Your site load speed plays a crucial role in both user experience and search engine optimization. The traffic you generate to your site is useless if it takes over 5 seconds to load. The reason being, most of the visitors will end up clicking out of the site before it even loads.
In order to have a website that converts the traffic it generates into leads and sales, you need to take every measure possible to make the site load faster. Now, one mistake WordPress users make is to not pay attention to how heavy their site theme is. They rather go for features that add flashiness than to keep it simple to ensure the theme loads up fast. This ends up costing them more than it benefits them.
But of course, theme developers are fully aware of the importance of site speed. Therefore, you will find many themes that are designed to ensure that the site load time isn’t drastically affected by using the theme. This way the traffic you generate stays on your site and blog.
The fastest loading free WordPress themes
While there are thousands of WordPress themes out there, you want to use only those that not only add benefit to your site but essentially don’t add a lot of load time to it. Most themes available for WordPress are poorly coded which means that the framework or backend of the themes is heavier. While many of the themes promise optimal speed, most of them fail to provide it.
The following themes, on the other hand, are properly coded and optimized to give users speed on their site:
GeneratePress is one of the lightest themes available for WordPress users with over 1.9 million downloads. It’s a multipurpose theme that allows full customization of your site. It comes with 15 modules that range from changing colors, typography, to changing the layout of your blog.
The theme has a free and premium version. The premium version, for $49.95, adds additional features such as allowing users to disable any module that they do not want to use, making the theme even lighter. You also get free updates for the theme with the premium version. The theme adds about a second of load time to your site but with all the customization options, you probably won’t have to use any other theme along with GeneratePress
Astra is another fast WordPress theme that allows users full customization. It is easy for anyone to use, making what some might consider a complicated task much simpler. You can pick from numerous themes and then customize them as you like to give it your own touch. It is completely free to download and has additional features that you can add-on for $59. The add-ons enable features such as customizing the blog and site layout, better typography, white label, and WooCommerce.
With a load speed of under a second, Astra is one of the lightest WordPress themes you will find. It is considered to be feather-light since it only has about 50 KB of resource and no JQuery.
OceanWP gives users the chance to build a beautiful site and have a wide selection of demo sites to choose from. All you have to do is select the demo site and go from there, with 7 free customization extensions such as custom sidebars, product sharing, and posts sliders. It also features built-in SEO which ensures the site is indexed for search engine rankings.
The premium version of the theme, for $39, gives access to 11 additional extensions. This includes support for WooCommercer, white label, and side panels. But for most users that just want an informational website or blog, the free version will be more than sufficient to let you establish an online presence and design an appealing website.
Skin may not be as customizable as the others in the list but it is completely free to use WordPress theme. The design you create with it will be responsive for all devices and you have 3 content layouts to choose from along with 2 featured sliders. It isn’t as comprehensive as other themes but gets you started with a simple and SEO friendly website.
The theme is also compatible with WooCommerce so a great option for anyone looking to establish an e-commerce site on a limited budget. It is also lightweight since it doesn’t employ JQuery or other such elements that add to the weight of the site. So you can rest assured that your site will load quickly.
Zakra weighs in at just around 100 KB which of course means the theme is lightweight. Similar to other themes on the list, you get quite a few customization options for your site design. You can control elements such as the header, colors, and typography. Besides these, you also have some level of control over the pages as it enables you to change the layout and tweak sidebars.
Zakra is completely free to use and gives you the customization you need. The fact that you can make an SEO-friendly, fast website with it is why a lot of users have downloaded the theme. Plus, it is easy to use even for first timers.
Airi isn’t as light as others mentioned on the list but it does meet the 5-second mark you should set for your site to load up. You can probably manage to give up a second or two after you see the polished, professional theme you design with Airi. Which is why many businesses have entrusted their site’s theme with the platform, the theme itself gives users a sense of trust in the site.
You have tons of demo sites to choose from and can even customize them with the help of WordPress Customizer. However, for those looking for e-commerce customization, more demos, etc. then you will have to opt for the Airi Pro option, $59 for a single plugin, $99 for yearly access, or $249 for lifetime access.
Page Builder Framework
Page Builder Framework works great because it can be paired with most site builders out there for WordPress. It gives you additional control over the build of the site, allowing you to customize the theme without making the site a lot heavier. You can control various elements of the site with WordPress Customizer and Page Builder such as blog layout, typography, and headers. At the same time, you have the option to fiddle with the sidebars and hide page titles.
The premium version of the Page Builder Framework which costs $59 gives you additional features such as a mega menu, transparent header, and sticky header. While these options give more customization, they won’t really be relevant to anyone that is just looking for a basic site or blog.
Brilliance is a platform that gives business and professional users the chance to develop a dynamic and engaging site. It gives users a plethora of customization options which gives them complete control of the layout and ensures that the site is responsive for all devices. With so many features, you would think that the theme would be heavy but it is lightweight and loads fast.
The platform has a free and paid version. The paid version costs $59 for a single theme, $79 for up to 3 websites, and $99 for a yearly subscription. With the paid version you have access to additional themes and premium support.
Onetone uses CSS3 and HTML 5 to provide users with a streamlined and professional theme for their site. While it employs coding that is considered to be on the heavier side, the themes are light. They are heavier than others on the list but will meet the 5-second load mark. You have control of various elements on the page with Onetone as it allows you to add favicon and other design elements to the page.
The theme ensures your site is optimized for SEO and the load speed is one way it does that. It is also compatible with WooCommerce which gives you customization for your e-commerce site, all for free.
Arcade Basic gives users a fully-responsive website design with the help of HTML 5. You have the option to customize almost every aspect of the theme with it from page layout, site width, to header image. It isn’t the lightest theme in the market but your site should load up fast enough not to drive traffic away from it with the theme you create on it. But at the same time, if you go overboard with some features available such as the JetPack which adds an eye-catching gallery to your site, the load speed will be affected due to the feature using JQuery.
Overall, Arcade Basic does give you customization and will enable you to create an appealing theme for your WordPress site. Just be sure to keep it simple though, since you have tons of different features to choose from, you don’t want to make your site too heavy by incorporating them all.
Testing your theme to ensure your site loads up within 5 seconds
Once you’ve selected a theme, you want to make sure that the site you’ve created loads up within 5 seconds. There are two free and effective tools that can help you do just that, Google PageSpeed Insights and Pingdom Tools Full Page Test.
Google PageSpeed Insights
The wonderful thing about Google PageSpeed Insights is that it will measure your site for mobile and desktop performance. The test will ping the site twice, once for mobile and the other for desktop users. Once the test is done, it gives you a score in the range of 0 to 100. You want to aim for a score that is 85 or above to ensure that the site is optimized to give users the ultimate experience, in terms of speed.
Pingdom Tools Full Page Test
Pingdom Tools Full Page Test has slightly more comprehensive analytics and provides users with an in-depth report from file sizes to load times of pages on their site. The data essentially gives you insight on how you can work to improve the speed of your site even more. Like PageSpeed Insights, this platform also gives your site a score between 0 to 100, the higher the score the better it performs.
There are a lot of different elements that can be an advantage or disadvantage which need to be considered when selecting a theme for your WordPress website. While design and features are probably on the top of every user’s list, speed is generally overlooked. However, speed should be a top priority if the user wants a site that not only generates traffic but ensures that users stay on the site and browse through it. That is the only way your site can survive in the crowded online market today.