Susty review: The lightest speed theme ever.

WordPress Mobile Speed

Updated: May 2019


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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’s minimal decoration with graphic elements except for one large JPEG background image of an eBook on inner pages.  Default column width is 577 pixels. This site is a design experiment.

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.


Susty is fast and lightweight. We’ve proven it loads in under 1 second even with web graphics. But can you create an attractive site with Susty? Can it look better than classic Spartan aesthetic? Many stripped-down themes are mere text and CSS font styling. Pretty boring.

Stripped themes – like Susty – prevent excessive bloat. Why? It’s a “human temptation” problem – not a design problem. Site creators can’t discipline themselves to say “no” to unused features. They fill every slot and pocket provided. Self-imposed limitations using a bare-bones theme removes overload or gold-plating seduction.

You can’t overburden widgets that aren’t there! The unadvertised value of lightweight themes like Susty is:

Instant self-control.

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

AESTHETICS AND SUSTY FOR SPEED

First we checked what customization was possible. Not much. We could add:

  • Background color globally
  • Global background image
  • Swap out the default logo
  • Site Title and Tagline
  • Main Menu
  • Homepage setting and Posts page

Susty has no widget areas in sidebars or footers – or anywhere!

First: We set the background color to #ffffff (white) instead of the default #fffefc.

Let’s look at the graphics used:

Global background image with grayscale gradient to match white background color. 52k, 1500-pixel-wide JPEG. Optimized to a “save-for-web” quality setting of 70Q. Progressive setting used for mobile users.

This hero background image presented a problem on the funky Menu page. We wrote the theme author, Jack Lennox, and he suggested some custom CSS code. We added that with the Simple CSS plugin. Fixed!

We created three 8-bit PNG icons to sprinkle on pages for visual variety.

15.3k 8-bit PNG image.
10.5k 8-bit PNG image. Not used on Home page.
12.4k 8-bit PNG image. Not used on Home page.

And a call-to-action badge to sell books:

A tilted badge to serve as an image link. 8.7k, 8-bit PNG.

 

Next: A replacement logo for theme default.
(895 bytes PNG image, 43px sq.)

And a dinky little 318 byte favicon for browser tab branding.

 

And one more for visitor cuing device: a borrowed Yoast logo 5.7k PNG image.

Summed total image weights on Home page: 82.9k

Load time Susty theme with graphics: 1.25 seconds to Stockholm from shared Arizona server. No CDN. No server cache.

26 FREE PLUGINS WE USED

Add Search To Menu
Displays search form in the navigation bar.
(We’re using an older version of this plugin that’s lighter than the current one.)

Antispam Bee
Toolset for day to day comment and trackback spam-fighting.

BleuT FavIcon
Customize site favicon by uploading an image file.

Block Bad Queries (BBQ)
Firewall to protect WordPress against malicious URL requests.

Change Table Prefix
Change your database prefix after installation to thwart hackers.

Deactivate XML-RPC Service
Deactivates the XMP-RPC API service. A security precaution.

Disable Embeds
Removes the enhanced embeds (oEmbed) added in WordPress 4.4.

Disable Emojis
Disable dead-weight Emojis.

Email Address Encoder
Protect email addresses from email-harvesting robots by encoding them into decimal and hexadecimal entities.

Far Future Expiration
Add a “far future expiration” date for various file types to improve site performance.

Heartbeat Control
Controls the WordPress heartbeat.

Lazy Load by WP Rocket
Lazy load script for WordPress without jQuery or others libraries.

Lazy Load for Videos
Replacing embedded YouTube and Vimeo videos with a clickable preview image. Visitors click the placeholder image to play the video.

Limit Login Attempts Reloaded
Limit the rate of login attempts, including by way of cookies and for each IP address. Security against brute force attacks.

Plugin Logic
Activate plugins on pages only if they are really needed.

Query Strings Remover
Removes query strings from your static resources like CSS and JavaScript files. No configuration needed.

Shortcode For Current Date
Insert current Date, Month or Year anywhere with a simple shortcode.

Simple CSS
Bulletproof CSS using a CSS editor or the live Customizer.

Simple Drop Cap
Transform the first letter of a word into a drop cap or initial letter simply by wrapping the word with shortcode .

Simple WP Sitemap
Adds both an xml and an html sitemap, which updates and maintains themselves.

Title Remover
Hide the title of any post, page or custom post type item without affecting menus or titles in the admin area.

UpdraftPlus – Backup/Restore
Backup and restore: take backups locally, or backup to Amazon S3, Dropbox, Google Drive, Rackspace, (S)FTP, WebDAV & email, on automatic schedules.

WordPress Related Posts
Increase reader engagement with links in content footer.

WP Author, Date and Meta Remover
Remove post meta data. N o settings.

WP Counter
Counter of unique site visitor status in different date range (Today, Yesterday, Current Week, Current Month).

WP jQuery Plus
Loads jQuery from a CDN using the exact version as your current WordPress install.

7 PLUGINS WE DIDN’T USE

  • Cache Enabler
  • Complete Analytics Optimization Suite (CAOS)
  • Current Year and Copyright Shortcodes
  • Optimize Database after Deleting Revisions
  • Redirection
  • Remove Google Fonts References
  • Simple Back To Top

 

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

Godspeed—

Steve Teare
performance engineer

Mobile WordPress Speed – without coding!

Coming Soon to PagePipe readers.

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