Fastest free WordPress themes 2019 – performance research

Gijs Hovens, February 14, 2019

Are you looking for free, fast WordPress themes? Then it’s a good thing you’re here! That means you think speed is important for your website.

You’re right about that. Google and Akamai research also confirm that speed is important for your organic ranking and your conversion rate. In this article, we’ve tested the 30 most popular free WordPress themes for speed and accessibility.

A number of themes that are doing very well stand out, while some others fall by the wayside.

Results

Let’s get straight down to the nitty-gritty. Here’s the ranking of the fastest free WordPress themes:

RankingThemeTTFB (sec.)Fully Loaded Time (sec.)Size of page (in kb)RequestsGoogle PageSpeed MobileGoogle PageSpeed DesktopLighthouse Perf. MobileAccessibilityBest Practices
1Zakra0,70,957111001001009493
2Twenty Eleven0,60,9501110010010079100
3GeneratePress0,61,059119810010098100
4Customify0,71,052899100100100100
5Twenty Twelve0,71,111615971009910093
6Twenty Nineteen0,81,17411100100100100100
7Neve0,81,2701198991008987
8Color Mag0,71,2122169698989087
9Astra0,91,2721010010010098100
10Twenty Fifteen0,71,31681794979710093
11Twenty Fourteen0,71,32181893989810093
12OceanWP0,91,4175188996996293
13The Score0,81,4240298795987787
14Total0,71,5280297389969287
15Shapely0,71,5321268396966687
16Futurio0,61,64921394961009393
17Twenty Sixteen1,11,6169189599979893
18Mesmerize1,01,73531895100996380
19Sydney0,71,7463198698979287
20Storefront0,91,85151895999810093
21Highlight0,81,8449209199986980
22Mins0,61,8553179499988893
23Scribbles0,61,9615169096959393
24Stout0,61,9569189399999393
25VW Event Planner0,72,0633198596928387
26Twenty Seventeen0,72,0675199099989893
27Escapada0,82,1554169599989293
28Hestia1,02,25902082939610093
29Ashe0,63,21274228995988187
30Zerif Lite1,64,31456417088739280

Which free WordPress themes are the fastest? – 2019 edition

WordPress’s own themes: all Twenty themes are fast. The more recent Twenty themes are also better accessible. We also recommend the Astra, Zakra, GeneratePress, Customify, Neve, and Color Mag themes.

Do you want to get started with improving all the things that contribute to a faster website? Then read our Ultimate checklist for speeding up your WordPress website.

Download the free 'The Ultimate WordPress Speed Checklist' now

Research method

We selected the themes from the official WordPress.org theme repository. We sorted them by popularity and included the top 30 themes in the test.

Validity

We installed WordPress 5.0.3 on a Savvii Shared One package together with the Savvii hosting plugin. We then installed the themes on top of that. We activated and tested the themes one by one.

For testing, we disabled our caching, so we could see how fast a theme was. In reality, these themes will load faster on a clean WordPress website with our caching on.

We used webpagetest.org, Google PageSpeed, and Google Lighthouse as research tools.

Reliability

To measure speed as reliably as possible, we conducted nine tests for each theme on webpagetest.org. From these nine tests, we used the median as the result.

Webpagetest.org

Via webpagetest.org, we measured Time To First Byte (TTFB), Fully Loaded Time, page size, and the number of requests. We sent a ‘Cache-control: no-cache’ header to disable the cache and opted for ‘Stop at document complete’.

Google PageSpeed Insights

With Google PageSpeed Insights, we measured the scores for mobile and desktop views. This score indicates the extent to which the website is optimized. A high score means that there’s a lot of optimization, while a low score indicates that there’s still a lot of room for improvement.

Google Lighthouse

With the Google Lighthouse browser tool, we measured the scores for four components: mobile performance, accessibility, best practices, and SEO. For SEO, all themes received the same score, so we didn’t include the results in the table. Because Yoast SEO wasn’t installed, and, therefore, a meta description tag was missing, all themes attained a maximum SEO score of 91.

For device, we chose ‘mobile’, and for audits, we went with ‘performance’, ‘best practices’, ‘accessibility’, and ‘SEO’. For throttling, we chose ‘no throttling’. We also ticked ‘clear storage’.

How do you choose the best theme?

We’ve already tested a lot of things. Speed, accessibility, and responsiveness are all very important. Do you want to know how to choose the best theme for your situation? Then read our free white paper on how to choose the most appropriate theme.

Download whitepaper

There are so many WordPress themes available with different features and performance that it’s difficult to choose if you don’t know where to start.

In the white paper, you’ll find solutions for problems that WordPress users experience when choosing a theme. You’ll be shown how to choose the best WordPress theme for your situation with step-by-step instructions.

To give you a peek behind the curtain: there are four things you have to pay special attention to when choosing a theme that we tell more about in the white paper.

Speed

The speed of your website is very important. Thus, you’ll want to choose a theme that results in a fast website. Why is speed important?

The speed of your website is an important ranking factor on Google. Faster sites end up higher in the search results.

In addition, a faster website results in better user experience and a higher conversion rate. You do not want to miss out on these advantages by choosing a slow theme.

Less is more

When choosing a theme, it’s wise to look carefully at the functionalities that a theme has to offer. You’re often tempted by dozens of options and possibilities. The trick is to choose a theme with only the functionalities that you really need.

Why? The more functionalities a theme contains, the heavier and slower the theme becomes. You don’t want to give up speed and security for functionalities that you don’t actually need.

Quality Counts

A theme can be quick and contain the exact functionalities you need, but that’s not the only thing you need to assess a theme on. The quality of the theme also needs to be guaranteed. Things like SEO friendly, updates, browser support, accessibility and W3C validation are all important.

Certain themes can pass quality control better than others. How do you rate a theme in terms of quality? Check the white paper.

To measure = to know

It’s advisable to make a rational choice based on scores. We secretly already know all this, although we don’t always act accordingly. Don’t be led astray too easily by the layout or the feeling that a theme evokes.

Determine what kind of theme you need and follow the first three principles. Then look at the list above for which themes have achieved the best results, and bingo: you’ll have found the best theme for your WordPress website!

Conclusion

With this list and the tips we’ve given, you’ll definitely find a theme that fits your website. Your choices are vast, and there are clear distinctions among all the free WordPress themes.

Still not successful? Maybe one of our partners or customers can help develop a custom theme. We know our customers well, so feel free to call or mail us for a tip!

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