Review of speed benefits of Twenty-twenty default theme – and Chaplin theme.

WordPress Mobile Speed

Updated: December 2019


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What are our thoughts on the Twenty-twenty theme?

We tested the Twenty-twenty default theme. We strip it and WordPress core with the usual plugins. We describe that process in this video about Twenty-nineteen:

REFERENCE: http://pagepipe.com/under-1-second-page-speed-with-twenty-nineteen-theme-and-heavy-video/

Default Twenty-twenty theme demo.

There is one gotcha we haven’t encountered before with themes. Read on.

On the Twenty-nineteen theme, the authors were kind enough to use a mobile system font stack. Great for speed. It’s a 385k zip file download.

But on Twenty-twenty, there is a font in the stack called “Inter var.” It’s a variable font. This isn’t an accepted technology yet. There are known issues with variable fonts in Chrome. In particular, on Microsoft Windows.

Inter Var is not a Google font. Thus plugins can’t remove it. Nor is it a system font. We’re not sure why they used it except they thought it was cool. It’s a speed liability. To remove it, you have to add custom code to the customizer:

h1, h2, h3, h4, h5, h6, p {
font-family: -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, "Helvetica Neue", Helvetica, sans-serif;
}
body {
font-family: -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, "Helvetica Neue", Helvetica, sans
}

We don’t appreciate being experimental guinea pigs for faddish font features.

After stripping the theme and core, load times on shared hosting are about a half-second. There are only 5 requests per page.

Adding Autoptimize plugin creates no gain in reducing the number of calls. jQuery is not activated by the theme. That’s a nice speed bonus.

Twenty-twenty theme is a 638k zip file download.

What about the Chaplin theme?

Chaplin has a zip package download size of 1.2MB. Our cutoff for evaluation is 1MB. But we did look at it before because it appeared interesting. The biggest heavy boat anchor is including Font Awesome. That’s bad for speed. If they left that out the theme has real speed possibilities. Test results:

Pingdom SF: 118k, 526ms, and 10 requests.

Demo page: Chaplin theme.

That is with loading Merriweather – the theme default Google font. But you can change the font to Arial in the Customizer. Or leave the two font fields blank and then a mobile font stack is used. That’s the best choice. It should be the default! And the theme loads jQuery globally. Not a good choice either. But livable since many plugins activate jQuery, also.

Activating Autoptimize plugin took the Chaplin theme test results down to:

71k, 461ms, and 7 requests.

We observe that Font Awesome is not enqueued by default. But from experience – if it’s used even once – it globally loads at least 75k on every page. So avoid that trap.

Of the two themes, we prefer Twenty-twenty with Inter font defeated in CSS for speed.

But Chaplin has beautiful Customizer features like:

  • disabling comments
  • default related posts
  • deactivating author and date metas (for evergreen content).

Very nice and tempting.

We like what we see in Chaplin. We’re impressed. It’s an underrated theme. Lots of nice features eliminate extra plugins reducing the speed overhead.

Godspeed-

Steve Teare
performance engineer

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