With over 10,000 WordPress themes available, it can be quite overwhelming to find the best WordPress theme to meet your needs. A lot of beginners start out by choosing the best-looking demo with all the bells and whistles, however this is often a poor choice as these themes tend to be bloated with code that will slow your website's load time down substantially. With Google using website speed as a ranking factor, you need to ensure your site loads within 3 seconds.
So, what are some of the key requirements you should be looking for?
Depending on your hosting company and the content you add to your chosen theme, along with any optimisations you make - you won't know what your final load time will be. What you can do is select a fast loading theme with a clean code base as best practice and then go from there. You can check the speed by entering their demo site’s URL into GTmetrix. Here are the main things you should be looking for:
Fully Loaded Time - the lower the better (your finished website needs to load in under 3 seconds).
Total Page Size - the lower the better (your finished website needs to not exceed 2MB).
Requests - the lower the better (your finished website ideally will not exceed 80)
Most WordPress themes are responsive these days, but there are still a few sellers who are releasing fixed width layouts that are not mobile friendly AT ALL. Don't just take their word for it, run their demo theme's URL through Google's Mobile Friendly Test page.
3. Browser compatibility
Most WordPress theme developers will test their themes thoroughly by using sophisticated browser compatibility testing tools. Don’t just take their word for it, run through some basic tests yourself by checking their demo site on different browsers like Google Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, etc. on both desktop and mobile.
4. Support & reviews
Make sure that you check the WordPress theme has good documentation and support options. Most premium WordPress themes offer detailed documentation with 1 year of email-based support. Don’t just believe what they say, check customer reviews for feedback around their support and anything else that may stand out.
We have tested and hand-picked what we believe are the best WordPress themes as of 2019.
Here is a snapshot of the speed test results:
1. WP Astra
With more than 100,000 active installs, Astra is one of the most popular free themes available in the WordPress.org theme directory. There is also a premium version available which provides you with even more customisation options such as;
- Layouts - these provide you with the option to choose from Boxed, Full Width, Max Width, Padded and Fluid layouts. Spacing can also be adjusted to suit the needs of the user using margins and padding around elements.
• Headers - various header and footer customisations such as the Transparent Header, the Sticky Header, Mobile Headers and Page headers.
• Typography - Typography - fully-integrated Google fonts and a free Custom Fonts plugin. Easily control typography size by device to enable full responsiveness, with plenty of additional transformations options such as Text Transform for headings, font size in PX or EM as you prefer, and other typography options.
• Colours and background - these are completely flexible and customisable for Headers, content, pages, archives, blogs, sidebars and footers.
• Blog layout – grid, masonry, list, date box, excerpt and others are available. Infinite scrolling and post pagination is also built-in.
• Global Design Options – the brand’s logo can be left-aligned, centred, or right-aligned and there are different layouts you can choose for the footer. You can also customise mobile device-specific headers, headers, layouts and custom code above and/or below the content along with plenty of other customisation options.
• WooCommerce integration – grid layouts for products, infinite scrolling, off-canvas sidebar, a quick view option for product images, multiple gallery options, a drop-down shopping cart, just to name a few.
But the best standout feature of WP Astra is its speed! It was built with clean code from the ground up to be sleek and lightweight. Speed testing with a blank canvas page resulted in load times of: 0.576s!
Customify is a highly-customisable, ultra-flexible, WordPress theme. Responsive, lightweight, and fast loading, the Customify theme is SEO optimised and comes with personalised e-mail support.
- It has its own building tool for site headers and footers
- Built with a focus on SEO, site speed and usability
- Support for all major page builder plugins
- WooCommerce compatible
- Multiple sidebars and page templates
- Real-time visual editor
Another theme that was built with speed in mind. Speed testing with a blank canvas page resulted in load times of: 0.599s!
With different layouts, content options, and features to choose from, there are multiple options that will work for any business or industry.
- Navigation - it offers 2 different navigation options
- Header - you can easily move your header around and change its styling
- Sidebar layout - it features 1 or 2 sidebars
- Blog post layout – such as featured metadata, image size, and others
- Footer layout - decide on the number of widgets to include
- Inbuilt Schema - great for SEO
- Excellent support - even for the free version!
Another theme that was built with speed in mind. Speed testing with a blank canvas page resulted in load times of: 0.536s!
Hestia is a multi-purpose WordPress theme for business websites and eCommerce stores. It is compatible with almost all top WordPress plugins, so you can add any feature on your website easily. It is a responsive, fast, and SEO friendly theme.
- Responsive design - as it’s a must these days.
- One-page layout - the layout is built to look like a single page, which makes the navigation easier and more intuitive for everyone.
- WooCommerce compatibility - Hestia is coded to support WooCommerce properly.
- Compatible with drag-and-drop builders - Hestia will integrate with your favourite one out the box.
- SEO friendly - the code of Hestia is optimised for all of SEO’s latest trends and requirements.
- Newsletter subscription form - SendinBlue is one of the popular email and newsletter delivery services. Hestia has their subscription form already built-in and integrated.
- Widgetized footer - full widget support in the footer allowing full customisation.
Although not as fast as the first 3, still pretty impressive with a blank canvas page speed test loading in: 0.775s.
OceanWP is a free, multipurpose WordPress theme that lets you build beautiful looking websites with WordPress. The free version comes with 7 free extensions but OceanWP also comes with 11 premium extensions that you can purchase to give you further control.
- Responsive design - so layouts will adjust to any screen size
- Built-in SEO - for better indexing and search rankings
- Translation ready -compatible with the WPML translation plugin
- Multiple mobile menus styles
- PHP7.1 compatible
- Extensive Mega Menu for complex menus
- Support for all popular page builders
- Menu Icon integration
- Stick Anything – make anything on your site sticky.
- Popups – for WooCommerce login.
Although not as fast as the first 3, still pretty impressive with a blank canvas page speed test loading in: 0.827s.
As we can see, there are some really fast WordPress themes available that perform very well. Obviously the content you add to your site will have an impact, along with any additional plugins you install, but at least by choosing one of the faster themes you can start your site on solid foundations.
Page speed is important for SEO, and is just one of the requirements that will help you move up in search rankings while keeping your bounce rate down from visitors who don't have the patience for your page to load.
If you need help speeding up your WordPress site or have any other related issue, contact us to see how we can help.