In terms of having your website rank high in Google, the speed of your website matters. Apart from that, it matters to your clients. So to help us all, I’ve tested a number of well respected themes to see who is the fastest.
First things first; a health warning.
Let me be the first to state that results are indicative. If I were to have a somewhat scientifically conclusive study I would need to buy every single theme. Install them each on a fresh host and test them at the same time of day. Ain’t nobody got time for that. I would encourage you to use this as a guide and make your own judgements regarding what theme you think is best for your needs.
With that said, I want to acknowledge the following:
First, they’re not all hosted on the same server. Those themes would then be loaded onto the same server to have an equal platform for testing.
Second, the performance of the theme in the real world also depends on what plugins you have. You can’t buy the top ranked theme, stick a ton of extra code on top of it and then get mad when performance drops.
Thirdly, CDNs or Content Delivery Networks. Basically a CDN, for those who don’t know, is a service where, parts of your site, usually images, are hosted on a remote server, so when someone visits your site, your hosting server isn’t smashed for information – effectively, the load is spread.
Anyway, on with the show…
If you do want to mail me any complaints about this exercise, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
How The Themes Were Graded
I kept pretty straight forward.
Themes are marked out of 1000 points.
Those points are spread across 6 categories / tools – whatever phrase you prefer.
First up, Cost – cost is in there because it matters. I’d like to also find what the best ‘value’ theme is.
I gave Cost the lowest weighting – 80 marks out of a possible 1000.
Before I go on, I’ll explain – all scoring is done on a pro-rata basis, that is, the ‘best’ theme for a given category gets the highest score.
So in cost, the cheapest theme gets the full 80 marks, then the next theme, depending on the price will get a score less than 80 marks.
UPDATE: I was going to use Monitis as a metric of evaluation, but I found the results I was getting inconsistent when I re-ran tests. I’m sure it’s a great too all-in-all but it wasn’t what I needed on the day.
Google Pagespeed is broken into Mobile Speed and Desktop Speed.
Themes scored a maximum of 190 out of 1000 for Mobile and 190 out of 1000 for Desktop. My thinking was, Google is the Final Boss of the internet so they get a little extra in terms of authority.
Varvy, GT Metrix and Pingdom tools each had a weighting of 180 marks out of 1000 each.
I’m not going to go too deep into the themes. A brief overview should do it. I’ve provided links to each theme if you want to get further details on them.
Sparks (Best Pingdom Score – Joint Award)
Developed by ThemeZilla, this responsive theme is geared towards studios, agencies and portfolio needs.
It has a nice minimal look that I think gets a positive response and contributes to a fairly trim codebase.
Fable (Best Google Pagespeed Mobile)
Built with the reader in mind, Fable is a clean looking blogging theme from Elegant Themes.
Fable holds a very respectable score in our table and boasts (according to Elegant Themes) the use of coding best practice to ensure great performance.
It’s one of our top-shelf themes in cost at $69, but this one is probably worth it. Desktop it held its own against stiff competition and came out with a score of 83, putting it right in contention, but in mobile…..smashed it – 96 / 100. Sah-mashed it.
If you have a service business, and need to be mobile ready. Just get this theme.
Swift (Best Google Pagespeed Desktop – Joint Award) (Best Pingdom Score – Joint Award)
I would not be crazy about the look of Swift compared to some of the other themes, but this ugly-duckling red-headed step-child theme is up there with the best in terms of performance.
Its lightweight, looks straightforward to use and scores well in the metrics. If you want fast, and feel you can smarten up this theme with some nice images, Swift might be worth considering.
Newsmag (Best Varvy Speed – Joint Award) (Best Google Pagespeed Desktop – Joint Award)
In terms of Magazine themes for wordpress, Newsmag is very well thought of. It performs very well in testing and has a nice clean and intuitive interface to use.
It comes with Visual Composer for drag and drop building of pages. There are also plenty of widgets (22, I believe) for you to make use of.
Nexus Magazine Theme
Created by the team at Elegant Themes, Nexus is a feature rich magazine theme offering that provides users with a stylish site for the money. It’s already geared up for monetization with its advert widgets, and possesses a responsive structure as well as built in templates, galleries and social media options.
A very nice looking theme that performed ok in testing, slow on the mobile end it would seem. It’s a nice looking colourful theme that would make an attractive blog.
Another nice looking theme though it performed just ‘ok’ in terms of pagespeed. Visually it was one of the nicest, in my opinion. It is responsive, retina ready and works very well with woocommerce.
I’d recommend taking a more in depth look at One to judge for yourself; it depends on how the speed versus cost ration works out for you personally.
Dining Restaurant (Best Varvy Speed – Joint Award) (Best Google Pagespeed Desktop – Joint Award)
A nice theme for anyone in the service industry. Designed for restaurants, obviously, but I’m sure the theme can be useful beyond that sector. This one surprised me, as tests indicate its fast as shit – it scored 90/100 for desktop speed, making it one of the top performers in that category. Performed well on mobile and cost is in the upper-middle sector.
This would be a good buy.
A theme aimed at small business, looked alright. First impressions were middle of the road, didn’t hate it, wasn’t blown away either. In terms of testing, it performed well on mobile (in the top 3) but its desktop test let it down (it red-zoned). All in all, it didn’t score badly and it only red-zoned in desktop relative to the rest of the pack, that has to be acknowledged.
At $67 it is in the upper middle bracket for cost. By all means take a look at Zerif yourself – it might fit your needs.
Look at Schema using images of ScarrJo against me. Lets see if that works out for them…..
Another magazine theme, this one though is also geared towards selling stuff. It’s a nice clean theme that claims to be SEO optimized (what does that mean exactly?), it’s responsive and is ready for those revenue generating ads.
It tested pretty well, with respectable scores both in desktop and mobile – its $69 price tag dragged it down a notch but as an all-round theme this would be a good purchase.
Lawyeria (Best GT Metrix Score)
A theme you could use to sell web-design services to lawyers…..but would this theme get you sued? Let’s see….
Lawyeria is a nice looking professional theme. The layout is well-organised and, like most modern themes, is responsive.
Test-wise, things didn’t go well, more Ally McBeal than Good Wife – Desktop score red-zoned (though that’s relative to other themes), the mobile speed score would cause concern for me, coming in at 60/100 isn’t great, the fact that Lawyers is a service that may be referenced at any time – their mobile responsiveness is key. Combining that with the higher price tag, it isn’t a theme that I would be raving about.
A parallax theme with a drag and drop page-builder. Divi is capable of enabling video backgrounds and all sorts of ooh-ahh type stuff. But is it any good?
Another relatively higher cost theme at $69 – Divi however, in terms of performance at least, seems to warrant that price tag, coming in with 72 for mobile and a powerful 86 for Desktop, Divi is definitely one I would be keeping on my ‘to-purchase’ list.
This oddly named theme is designed for blogging, travel and corporate sectors of the web-world. It supports all the usual stuff, shortcodes, custom colors, widget sections etc.
At $49 it is one of the cheapest on our evaluation list scoring 71.84 out of 80! Go Uberto!
The mobile side of things lets it down, with a pretty crappy 56 out of 100, the desktop however does a very respectable 81 out of 100.
My takeaway from this one would be, I would very much consider a purchase for a blog or some such, certainly not for a service business, but if you were writing a travel guide or blogging about yoga/fitness/something that people access on desktop devices mainly, then this is a very good value theme for you.
Ink (BEST COST)
A hipstery looking theme (that was my initial impression) – Ink has a nice look and is geared towards the photography, portfolio showcase end of the market. Or you can use it for selfies and videos of your cat – it’s your call.
Our cheapest theme, coming in at a very reasonable $44. Not geared for mobile, only scoring 64 / 100 – but who looks at picture sites on their mobile. Data charges? Hello?
Scores well in terms of desktop with a hearty 84 – this hipsteresque theme is one of our top players
Following the modern, elegant and minimalist style, Mountain is more than a beautiful portfolio with journal blog and WooCommerce store integrated, which is ideal to build creative page for individual or start-up.
Mountain also scored well in all aspects of our evaluation. At $49 it is one of the cheaper themes on the list, cheapest being Ink at $44. Mobile got a score of 77 which is very respectable against its competitors, but in desktop scoring it crushing it with a hefty 89 out of 100.
Bring the Mountain to you
One of the more popular themes on Themeforest, Dandelion. A very flexible theme, it gives its users a great range of options in terms of customisation. Suited to both business and portfolio needs, Dandelion provides a framework for a professional looking site, that is pretty easy to set up.
With all that said, things didn’t go Dandelions way in testing. It sits at the lower end of eth cost table, which is good but in terms of Mobile and Desktop performance, while it’s not a horror show, it’s nothing to be excited about either. 59 on mobile and 78 on Desktop. Meh.
And in the red corner…..from New York City…..
I’m not going to dwell on this. On the positive side, Salient isn’t the most expensive of our themes, it’s $59. When I visited the demo-site I have to say I was impressed. It is a lovely looking theme. Very professional. If I went to hire a business with this theme I’d think – ‘these guys are going to cost me a lot of money’
On the downside, Salient performed as one of our worst performers – 51 on Mobile and 66 on Desktop. Both red-zoned.
The way this scoring works, or more accurately, my description of the scoring works, someone is going to be in the Red. I’ll say that; but at the end of the day, they’re not great scores.
I feel kind of bad because it’s a nice theme, and I’d say a lot of work has gone in, but as a buyer, those scores would put me off.
I was surprised Vertex didn’t do better in this test. Maybe if I had a different litter of themes it would have.
I’m pretty sure I’ve worked with Vertex before. Thought it was good – no complaints I can remember anyway.
In scoring it was middle of the road. 67 on mobile but a pretty good 82 in Desktop performance. With a $59 price tag this theme is worth your consideration.
Scored out of 80
Scored out of 190 Marks
Google Pagespeed – Desktop
Scored out of 190 Marks
Varvy Speed Score
Scored out of 180 Marks
GT Metrix Score
Scored out of 180
Scored out of 180
Total Test Results
Scored out of 1000
|Rank||Theme Name||Cost||Mobile Pagespeed||Google Pagespeed||varvy.com||GTMetrix||Pingdom||Total Score||URL|
Total Test Scores
Scored out of 1000
|Rank||Theme Name||Cost Score||Mobile Pagespeed Score||Pagespeed Score||varvy.com score||GTMetrix Score||Pingdom Score||Total Score||URL|