I have had this love hate relationship with WordPress for some time now, I even stopped using it altogether for a period of time when hit with security issues and being constantly hacked. As far as security is concerned, things are better now especially if combined with a secure server, so now at this time the biggest issue for me and my work, is page load speed.
For many the actual design is the key reason to choose a WordPress theme or may be the integration of any web page builder such as Elementor, WPBakery or Gutenburg. As SEO is my main concern, choosing a theme that loads fast and is fully mobile is key, the problem for many is they tend to worry about those issues after the build, choosing to use cache and CSS minify plug ins to speed things up.
My strategy is different, test the themes before any design work is done and see how fast they are.
So, over the last week, I have been putting some themes to the test, without using a plugin page designer. I am not going to publish the actual speed results here (forgot to screen shot them to be honest, unaware I was going to write this article), but there was a semi clear winner in all the clutter.
These Are the WordPress Themes Tested
- Jevelin Theme
- Ronneby Theme
- Zephyr Theme
- Astra Theme
- Ocean WP Theme
- Saasland Theme
- Xtra Theme
- Total Theme
- Hestia Pro Theme
- Ave Theme
- Flatsome Theme
- Divi Theme
I put together a small 10 post and 2-page website, that I will be developing properly and then used the Page Speed Insights as a guide to the download page speed, only in mobile version. I use Page Speed Insights as this is what Google uses, although I find GTX metrics better for solutions.
I must be honest I had already installed the Flatsome Theme and liked its looks, but it had way too many template pages, that all needed to be nonindexed and moved and for some reason the homepage download speed never went above 55.
Yes I Known Speed Improvement Plugins
So I know the technical minded reading this will say, if you use this cache plugin and this CSS minifying plugin and remove this CSS file and unclick this etc, you would get the speed to a more respectable value. I just don’t work that way anymore, I am looking for a theme that has a good score straight out of the box, so when I can add many images, videos, and code and if it gets bloated then use a plugin to speed things up.
The WP Ocean Theme performed better at around 71 speed or similar (it changed each time. I just couldn’t get away with it, maybe for the future though.
The Total theme, again worked for design but again slow, page speed insight speeds of around 45 for the homepage. The desktop speed was fast, but not mobile, so I moved on again.
The rest was as “much of muchness” with speeds around 70% or so, for me not good enough, the exception being the Astra Theme. I just couldn’t into this theme, not sure why as it is highly rated.
So, I come to the winner and for many reading this, it will not be a surprise. The Divi theme with several of their templates gave me scores in the high 80s for the home page and well into the 90’s for blog pages, even when using their internal design, rather than Gutenberg, with no additional speed related plugins.
Ironically it was easier to obtain the right template pages for them, so the reason for many agencies just using DIVI as a main theme is in my option proved. I can see why.
For the record the hosting was shared, but a plus version, where with non-WordPress sites, I have scores of 100%.
I recommend everyone to test them speeds before committing to any website. Your design, hosting and content may produce different results to me, so make sure it is right for you.
If you are wondering why Oxygen was not used? Well I have been there also and found it too complicated for a non-developer. I also had issues with page resources not being uploaded by Google, which even though I cannot prove had anything to do with any SEO score, I still would prefer all the site to be cached by Google, every CSS file etc.