Let’s settle the debate once and for all. Which theme is the fastest and why?!
- Is it GeneratePress?
- Is it Astra?
- Is it OceanWP, Hestia, Genesis, Avada, X, blah blah blah…
In case you ain’t got time to read today, my answer is easily GeneratePress.
I feel like I’ve said the same thing only a hundred times over and over on my website but it’s ok…I do it again because I love talking about these things.
What makes a theme fast?
For most people, a fast theme means a “minimal” theme.
And THAT’S the flippin problem! When your theme is so minimal, it doesn’t have any options. You can’t do very much with it. Some of these so-called “themes” out there are barely even themes…they’re really just frameworks being re-marketed as “themes”!
“Wait, so what’s the difference between a FRAMEWORK and a THEME?”
A framework is the foundation of the theme. It connects pages and templates together, preparing the options for you. The theme is the surface layer on top that actually functions as the design. Or in other words, the FRAMEWORK is the foundation of the house (concrete, wood, walls). And THEME is the interior design (paint, furniture, decor).
So what’s the problem with most of these so-called “super fast, super lightweight” themes out there?
- There empty as sh*t! There’s nothing in them.
I’m sorry, but that ain’t a theme. That’s a framework at best. And probably not even a framework (but hey, amateur WordPress “designers” wouldn’t know any better since they can’t audit code). It’s as absurd as me marketing a flipflop as “the lightest shoe in the world!”. See? It’s silly because a flipflop is hardly even a shoe; it can’t do things that shoes can do. Well…same idea with themes.
“Ok fine…but why is being minimal so bad?”
A theme should be a finished design. Many of these minimal themes are unfinished designs. If you like the whole super empty less-is-more kinda vibe, then it’s fine.
But if what you planned to do was build a design on top of a minimal theme, those minimal themes may end up being heavier. Why? Because they’ll be missing so many functions that you’ll end up installing more plugins to finish your design. And I’m sure we all know that more plugins slows things down!
It’s the difference of being a laptop with a built-in webcam, vs one that doesn’t have one and so you clip on an ugly little thing on the top of your screen. Takes extra space, adds weight, just clumsy and cumbersome. More gadgets and moving parts to worry about. More devices and mechanisms to conflict with each other.
The fastest theme for me right now is GeneratePress.
Why? Because it allows the average person to do the most with fewer plugins. Most people want a several design elements. Options for different types of pages (like company pages, contact pages, then blog pages, store pages), options for text and color. Images and headers and footers, etc.
But then what else?
People want customized home pages with irregular layouts, multiple column, multiple cards/sections. Different background areas even on the same page. People also want different layouts or conditional layouts. For example…store pages have discount notices but blog pages have newsletter signups. The possibilities are endless.
The problem is how people enable those options:
- They usually do it by installing a pagebuilder. I’m sorry but these are laggy. Even the lightest ones still have weight.
- They install extra plugins. One to show different content in different places. Another one to style it. One for the menu. Etc and etc.
GeneratePress will allow you tons of options without installing a pagebuilder. You really can! Can it do all the crazy effects and animations that a pagebuilder can? No, but you also shouldn’t be using them! Look at all the biggest sites out there. There’s no flapping birds and spinning text flying across the hero section. It’s just classy images and that’s it. Just trust me and try it. You’ll thank me later.
So GeneratePress is the only option? There’s no other good themes?
Sure, there are. In fact…as much as I love GeneratePress, all my sites are still on Genesis. But that’s because all my sites are hard-coded. 😉
What about the other super-fast themes?
It is indeed a current trend. I see more and more “lightweight” WordPress themes popping up everyday. They know that’s the buzzword WordPress users care about most today. In case you forgot, many years ago it was “best SEO theme”. And before that, it was “most customizable theme”.
And I’ve checked out over a dozen others. Either because friends/fans suggested them to me. Or because their developer sent me a copy directly hoping I would review them on my blog. Some of them are actually pretty good and look promising but here’s the thing they’re missing…no community.
I can’t recommend a theme that doesn’t have a community. It’s been like this since CMS’s have been around. The #1 support for any theme will always be the community. Back then, I used to scour the forums and then have to check my email to see if anybody answered. Thank god, today there’s Facebook groups and the response times are much faster.
Don’t bet on support documentation or official support. I do not want my theme people to be wasting time answer newbie questions (whether from me or from others). It’s faster for users to help each other. Even make suggestions about non-theme related stuff. When a theme lacks a community, trust me…if you’re not a coder, you’ll abandon it faster than anything. You won’t be able to resize a header…change a color, change some text…and you’ll give up and install a new theme that lets you do that. If you can’t work with it or make changes, it won’t last long with you.
The importance of a developer community
This isn’t related to why themes should be fast but I’ll say it anyway. It’s really important that your theme is well supported by many experienced developers. This way, it’s easier to find people who can work quickly with it and know how to make changes/fixes. No matter how fast the theme, if true developers aren’t flocking to it…you should take that as a big warning sign!