Tweaking Twenty-sixteen theme for speed.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Some people are complaining the new WordPress Twenty-sixteen theme is old-fashioned or plain. We think it’s fine for certain jobs. If the goal is to communicate and not impress with any animation, we think Twenty-sixteen fits the bill. We decided to try it on Water Activity Company’s website.

Example page for the Water Activity Company. Notice the solid blue border around the Twentysixteen theme page.
Example page for the Water Activity Company. Notice the solid blue border around the Twentysixteen theme page.

We liked the look for what our goals were but … the load time was 3 seconds. Too long. We decided to track down the speed culprits and eliminate them. We got the load time down to 1.5 seconds with just a few simple adjustments. The examination tools we used were Yslow extension for Google Chrome browser and Webpagetest.org online website performance tester. Here are the things we discovered and some of the possible fixes:

1. Watch out for automatic image resizing.

When we placed the custom header image, the size increased from a 30k PNG to 96k. The solution was simple. Just skip cropping. WordPress automatically saves files to it’s own preferred specifications. This sometimes makes the file size bigger – instead of smaller. That’s poor engineering but as long as you double check image sizes for aberrations like this one, you’ll always have a fast site.

2. Comment out Genericons in function.php.

Genricons are a special font symbol. They aren’t really used by this theme. Genericons are a bloated bane we have written about before. Commenting out a single line of code in the functions.php file is the solution. Find the file using the Editor. Use the symbols /** in front and **/ on the other end of the single line that has the three words “genericons” in it. That gets rid of almost 40k of deadwood page weight.

3. Remove Google fonts.

Get rid of calling Google Fonts from their remote server and load local websafe fonts instead. We confess Google fonts have more class but there’s nothing wrong with using “Georgia” and “Helvetica Neue” – the fall back fonts in the theme stack. We used “Disable Google Fonts” plugin first. But it failed to remove all offending instances. We then installed “Remove Google Fonts References” plugin instead. It worked great. All font calls were removed.

4. Turnoff the silly default avatar.

Twentysixteen comes with the avatar switched on and all it calls is the gray silhouette image of a human form. That adds 1 second to the page load time. When your target performance budget is under 2 second load time, one second wastes half the budget. The solution is simple: Deselect (off) Avatar in Dashboard > Settings > Discussion. Done deal. No plugin or code rewriting necessary.

5. Install a caching plugin.

We used the free WP Super Cache plugin and enabled all recommend settings.

6. Get rid of the funeral black border.

Under Customize, we changed the background color to #125faa blue for our border around the page. No change in page weight – but much easier on the eyes.

There you have it. We cut the page weight significantly and reduced the load time in half.

What others think of us:


"Thank you so much for the thorough review and fast response. We truly appreciate your honesty and taking the time to direct us in the right direction." targetup.com Anaheim, CA, USA

by - Charles Equiarta