Fastest WordPress Themes For 2014

By on July 30, 2014
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Web design has improved a lot in the last 12 months but with responsive content, parallax scrolling and social integration, sites hosted on cheap shared hosting packages can become very sluggish. If you don’t want to spend $$$ on a VPS or dedicated hosting, but still want WordPress as your CMS, you’re going to need a very fast theme.

If you want to test the speed of your existing WordPress theme, head over to Google’s Page Speed Insights tool. Be prepared for some shockingly bad results. Even some of the most-used sites in the world score poorly; just look at the BBC’s page speed results:

bbc page speed results

Websites like BBC.com get away with ‘slow’ site design because they pay a lot of money for hosting. Some of us smaller guys prefer to spend $1-5 a month on cheap shared hosting or a cloud VPS, so we need our WordPress themes to be uber-efficient.

After testing and researching 100s of WordPress themes, here’s my list of the fastest WordPress themes for 2014.

1. Swift Themes

swift themes

Swift Themes (despite the plural, it’s just one theme) was developed by Satish Gandham (follow him on Twitter here) with the sole aim of speeding up WordPress. Did he reach his goal? Oh hell yes. Swift themes has excellent functionality (it’s responsive, SEO-optimised and even has its own built-in social share buttons). What’s more, the design is nice and clean with stripped-down elements – no more messy boxes or flash-based sliders to faff about with.

The Swift Theme demo site, which is reportedly hosted on Digital Ocean’s cheap $5 cloud VPS plan, scores an impressive 92/100 on Google’s Page Speed Insights tool, making it one of the fastest WordPress themes on the market.

swift themes speed result

Satish is so confident that you’ll love Swift Themes, there’s an exclusive free trial* available. Premium theme owners can take advantage of additional features. The full theme version costs $57 for personal site use, or $97 for a developers license. There are also child themes in the works, along with regular updates and tips from the developer.

Swift Themes features the following functionality so there’s no need to install bulky WordPress plugins:

  • Page navigation
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Shortcodes
  • Social media icons
  • Ad Managers
  • Support for YARPP (related posts)
  • WOO Commerce
  • Responsive Ads
  • Robust ad management with options to add separate ads for mobiles and desktops
  • Default styling for forms
  • No uneven spacing
  • 10 widgets.
  • 10 page templates for different layouts
  • Option to disable WordPress WYSYWIG editor smartness when designing pages. You will thank me when you are building static pages
  • Custom CSS option for individual pages
  • Responsive images

If you want to see some examples of Swift Themes in action, try Genie Forge. It scores 88/100 on the Page Speed tool (it’s slightly slowed down by a few plugins – namely Contact Form 7). You can check which parts of any WordPress website are slowing it down by whacking the URL into the Pingdom Speed Test Tool.

2. Frank

frank wordpress theme

The first thing you need to know about the Frank WordPress theme is that it’s 100% free and open source. Frank is the pet project of developer P.J. Onori, with the help of Jon Christopher, Felix Holmgren, Josh McDonald and various GitHub contributors. The theme is definitely ‘bare-bones’, but it works well for simple sites out-of-the-box and more complex child themes can easily be built upon.

P.J. explains his reason for the project:

I believe that speed is an essential part of user experience. I wanted my site to reflect that belief.

The last reason is that WordPress has an unfair reputation of being a slow, resource-hungry blogging platform. Make no mistake, WordPress can be slow, but that is often due to poor use. I wanted to make a WordPress theme to break the unfair stereotype.

Frank’s default home page makes 9 database queries and consists of 2 requests weighing ~29Kb (9.3Kb gzipped). Despite this tiny size, Frank still has some excellent features:

  • Responsive layout for desktops, tablets and phones
  • Multiple homepage layout options

The developer’s website, SomeRandomDude.com uses a Frank child theme (called somerandomdude, of course!) which is also available for free on Git Hub. Donations are strongly recommended to help keep the theme in development. There are plenty of speed tips and tweaks discussed on Git Hub so if you’re not afraid to get your code on, Frank could be the fastest WordPress theme of all time.

SomeRandomDude.com scores an impressive 97/100 on Google’s Page Speed tool, although it’s clearly a more text-based site than that shown in the Swift Themes demo.

frank wordpress theme speed test

 

To install the Frank WordPress theme, download the files from Git Hub or read more at the developer’s website.

Optimise Your Existing WordPress Theme

Don’t forget these golden WordPress speed rules to help make your site even faster:

- Only install essential plugins, and delete any that are inactive.

- Shrink images before uploading, or consider hosting them on a third-party site to speed up load times. WP Smush It will compress all your site images automatically.

- Javascript or Flash sliders are very resource-intensive. If you have cheap hosting, strip them out of your theme immediately!

3 Essential WordPress Plugins For Website Speed

internet folks website speed

I saw some significant speed improvements (87/100 according to Google) by installing the following free WordPress plugins (this site uses the Max Mag theme from Themeforest*, which is optimised for functionality, not speed):

GZip Ninja Speed

This plugin simply adds .gz compression to your site, something that Google recommends as standard. There are no settings to configure,  just install, activate and enable.

CleanerPress

This plugin provides several options; the most important for speed are: loading jQuery from Google CDN, combining and caching CSS and.js files, and custom plugin loading. The latter is especially useful; for example, if you use a plugin on just a few site pages, you can set them to only load on those pages, saving resources on the rest of the site. If you’re using javascript sliders or loading plugins in the header, you’ll need to deselect the “Load scripts non-blocking with head.js” option to retain full site functionality.

W3 Total Cache

It’s very well-known, but this free plugin will help deliver a static html version of your site to most visitors. If you make a lot of updates, don’t forget to clear the cache to give new and returning visitors fresh content. TIP: If you’re using the free version, deselect the “CDN” and “New Relic” (Monitoring) functions for even more speed.

Know any more super-fast WordPress themes? Hit me up on twitter or leave a comment.

About Tom

Hello I'm Tom, the guy behind Internet Folks. I spend my time SEO-ing websites, blogging and getting annoyed at Google.
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