Save the Internet from WordPress speed abuse.Updated: June 2017
We built a prototype site for LiveInPalouse.com. The Aldehyde theme was our initial choice – never realizing a problem existed with the responsive, mobile-view for smartphones.
Aldehyde Theme Failed
Aldehyde has nice features (3000+ installs). In particular, parallax scrolling and a parallax header. Plus a responsive Nivo slider supporting up to ten slides. We wanted these features but they weren’t a required specification. So we searched for alternatives.
To find a new theme, we sifted through 35 theme candidates. Where did these themes come from? All are available as free downloads from the WordPress theme repository. They came to our attention via email newsletters. Some are new and others are older but still popular. (We’ll revisit what we learned from our theme analysis in a later post.)
Here’s the alphabetical list: accelerate, accesspress-basic, activello, amazing-blog, awaken, awesome, bizgrowth, blogim, canape, coral-light, dellow, enigma, faceblog, flatter, futura, grow, hemingway, hueman, kotha, make, nisarg, perfetta, pingraphy, quidus, rams, responsive-brix, revive, simona, sixteen, splendor, tora, tracks, travel-eye, ultrabootstrap, and zerif-lite.
Excel spreadsheet analysis. Download >
While many of these themes are useful for various applications, the ones that caught our attention immediately for further testing were Dellow and Sixteen. Both had home-page, responsive Nivo sliders and parallax header features.
Dellow Theme Better Alternative
Dellow only had about 700 installs on the web. Not very many. Potential for speed is indicated by the theme’s small, download-package size (1.1M). That expands to 1.8M after unzipping the file. About 216k is image fluff, 294k the screenshot for the theme icon, and 100k is a nice PDF document file of how to use the features. Happily, none of those components contribute to page bloat. But sadly, some of the 672k in Fontawsome icon font will. We don’t appreciate it’s inclusion in the theme design since it slows down page loads.
In spite of being potentially fast, Dellow theme wasn’t very attractive looking. This was a deal killer. After installing it on our test site, we found that the name “Dellow” most likely originates from a contraction of “dark yellow” – the theme’s main mustard color. It clashes with the vibrant greens in the featured slider and background photography. And that’s unpleasant. Fixing the color by recoding will take too much time.
Sixteen Theme Best Choice
The other theme candidate is Sixteen, a recent release. It has about 9,000 installs – a more popular theme already, even with being new. The download file decompresses to 1.9M. In the components, 248k is placeholder image fluff, 253k is the screenshot. It has the same Nivo slider and parallax header features. And wonderfully, it doesn’t include Fontawesome baggage. But that isn’t the reason this theme is selected. We know how to dequeue that icon weight.
Sixteen’s color usage is much better and easy on the eye.
Oddly, the number of slides is limited to just 5 in Sixteen. Whereas Dellow allowed 10. Go figure. But 5 is enough for what we want to achieve with the website. So how does, Sixteen look on a smartphone screen. Pretty good.
The test site with Sixteen theme installed loaded in about 2.5 seconds. We then installed some plugins to improve things (minification, caching, and others) and got the speed down to 1.7 seconds. We feel this can be further improved with resizing some of the home-page slider images.
Sixteen is our recommendation of these three themes.
Serious Mobile WordPress Speed Strategy for Business