Should I use GeneratePress or Astra theme with Elementor for mobile speed?

Updated: November 2018
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“I was thinking of using a theme like GeneratePress – or Astra. They seem to be the fastest but, now I’m unsure.”

Free Elementor is 61 milliseconds and adding paid Elementor Pro delays another 71 milliseconds. That slows down every page by 132 milliseconds.

GeneratePress (22 milliseconds) and Astra (36 milliseconds) are plenty fast. But only when using the free versions. If you buy the GP Premium plugin you add an additional 70 milliseconds. The theme authors don’t tell you those speed details. But that’s still minor compared to the real problem.

For comparison, WordPress core loads in 215 milliseconds. Ten times slower than your speed theme.

A typical free, discrete, single-function, no-setting plugin loads in less than 0.5 to 2 millisecond.

25 percent of plugin speed overhead is often consumed by one plugin.

80 percent of total plugin load time is burned by your 5 heaviest plugins.

The average WordPress website has 25 plugins.

Of PagePipe’s 70 total plugins, 12 load in under 3 milliseconds. And 29 of the 70 load in under 1 millisecond.

There’s usually one big-fat plugin killing speed – like WooCommerce 262 milliseconds – or more. Or perhaps Yoast SEO Premium plugin loading in 240 milliseconds.

We repeat. These plugin speed problems are minor compared to the real problem:

Speed killers: Undisciplined, novice site owners.

They’re the real problem. And some professional developers are apathetic about quality, too. You can do anything and everything dreamed of with a pagebuilder. That should be good. Right? But start adding incremental features and soon the site is overweight and slow.  It’s not one slow thing – it’s everything. Ego mania. Then site owners ask us, “Can you fix this Elementor speed problem?”

Sorry. It’s not Elementor’s fault. They didn’t make you put in all that web junk. They only tempted you.

Can you fix speed on a bloated Elementor site? The answer is probably “no.” Pagebuilder plugins can’t be selectively deactivated to reduce site heaviness. Not without white screening an entire site anyway. Discrete plugins can be selectively activated or deactivated on pages and posts. This is important for speed. It’s not the evil your pagebuilder does, it’s the goodness that got left out. It’s a sin of omission.

WP Rocket is a $49 speed plugin with annual renewal (rent overhead). Most don’t realize WP Rocket caching plugin adds 29 milliseconds to global page loads. The irony.

Desperate site owners throw money at speed problems. Usually by adding CDN, caching, or more expensive hosting. Things get more costly. The speed investment is worse instead of better. Discarding whimsical features prevents speed waste.

How do I building a fast website from the start, without using a full-time developer?

What is the right decision about builder plugins?

Our speed advice is design without a pagebuilder whenever possible. Pagebuilder’s are slower, add more requests, and have a big learning-time commitment. But if you have no idea what you’re doing and are new to the game, go ahead – be a make-believe designer with a pagebuilder. It’s OK.

Pagebuilders are not the speed panacea you seek.

Will your pagebuilder site be slow? Most likely. The odds are high it’ll be slower than you ever dreamed. Why?

The answer: Because you own a rifle doesn’t make you a hunter. Just because you own a car doesn’t make you a race champion. Owning a pagebuilder doesn’t make you a web designer.

Using a pagebuilder doesn’t guarantee design quality. No surprise. There’s a pagebuilder learning curve. You still need to learn good universal design principles – aka best practices. It’s disappointing when your site is low quality. You need a speed strategy before you start. Say, “No!” to dull, faddish fluff that doesn’t matter and adds no real value.

How do you design a website to be fast from the start? Building for speed is called “origin optimization.” It happens even before the project begins. It’s not an emergency, after-the-fact, speed repair. It’s strategic.

Here’s what to do for WordPress origin optimization:

1Get the best shared hosting you can afford. What’s best? Find a normal host allowing writing to the .htaccess file on your server. Special hosting – like WP Engine – won’t allow this. That ability is important for plugin speed tricks. Don’t choose SiteGround. Their wild TTFB fluctuates and is erratic. Their servers are worse than mediocre for TTFB.

2Choose a host with stable TTFB (time to first byte) on your server. Excellent is 200 to 300 milliseconds. Ordinary is 500 milliseconds and poor is around 1 second or longer. One way to find out is testing the hosting company’s home page TTFB using ByteCheck.com. That’s the best possible it will ever be. Do at least 6 tests.

3Do NOT install SSL certification  – unless you’re doing ecommerce. You don’t need SSL for a simple email signup. SSL handshaking slows down your site globally by 500 milliseconds average. SSL does NOT improve your SEO. There’s no proof. But you can measure the heavy toll on speed.

4Don’t put an email signup API (like MailChimp services) on every page. Have a single page with signup and use image or text links to that page. Use selective activation and only turn on your email plugin for that one signup page. Isolate the site drag.

5Use Twenty-seventeen default theme (48.4 milliseconds). Live within it’s limitations. There’s tons of articles online about how to customize Twenty-seventeen default theme. Why use it? Longevity. It’ll have an 8-year shelf-life. Don’t use Divi theme. It has a 1-second load time. Yes. Only the theme: Half your performance budget gone! Any theme is faster than Divi. Rather consider longevity a high value. Astra and GeneratePress are cool and fast. But they don’t have the potential longevity and risk-reduction of Automattic authorship.

6
Do NOT use free Cloudflare. It slows down your site with delays and 501 errors.


Thanks for your time and feedback. You are definitely right about speed inconsistencies with free Cloudflare!” silvercoast-apartments.com, Portugal


7
Buy our ebooks. Serious. Enjoy our research. Get the bundle and also buy “Toxic WordPress“. If you’re not happy, ask for a refund.

8When in doubt about some feature or frill, leave it out. What makes for a good website is content, not fancy things that move or animate. Like sliders, rotators, accordions, dropdowns, etc.

9Optimize your images with free “Imsanity” plugin. Other optimizer plugin promises are seductive – and cost money. Don’t use free Smush plugin. Don’t use PNG format for photos. Use JPEG images and compress quality using your judgemental eye – and not a robot machine for a brain.

Can you survive without social media links? Do you have to have comments? Are you using Avatars? These extras slow down your site and add little value.

Don’t use heavy, globally-loading plugins like Contact Form 7 plugin. Don’t use Yoast SEO plugin especially the paid version (or any SEO plugin). Don’t use a multi-function security plugin or any multi-function plugin. Stick with discrete plugins. Use more plugins – not less. Doubling the number of “good” discrete plugins will halve your load time. That’s right. 50 plugins is better than 25 if you choose the right plugins. Our ebooks are about this stuff. And the PagePipe blog is full of free plugin information. Buy both the “plugin alternative” bundle – and Toxic WordPress.

Yoast SEO plugin is the speed equal to 250 discrete plugins. That’s 140 (free version) to 240 milliseconds (paid version.
Bad site drag.

Accept that your learning journey requires frustration and failures. Nothing worth doing is easy. There’s a price. Pay your dues by investing in your brain power. “You” have future value.

BONUS TIP – If you use WooCommerce plugin, the best speed you’ll achieve is 3- to 4-second load times. Reduce your expectations.

Godspeed—

Steve Teare
performance engineer

Mobile WordPress Speed – without coding!

What others think of us:


"Hi Steve, Thank you so much for that insightful speed review! I appreciate the time you took to explain the issue of the website I'm working on. I'll be looking into some of the recommendations you have and advice that you have given." skiveworks.com, Singapore

- Jaaze Lim

Free speed plugins duplicate both heavy Swift Performance Lite Plugin - or Pegasaas.com paid services.
Reduce SSL speed overhead for Easy Digital Downloads plugin and PayPal transactions.