweaking basket.

Do you suppose examining your site that images are the biggest problem? They’re not. It’s rarely the case any more. The two biggest factors are usually theme-related and Facebook. Even worse than much-hated, third-party ads – but barely.

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.

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

Let’s go – faster.


Steve Teare
performance engineer

Mobile WordPress Speed – without coding!

What others think of us:

... Facebook Mastermind Group just referenced your blog in talking about WP themes ... Best quote he said, "Here's an interesting site on WordPress speed: Warning: he's got some controversial ideas." Thought you’d like that! Lilypad Media LLC, North Carolina, USA

by - Kurt Perschke