Update: This post was originally written May 22, 2019
We've been reading a lot about GeneratePress theme lately. It is definitely a contender in terms of "Ultra Lightweight" WordPress Themes. It is important to note that the GTMetrix scores may have slightly different criteria today over a year later.
First, what is an "Ultra Lightweight WordPress Theme"? While there is no definition based on today's testing I'm happy to suggest a guideline: Any theme that results in a total page size (page weight) of 150kb or less, upon installation in a new WordPress installation with minimal content added to the page.
We were motivated to find the most lightweight theme because we've looked at posts about "fast themes" but most of what we saw were bloated themes. After many hours of research I found four themes that might actually be "Ultra Lightweight."
How we tested the themes
- Installed WordPress
- Added BBQ Pro (Block Bad Queries plugin)
- Completed all Settings in WordPress (no changes to Customizer)
- Added a Page with almost no content.
- Installed the theme
- Tested the website twice in GTMetrix using the https:// URL (which removes the redirect if you use http://)
In 2019 the clear winner was Suki, a free theme available at SukiWP.com.
I re-built my WPTechGuru.com website recently with Suki because I knew it was lean from their homepage. But I assumed there was something out there that was even better (short of hand coding a theme). I was a bit surprised that Twenty Nineteen did so well because there is no mention of simplicity or being lightweight on the theme directory.
A year later in 2020 I've built a handful of websites with Suki. I'm never disappointed with performance but it definitely has a learning curve when creating your header in particular.
In 2020 it is clear that Suki has gotten bigger (double the page size), it is important to note that this later test was done on a different website so the process was a tiny bit different. The size difference was so dramatic we decided to re-test WordPress Twenty Ninteen which also more than doubled in page size!
So today's Winner? We found Generate Press, like Suki to have a bit of a learning curve to create advanced layouts.
Both Suki and Generate Press are solid if you don't mind taking the time to learn how they work.
This also proves that as time goes on we add complexity. Gutenberg is bigger now, Security changes to WordPress have happened. As I often say. Everything affects Everything.
Using Suki theme
While this isn't a full review of the theme, Suki theme is a bit different and has a little bit of a learning curve. It has many options in the customizer which is surprising considering how lean the theme is. Another feature I like but didn't use are the theme "Page Settings" which allow you to change content layouts. Finally I liked the mobile navigation. Simple, works, little customization was required.
Curious about the impact of using Suki Pro I contacted the developers of Suki Theme and they said:
With additional features, of course, you will have more options to configure. But it doesn't affect the website performance on frontend. The frontend will be always lightweight and only requires tiny additional resources.
Besides, Suki Pro is modular, that means you can activate which module that you only want to use. The other inactive modules won't be processed at all, so it won't bloat your server.
All of these themes are worthy of trying. They are all very lean. They are all different and I appreciate the developer's efforts to create lightweight themes.