It’s not hard to find a WordPress theme that does what you want it to do. But too often, you get a lot more than what you bargained for. Not just in the number of design options available but also in size and the number of requests your website makes. This can make your website run slowly and inefficiently. To avoid this problem, look for WordPress themes built with performance and speed in mind. They often come with ways to easily reduce or eliminate unused styles without editing code. More than that, they’re designed to keep your website trim by having only the content you need to be displayed on each page and by minimizing how many HTTP requests are made. This article will show you how to find extra bloat in your theme and even find a theme that provides an elegant user interface without sacrificing performance.
Importance of website performance
Before I get into the specifics of looking for bloated WordPress themes, let’s talk a little about why that’s important. A slow website is often referred to as a “white elephant.” It doesn’t matter how much time you put into designing your white elephant – it will never be cool. Nobody wants to ride an old, slow, full-size white elephant, and nobody wants to visit your slow website either.
How a slow site affects you
Slowness can affect how far up the search engine results page (SERP) your website shows up for a given keyword search. It can also hurt the experience of browsing your own site. If it takes too long for pages to load, visitors will leave your site. Some people may not bounce immediately; they’ll wait several seconds and then click the back button to return to the SERP page.
How a slow site affects your web hosting service provider
What is bloat?
Bloat in a website can take two forms: file size and the number of requests. The file size is simply the amount of data your website takes up on your host’s servers. The other type of bloat happens when someone visits your site (for example, they click a link to one of your posts) or when you post something (like adding a new comment). The computer that runs your website has to make several requests to the server hosting your site’s files in order to load the page. You can see these types of bloat with tools like GTmetrix.com or WebpageTest.org.
Key indicators of bloated themes
- Large file size. This is the easiest indicator of a bloated, inefficient theme. A large file size makes it difficult for your website to load quickly. Be wary if you’re loading more than 2MB per page – this may be an indication of bloat.
- Many HTTP requests. The number of requests your website makes when it loads. An excessive number of requests slows down your website’s load time. When your website makes too many calls to the server, it’s called “busy-loading.” For example, you might have an image or a font file that is loaded from another server. That extra call hurts your website’s performance.
- Too many stylesheets. How many stylesheets are loaded on each page? The number of stylesheets, also known as “CSS,” ranges from zero (when using a single, global stylesheet) to hundreds for more complex themes. It’s not uncommon in WordPress themes to have twenty or more different stylesheets loaded on each page.
How can I analyze my theme for bloat?
There are several tools available that let you get an idea of a theme’s performance. The best way is to use GTMetrix.com. This service will show you how large your page size is and how many requests it takes to load your website. Finally, you can easily see how long each page takes to load.
How can I improve my theme’s speed?
If you’ve got a bloated theme with a slow site, there may not be a lot you can do about it without causing problems in your future. Deleting theme code that is not used is not recommended as it will not remove the option to use the deleted code in the future. Then 6 months from now, when you want to make some design changes to your website, you will find your changes result in errors.
Here at Bauertech, we recommend only disabling unused elements of your theme. This is done by leveraging the plugin called Perfmatters. For example, if you don’t use your theme’s business portfolio page element, you can use Perfmatters to disable it across your website. If you want to use this element again in the future, enable it again using Perfmatters Script Manager.
The best way to improve your theme’s speed is to get rid of unused styles. This needs to be done carefully, so make sure you use a plugin that disables unused CSS with an easy way to enable them again.
Selecting a good theme
There are a few WordPress themes out there that are published for speed. Bauertech used to use Divi from Elegant Themes. This offered a ton of customization and made our website beautiful, but was slow to load because of high bloat. We evaluated three different lean theme options when redesigning: Astra, Neve, and GeneratePress. We ended up landing on GeneratePress because the theme had built-in capabilities of disabling different elements. And the size of the theme was only 30KB!
How to select a fast WordPress theme:
Look for the 100KB mark; it is rare to find WordPress themes under 100KB in size. This alone won’t tell you whether a theme is fast or slow. It’s not uncommon for fast themes to hover over this number and bloated ones to be below this amount. The smaller, the better. But wait, there are a lot of themes that sit clearly below this number.
Almost every WordPress theme you can find will have a demo version of the site somewhere. Run GTMetrix.com on the demo site URL. How fast does it load? How many HTTP requests are there? How big is the page? If the theme demo site is clean and fast to load – you’re on the right track.
The theme that you use for your website can make a big difference in how fast it loads. Make sure you’re not loading bloat with too many stylesheets and overall large file size. I recommend checking out GeneratePress, a theme that was built for speed and has the option to disable sections of the theme if they are never used. If you need help with your WordPress website speed, reach out to Bauertech today!