Obviously the theme is one of the most important aspects of your site’s performance. You could say it’s the foundation for your site. A strong foundation is where you want to start from.
A poorly coded theme will wreck your optimization efforts, luckily it’s easy to avoid.
Avoid bulk (aka bloat)
A bloated WordPress theme is one that tries to do too much.
A theme should be the design "voice" of your site -- not the tools to design it. If that makes sense. In other words, a performance-minded theme won't have page builders, sliders, popups, etc... built-in.
While those features could be useful, it's bulk. It slows down your site. And can often lead to technical issues later down the road.
What is the fastest WordPress theme?
I am often asked what is the fastest WordPress theme to use. And of course the answer is “it’s complicated.”
Technically, the absolute fastest WordPress theme is one that is built purely custom for your needs. This is because you can take into account precisely the amount of markup, styles, images, and more that are necessary for your specific website.
With a purely custom theme (with performance in mind), there’s nothing extra. No extra hooks, no extra styles or code — because you wouldn’t need it with a custom theme.
The reason even the highest quality WordPress themes you can download are slower than a custom theme designed for performance is because of the flexibility they need.
They need to work for multiple types of websites and therefore have additional code and resources to make that possible
But that’s not to say you cannot achieve fantastic performance using these themes though. I just want you to know that a pure custom theme developed for performance is the absolute fastest theme that you can get.
But developing a custom theme will also cost you quite a lot if you're not a developer, so chances are you’re going to use something you can find pre-built.
I recommend the GeneratePress theme
Here is a link to their homepage (it is an affiliate link but I am 100% honest - this is an amazing theme).
It is well crafted, and the profiled code ensures it is as fast as possible. In effect, it’s a very efficient, lightweight theme, but it still offers enough flexibility for you to create the design you need for your site.
It doesn't try to force you into specific designs, either. It's a canvas. You build what you need your site to look like (but it does have a library of site designs you can import to get you started fast).
I promise if you use GeneratePress, you’ll have a strong foundation for a high-performing WordPress website. If I wasn't using my own theme (Bear Metal) I'd use GeneratePress.
You can install GeneratePress directly from your WordPress dashboard, it’s free.
To install GeneratePress:
- Go to your WordPress dashboard
- Click on appearance, then choose themes
- Then click the add new button
- Search for GeneratePress
- Click the install button on the generate press panel
- Then choose activate theme
But I do recommend you pay for the premium version which gives you a plug-in bringing you even more control over the look and feel of your site.
The difference between GeneratePress' premium options and other themes is these options are additions to the WordPress customizer -- and not a whole new editing experience.
I can't recommend GeneratePress more highly. If you're looking for performance, or to get away from the more bloated themes, you should give it a shot.