Plugin popularity is a barometer of bloat.

WordPress Mobile Speed

Updated: May 2019


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To “Outperform” means being faster loading with a focus on mobile-inherent wireless remote delays. Considerations for things like packet loss and radio latency. Things we don’t worry about much for desktop users.

From our tests so far, WordPress core adds two calls for “Gutenberg blocks” – even with Gutenberg deactivated with a plugin. Now we hate that waste and remove those two scripts. But if you compare the number of requests made by other pagebuilders, that’s nothing. We’ve seen Elementor activate 70 requests. It depends upon activated “widgets.”

Does that make Elementor a dog? No. It’s the poster child of pagebuilders. But that doesn’t make it good enough for extreme mobile speed. For users who don’t have a million visitors – and less than 60 to 70 percent mobile visitors per month – it doesn’t matter. Let them use Elementor. No pain.

For some site owners, bad speed creates cart abandonment and profit loss. Those guys have pain. They’re our audience. We sell info to developers who build sites for profit-oriented site owners — businesses. These guys are special.

Also, the fastest theme on the planet (for now) is Twenty-nineteen. They didn’t include Google fonts (the trend for speed) but used a mobile font stack in style.css. That knocked a couple 100 milliseconds off the load time (200 to 300ms). Of course, you can get the same speed from Twenty-seventeen – if you disable Google fonts with a plugin.

Twenty-nineteen loads in under 50 milliseconds. It’s biggest competitors for theme speed are GeneratePress and Astra. And a few other stripped down themes, like Tiny Hestia. But they’ll never have the longevity and protection that an Automattic-authored theme has. GeneratePress is one guy (Tom with an assistant). He croaks and the theme is gone.

From our tests so far, Gutenberg keeps getting faster with each iteration. So they’re making speed a top priority. Time will tell.

If they stop in-house arguing about features, Gutenberg will be out in late 2020. Then it’s a full-bore pagebuilder. That’s what our intuition says. Meanwhile, new plugins add functionality to “blocks.” That makes them into stopgap pagebuilders with single-purpose, drag-and-drop functions. That’s good for speed.

Elementor is a multi-purpose Swiss-army knife plugin. Too much stuff. That’s not good for speed. They keep adding more and more to this plugin. It’s doubled in package size since they started. That’s not a good sign either. 1.1M > 2.3M

And last but not least, Elementor is a popular plugin with over 2 million installs. That is a barometer of bloat. Popularity and bloat go hand-in-hand toward slowness. Why? Inexplicable correlation. But our guess is prosperity produces code apathy.

Elementor is not bad. We’re building a “PagePipe” website for a guy in Denver right now. Are we worried? No. Because the client is on Pressidium ($25/mo for one site). They have a TTFB (time to first byte) with SSL handshaking of 700 milliseconds. Lots of headroom for speed.

A client in Arkansas also gets that same 700ms TTFB. That’s because we didn’t use SSL. And he’s on Godaddy ($8 per month two sites). Only $4/mo per site. Cheap.

The annual overhead differential is $300 versus $48. It only matters if you’re poor or care about reducing repeating rent costs. The client in Denver doesn’t care. But the guy in Arkansas does. He was paying $500 per year for hosting two websites on two different hosts. Now he pays $96.

You may think this insignificant. Especially for plump Americans. But 70 percent of PagePipe’s traffic is international. Some readers live on only a few dollars a day. In a third-world county, saving $100 per year for the same results is significant (food and shelter).

Godspeed—

Steve Teare
performance engineer

Mobile WordPress Speed – without coding!

Coming Soon to PagePipe readers.

Other Related Resources

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If you’re ready to give your WordPress site wings, here are powerful tools to speed up your site.

Learn how the most popular plugins and ideas waste your time – and hurt web speed. Includes important tips for mobile speed without coding.

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