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Is Your Theme Slowing Down Your Website?

These days, website speed can matter almost as much as content information. The vast majority of visitors to a website leave within two seconds if a website isn’t loading. In the age of instant gratification, and with the back button usually just a finger tap away, most casual internet users have no need to wait around on a slow-loading website. But there are even bigger reasons to care about website speed: it affects your rank in SERPS.

Google announced information in 2015 that site speed was becoming a more important ranking factor, and having a slow site speed (loading in a second or more) can do a lot to prevent your website from hitting the top rankings in Google. And if your website relies on organic traffic, that can be a significant loss. But, how can you tell if your theme’s to blame? We’ve put together some of the top tips for checking if your theme is slowing down your website.

Theme Optimization

How well is your theme coded and documented? Can you tell? If you’re like most website owners, the answer is ‘no’. But believe it or not, free website templates and paid website templates alike can have poor optimization, and can create lags. An important tip to avoid this is to always speed-test a theme before installing it, and to contact the author to determine what hosting the demo is running on. If a complex, image and javascript-heavy website is running on premium hosting with special speed considerations, chances are it might perform a little more poorly on standard hosting.

Page File Size

How big are the pages that your theme codes? Just as with moving anything physically, the bigger a page, the more time it takes to arrive from a server to your browser! A quick and easy way to gauge how big a page is is to simply download it to your desktop. Inspect the file properties to see the size! Just as with other files, the size of a page should be measured in kB or MB. The fastest pages will be about 1MB or less. Anything larger is more likely to be slow!

Number of HTTP Requests

The number of HTTP requests a theme makes can also slow your website down! While competent coders can estimate this by looking at the number of resource files and folders mentioned in the html header, there are plenty of free online resources which can check this for free! GiftofSpeed.com and WebsiteTest.com are both good options. The general rule of thumb is, the fewer, the better. So less CSS files, less javascript files, the faster a website will run!

What Can You Do?

Luckily, even if your theme IS the cause of your website speed problems, there are a few things you can do to minimize the damage. Compressing image files is a great way to gain some speed back, and there are even some plugins which can help you do this automatically. There are also plugins which can minify your CSS and javascript, so that even though more https calls might be made, they require less time to complete.

The Bottom Line

Unless you’re going overboard with high-impact images and graphic content for your website, chances are pretty high that it’s your theme which is making it slow. To start, see if you can’t upgrade to the fastest hosting in your budget. If you can, try to pick a theme which makes few HTTP requests, and which has a relatively small starting page size. But even if you’ve fallen in love with a theme which doesn’t meet these goals, not all hope is lost. You can use plugins and other tools to make that speed up in other areas!

pauline c
By Pauline Cabrera

A twenty-something savvy web designer / social media manager / SEO strategist based in Toronto, Ontario. Passionate about web design, HTML/CSS, beautifying things and internet marketing. Follow me on social media and say hello! Follow me on Facebook Follow me on Instagram Follow me on Pinterest Follow me on Twitter

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