In this article, we’ll look at the top three fastest WordPress themes in 2020. I’ll show you what to look for when evaluating the performance of a theme and also share a quick and easy way to test a theme for speed before you make a purchase.
A lightweight theme is an essential part of a fast loading website. When combined with fast hosting, light plugins, and avoiding page builders, your website will load lightening fast.
With more than 11,000 WordPress themes available on Theme Forest alone. Naturally, it can be difficult to find ones that truly make fast load times a priority. I have optimized countless websites for speed over the years and pretty much all of them were clunky and slow.
Please find below the results of my own experience and that of many other page speed professionals.
- Free option available
- Incredibly light page size
- Unrivaled support
- Extra options for devs
- Beautiful prebuilt sites (paid)
- Extensive documentation library
- Page builder friendly
- We use this theme
- Best free version of the two
- Very small page size
- Good support
- More advanced prebuilt site options
- Milliseconds faster than GP
- Page builder friendly
- Pro is slightly more expensive
How to Assess a WordPress Theme for Speed?
When searching for the fastest possible theme you want to keep three important things in mind:
- Load time
- File size
- Amount of HTTP requests
This is an obvious one but still something a lot of people don’t bother testing before committing to a theme. There are two ways to test this out. One is to find the demo site associated with the theme and then run the URL through PageSpeed Insights or WebPage Test. WebPage test will perform three tests and then give you the median result.
The next option is to test using a controlled environment. The above technique won’t always give good results because you don’t know what kind of hosting is being used or if the site has advanced optimization settings in place.
To get around this you can host a theme using a standard shared hosting package, use predetermined content and turn off all optimization settings. This controlled environment is a great way to compare the load time of different themes.
Fortunately, you won’t have to do all that because we provide the controlled test results later in this article.
File size matters. And for good reason. The larger the size, the longer it will take to load. Imagine the difference between streaming a 4K movie and lower resolution 720p using a slow connection. The 4K movie will keep pausing and buffering making you incredibly frustrated while the 720p should be just fine.
The difference between the two is the original size. 4K movies are massive while 720p movies are not. The same goes for your theme. A good theme is well coded and designed to be lightweight. Whereas big clunky themes are generally hacked together and best avoided.
Amount of HTTP Requests
Every theme is made of different components like images, stylesheets, scripts, fonts and so on. Each component creates an HTTP request and HTTP request adds extra load time to your website.
A well-built theme will reduce these requests down to the bare minimum using web development best practices. Unfortunately, most theme developers aren’t willing to put in the hard work to achieve a low HTTP count.
Fastest WordPress Themes in 2020
I’m starting with paid because these are the best-supported themes offering the most functionality. They come with demo sites and prebuilt options that don’t rely on a page builder.
GeneratePress – Our Choice *****
Load time: 1.967 s
Size: 32 KB
HTTP requests: 10
Results taken from WP-Rocket tests
GeneratePress is the fastest WordPress theme in 2020. We use it here at Load Labz and recommend our clients to do the same.
This theme is designed for page speed, the code is superb and there is no reliance on jQuery. The paid option comes with loads of prebuilt templates for a range of requirements.
The support is like nothing I have ever experienced before. There are guys on the support forum at all times waiting to answer questions. Most of the time just searching the forum will find an answer to your question. The incredible support is why we recommend this theme ahead of Astra.
Finally, GeneratePress has a lot of additional options for developers. This will appeal to all the professional and DIY coders out there.
Load time: 1.599 s
Size: 46 KB
HTTP requests: 9
Results taken from WP-Rocket tests
This is another incredibly fast theme. Astra consistently gets the top spot in the “Fastest Themes” polls. And for good reason, it’s almost as light as GeneratePress, has excellent page speeds and one less HTTP request than GP.
If you’re looking for a free theme focused on page speed then Astra is the best choice. However, there are always some limitations. If you go free you will have access to everything you would expect from a paid option with the exception of:
Colors and typography (limited)
Even with the above items missing the free option is still perfect for most startup websites. Astra is a good choice for those new to WordPress because of its ease-of-use and the powerful free option.
Load Time: 2.4 seconds
HTTP requests: 42
Results are taken from WPTuts test
This one is for all the page builder fans out there. While Astra and GeneratePress both work great with all major page builders, the Hello Theme was specifically designed for use with a page builder. And not just any page builder, Elementor. Elementor is a popular page builder for those who haven’t tried it. Although I avoid page builders at all costs, Elementor is one of the better performing options out there.
The Hello theme is a basic framework upon which you can build your website. It has been stripped back to the absolute minimum to ensure excellent page speeds. It has no features by itself and is basically just a blank canvas until you start creating your design with Elementor.
I’m not a fan of page builders but I understand why people like them, they make building a website easy. If you enjoy working with page builders and want the fastest possible framework for Elementor then I highly recommend this theme.
You will not be disappointed with GeneratePress or Astra, both are excellent themes and always come in the top spot in any polls. While there are competitors like Oxygen, WP-Ocean, Underscore, and StudioPress, they don’t come close to the three options mentioned in this article.
If you want the fastest theme available to humanity, then GeneratePress or Astra is the way to go. As I already mentioned, this website is built with GeneratePress. But I would happily use Astra in the morning. Hello theme isn’t for me because I don’t use page builders, but if I did…