Lightweight WordPress themes

Lightweight WordPress themes – speed is now a Google ranking factor

Since 2012 Google has been using site speed as a ranking factor. They did this because their own research led them to believe that users fail to engage with slow sites. One of the key problems that many WordPress based websites suffer from is bloat, this article will tell you how to keep things super fast and minimal.

A key benefit of WordPress is the ease with which end users can add plugins and new themes – both of which can tranform the appearance and functionality. Unfortunately, adding new plugins can often add weighty extra files to your site that have to be loaded by all users. You might think your site is pretty speedy, but what about people using restricted mobile connections, or people who have less capable devices?

The steps to ensuring your WordPress site is as snappy as possible are:

1) Evaluate theme HTML/JS/CSS output before buying

Ideally you are looking for a lightweight WordPress theme. By lightweight we mean a theme that downloads the minimum amount of HTML, Javascript and CSS. The HTML itself is not likely to pose much of a problem. The source of the slowness is almost always a large number of Javascript (JS) and CSS stylesheets. A single Javascript library like jQuery can be five times the size of the rest of your page!

It’s common these days to include a webfont or two, but if you see more than two webfonts being included you need to start thinking about the additional time your pages are going to take to load.

In summary: Check the page source and look for very few webfonts, javascript libraries and external CSS stylesheets.

2) Keep user facing plugins to a minimum

Before installing a new plugin think carefully about the functionality it offers and if there is going to be real benefit to your users. Do you really need that snazzy social sharing plugin? Will it add real user benefits?

A great example of this is the slider. Despite extensive research showing that more than 95% of users will never see anything except the first slide, millions of new sites still use a slider adding a huge payload of Javascript, CSS and to rub salt into the wound, huge images! That was great back in 2008, but in 2016, it’s not good practice.

3) Check your HTML source code

Not all plugins introduce user facing scripts or styling, so after you’ve installed a plugin, log out (or open your site in an incognito/private window) and check to see what has been added. You will be very surprised to see just how much extra stuff many plugins add to every page, even if you aren’t using that plugin on that particular page.