Faster themes dump Google Fonts.

WordPress Mobile Speed


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We *wish* browsers cached special web fonts. This would make fonts transparent and immeasurable in tests. One hopes jQuery is already in the cache, too. There are plugin workarounds for this. But they still aren’t as fast as no special font usage.

But the better conservative assumption is these assets aren’t ready. Webfonts never enhance performance. At best, they’re benign.

Why aren’t Google Fonts there in the cache? They are. But Google forces a 24-hour cache refresh of fonts – and reloads. Why? Duh? To gather data on usage. Is that spying? Maybe. The font files don’t change every 24 hours. Ridiculous.

We strip fonts unless a site is achieving under target speed goals. Then they’re not deleterious. But on principle, we disable them. Site users are oblivious to the font differences. Nondiscrimination.

A telling recent trend is new themes vying for mobile speed. Themes like GeneratePress, and the Twenty-wenty-one default. Out of the box, they load a mobile font stack defined in the style.css file. They don’t use Google Fonts. Fonts have a stigma for mobile. They consume unnecessary bandwidth and data limits.

Does it make prettier sites? No. Pretty on mobile is a moot point. Single-column, 350-pixel wide images or resized images are what’s served up. All that matters is legibility and readability. Color choices create mood.

How much “mood or emotion” can you muster in a small 5.5-inch screen space? Be honest. Small blocks of color whizzing by with the flick of a thumb. That’s a mobile user experience? More like roulette.

Onscreen fonts once again are back to the stone ages. Even though there are a few more mobile system fonts choices to add.

Stripped-down “speed themes” often don’t enable jQuery by default either. If you resist the temptation to install a slider, top-of-page button, or some other jQuery intensive plugin, you avoid the extra load. Themes removed jQuery before but were seen as esoteric or fanatic – and not well received. Now it’s a mainstream trend. The Herd wants faster font loads. They think speed might save their site. Speed never compensates for poor content.

Discarding font baggage and jQuery are nuances for speed. They make for fast themes. But you can destroy that in an instant with a few popular plugins. Then the gain is minuscule by comparison. Dwarfed by thoughtless plugin abuse.

Websites are pretty generic on desktop and mobile. They’re mere containers serving content on little screens. And that is what matters most: relevant content. Fussing about choosing Google Fonts is wasteful.

Today’s cutting-edge developers desire mobile speed more. Theme authors retrofitted changes in the “font” loading. The demand was high enough and offered the chance to sweeten the deal.

Google Font usage is now seen as unfriendly to speed and UX.

You don’t have to install a plugin to remove Google Fonts on these modern speed themes. The theme loads are transparent: meaning less than 50-millisecond load times. But if you buy the premium version, they’re no longer the fastest kid on the block. They don’t tell you that fact. They then are more average than special.

Just say, “No!” to Google Fonts.


Steve Teare
performance engineer
September 2023


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