In short, the speed of your website has a major impact on your search engine rankings and visitors’ experience.
To optimize your load time, you need to carefully select your WordPress theme. The right theme will be coded to the highest standards, lightweight, and SEO-friendly.
To help you make this decision, we’ve collected some of the fastest loading WordPress themes available in the WordPress directory and third-party marketplaces.
Before we dive into this collection, let’s go over:
- how fast a website should load
- what makes a theme fast
- how to check the loading speed of a WordPress theme
Or, just jump ahead to the fastest themes.
How fast should a website load?
According to a study by Portent, the ideal load time for conversions is between 0 and 4 seconds.
But the general rule of thumb is that a website should load as fast as possible. The exact time will vary depending on the type of website, its business niche, and its key performance metrics.
There are many factors that affect a website’s load time. These include:
- How many images, videos, and other media files are on the page
- The size of those images, videos, and other media files
- Your site’s coding and server-side scripts
- Whether you use a CDN service
- What plugins are installed on your site
- What theme is installed on your site
To understand this last factor, let’s look at what makes a WordPress theme fast.
What makes a WordPress theme fast?
There are several ways that a WordPress theme can be optimized for speed. Let’s take a look at a few of these factors below.
Most themes have a responsive design, which is essential for offering a fast mobile experience. Since responsive design dynamically loads your website based on the screen size of the visitor, you don’t need a separate version of your mobile site. That means Google’s crawler only has to go through your site once. If you have a separate version of your mobile site, all the assets on your website will have to be duplicated to the mobile version — which can add up in terms of bandwidth and maintenance.
Since it only requires one set of code, responsive design is a recommended design pattern by Google.
Themes that are packed with high-quality images and effects can be heavy. High-quality images often means huge file sizes and animations and effects can require a lot of code, both of which slow your page performance.
Simple themes with only the most necessary features will be lighter in weight and help ensure your site loads quickly. You can always add more design elements and effects later using plugins or custom CSS.
There are two ways these scripts can load: synchronously or asynchronously. Synchronously means that the files load one at a time, in the order in which they appear on the web page.So if the browser encounters a script, it will stop loading other elements on the page until that script has been fully loaded.
Asynchronous loading, on the other hand, enables multiple files to load at the same time, which can speed up the web page’s performance.
Some themes are designed to load asynchronously, or defer loading of these scripts until necessary. These themes will be faster than those that use synchronous loading by default.
Compression is the process of reducing file sizes in order to make it faster for servers to transfer files to browsers. The less data there is to send, the faster the page loads in your browser.
GZIP is the most popular compression method today because it can reduce the amount of data up to 70% — and in less time and using fewer resources than other methods.
Themes that compress components with GZIP will be generally faster than themes that don’t.
You can learn more about this compression method in How to Enable GZIP Compression for Faster Web Pages.
Reduced HTTP Requests
Every HTTP request — for images, stylesheets, scripts, and fonts — adds to your site’s overall load time. As your site grows, these HTTP requests start to add up and eventually create a noticeable delay between what the user clicks on and when it loads.
Both the number of files being requested and the size of the files being transferred can affect how long a page may take to load.
Themes with fewer and lighter files will make less HTTP requests and therefore load faster. The best way to figure out how many HTTP requests a theme makes is to run it through a speed testing tool. We’ll discuss how to use these below.