Susty review: The lightest speed theme ever.

Updated: August 2018
Plugin Surgery
WORDPRESS SITE OWNERS: Get under 2-second load time on cheap, shared magnetic hosting. No CDN cheating. And still use dozens of free plugins!

Few people care about speed as much as we do.

Susty is the lightest stripped down WordPress theme we’ve ever seen. It’s not feature-rich like GeneratePress or Twenty-seventeen default theme. But we’re using it on a new site. It’s built only for extreme-speed fanatics like us. We don’t recommend Susty as a speed panacea.

Susty theme isn’t available in the free WordPress repository.  It’s available as a GitHub download. Still free. (Susty-master: zip file size is 37.4k).

There’s a demo online at: https://sustywp.com/

To illustrate the extremity of Susty theme minimization:

  • There are no widgets or sidebars. Period. The widgets section doesn’t even appear in the dashboard navigation.
  • There’s no home-page Main Menu navigation. Unlike widgets, you can edit the Menu in the dashboard. The theme author relegates the menu to a different page. We find this novel and are testing it. For a small blog like our test, it’s not a problem. There are navigational workarounds we’ll use later. (And comment on if you’re curious.)
  • There are no Google Fonts.
  • No Font Awesome.
  • No JavaScript calls.
  • No jQuery enqueuing.

So what customization is available in the stripped-down theme? Just background image possibilities and solid-color background selection. Pretty sparse.

The author’s journey and decision making process is at: https://blog.jacklenox.com/2018/06/04/delivering-wordpress-in-7kb/

He references a post that inspired him:
https://adamsilver.io/articles/designing-for-actual-performance/

We loved an idea from the referenced post:

“You know what’s better than perceived performance? Actual performance. Avoid techniques that merely provide a mirage of speed.”

We’re using Susty theme at: http://toxictoastseo.com/

The site isn’t “decorated” with any graphic elements except for a JPEG of an eBook on inner pages.  Default column width is 577 pixels. “No graphics” will change soon. The design experiment isn’t finished yet.

Here are interesting speed results on our Susty Home page:

Pingdom test results to NY:
Load time: 433 milliseconds, page weight: 8.8k, requests: 2.

Speed load times to other locations:
Stockholm: 746 milliseconds

Melbourne: 694 milliseconds

San Jose: 295 milliseconds

Where’s the host server located? Arizona. Using GoDaddy cheap magnetic shared hosting with no CDN. Of course, there’s no SSL / HTTPS certification overhead either. That helps. (SSL certification costs $69 per year on GoDaddy per domain. Gak! No thanks. A mere blog doesn’t need that junk).

Like other speed themes, you can inadvertently ruin designed-in speed gains. Simply enqueue (activate) jQuery by adding a simple top-of-page button plugin. That then adds around 33k to page weight. You can also enqueue jQuery weight with the WP jQuery Plus plugin for speed. So don’t use it unless you need jQuery for some other plugin. The Susty theme and WordPress don’t need it.

What else would mismanage this theme? Adding Google Fonts (adds up to 300k additional) or a plugin that needs Font Awesome (add 75k). Easily done by mistake.

As mentioned, SSL would be bad (500ms site drag) and also Google Analytics (100 to 500ms site drag). Do you need those extras for a site where you have few pages and no ecommerce? Not at all. Unnecessary baggage.

When it comes to minimalism, Susty theme is king. Hands down winner.

Would we recommend it for building a conventional website? Nope. We’d go with GeneratePress.

You get the same fast speeds as Susty theme with Tiny Hestia, Astra, GeneratePress, and Twenty-seventeen default theme.

What you can’t get from other recommended and proven themes is the phenomenal low 8.8k page weight of Susty. Page weight is important for mobile user experience. Speed tricks like lazy loading delayed images won’t reduce mobile data overhead. Those are tricks of speed perception – not actual speed performance. Susty resolves mobile speed problems with real speed.

Special thanks to Christian Nelson for bring Susty theme to our attention.

Godspeed—

Steve Teare
performance engineer

Mobile WordPress Speed – without coding!

What others think of us:


"I paid between $400 and $650 a month for SEO services promising me ‘first page on Google’ that actually harmed my website’s visibility in search. They even tried to dupe users of a more popular site to visit mine! Now that I don't pay for SEO and only focus on delivering audience-friendly content my site legitimately rivals that site." Walkerville Vet Australia

- Andrew Spanner

WordPress dream theme for mobile speed: GeneratePress 2.0.
Divi theme sucks - and other popular paid themes are slow, too.