An overwhelming abundance of evidence indicates that responsiveness and speed are the two essential factors that determine the website’s performance on all devices.
Hence, the primary role of page load speed in responsive themes is to ensure users don’t have to wait for more than a few fractions of a second for a page to load. It isn’t its only role but it’s by far the most important one.
In other words, the fact that your website looks amazing on desktop and Smartphone displays won’t matter much if a visitor has to wait to access it. Responsive themes have a reputation for being bloated with unnecessary code that drags their page load speeds down.
That’s why we’ll help you navigate the responsive theme market by helping you understand just how important page load speed is for building a fully-functional WordPress website.
What’s the Difference between Page Load Speed and Website Speed
Before we go further it’s important to understand the differences between page load and website speed metrics.
Site speed indicates how quickly a web browser can load all pages on a website, while page load speed shows the amount of time a web browser needs to receive the first byte from the server.
You’ll only have to worry about the page load speed metric when choosing a responsive theme because you won’t be able to measure the site speed metric until you install and activate a theme.
It’s important to remember that developers only include page speed load speed metrics for bare-bones themes and that the page’s actual load time, once it is published, will depend on the amount of content it contains among other factors.
It’s also vital to note that a page’s desktop and mobile page load speed values are different.
Do Responsive Themes Have Fast Page Load Times?
The short answer is yes.
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Most responsive themes have pages that load in 400 to 500 milliseconds. That said, not all responsive themes are fast and their performance may not be the same on all devices.
The default page size in responsive themes ranges from 20kB to 200kB depending on the elements and placeholder content a page contains.
The easiest way to check a theme’s page load time is to test its demo version with a website performance tool. Themes with small file sizes are usually considerably faster than those that occupy a significant amount of space on the server.
So, opting for a theme with a 20MB file size can potentially slow your website down, which is why it is better to choose a theme with a file size under 10MB if website speed is your priority.
Key Page Load Speed Contributors
You’ll hear the term lightweight design a lot when you start exploring responsive themes for WordPress.
So, if a theme needs to load a high amount of fonts, scripts, stylesheets, and media files chances are its page load speed won’t be impressive. Ideally, the responsive theme you chose should send fewer than forty HTTP requests in its bare-bones form.
Themes with a lot of page weight don’t load quickly and can slow down a website once you add content. The weight of a page will depend on the following factors:
- Built-in animations
- Presence of large media files
- The page’s number of resources
Lightweight responsive themes don’t always have powerful customization options. So, even though they are fast, they can make adding additional functionalities, restructuring the website’s navigation, or using a different font difficult.
Page Load Speed and Search Result Rankings
Finding a lightweight responsive theme is only half the job.
Arguably, the easier part of the job because there are so many WordPress themes with page load speeds under half a second.
The real struggle begins once you start adding functionalities to a website and uploading content because Google and other search engines use page speed as a ranking factor.
Moreover, for the last few years, Google is relying on the Core Web Vitals initiative to measure the performance of web pages. It currently uses the following metrics to determine a website’s UX:
- Largest Content Paint (LCP) shows how long it takes for the content on a page to load. The optimal value for this metric is around 2.5 seconds.
- First Input Delay (FID) measures the time between the user’s first interaction with a website and the moment the web browser reacts to that interaction. Its value is approximately 100 milliseconds.
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) indicates how long a page needs to achieve full visual stability.
Time to Interactive(TTI), Speed Index, and Total Blocking Time are also among Core Web Vitals metrics webmasters must pay attention to if they want to push their sites to the top of SERP.
Each metric contributes to a page’s user experience and ultimately affects its rankings in the search results. More importantly, slow page load speed can have a negative impact on the site’s bounce, click-through, and conversion rates.
Using a responsive theme can improve a website’s search engine performance by reducing its server load. Eliminating the need to create a website’s desktop and mobile versions decreases its load time and deliver a better user experience.
How to Boost a Responsive Theme’s Page Load Speed
Choosing a responsive WordPress theme with page load speed times under 400 milliseconds is a step in the right direction but it won’t guarantee your website’s success on search engines.
However, there are a number of things you can do on the website’s backend and frontend that can improve its page load speed.
Let’s start from the backend:
- Choose a Good Hosting Plan – How efficiently your website can run database queries, serve files and execute the theme’s code will depend on the hosting service you choose. Opting for a hosting plan with plenty of RAM and bandwidth will ensure a responsive theme can maintain a high page load speed.
- Install a Page Caching Plugin – Page caching is useful for pages with content that isn’t updated often. Installing a page caching plugin will enable you to generate a page’s static version that loads faster than its dynamic version which draws information from the database. Please read our guide to the best caching plugins to find out how they can help increase a responsive theme’s page load speed.
- Limit the Number of HTTP Requests -Your website’s bandwidth usage increases with each HTTP request because the web browser sends more and more requests for file downloads to the server. Check out our guide on how to make fewer HTTP requests for more information.
- Remove the Code You’re Not Using – A responsive theme might have features you’re not planning on using. Getting rid of this code could improve the page load speeds. Hiring a professional to edit the theme’s code might be a good investment if you’re not familiar with PHP and HTMP.
And now, let’s look at what you can do on the website’s frontend to maximize a page’s load speed.
- Don’t overload a page with photos and videos – Including too many media files on a single page will increase its size. Consequently, its load speed will go up even if the images you’re using are under 250KB.
- Resize all media files – Compressing video, audio, and photo files you upload to a page will help keep a page’s load speed metric close to its value on the theme’s bare-bones version.
- Make sure you’re using the Lazy Load feature – This feature prevents a browser from downloading all page’s visuals simultaneously. Instead, the browser will only display the images a user can see on the screen and display the rest as the user scrolls down the page. In doing so, lazy loading reduces the time a page needs to load fully. Please go through our guide to adding lazy load images and videos in WordPress to learn more about how this feature works.
Page load time of active responsive themes depends on a wide range of factors, so if the pages in the theme you installed don’t load fast enough you’ll likely have to use several of the page speed optimization techniques we mentioned above.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Using Plugins with a Responsive Theme Affect Page Load Speed?
Plugins consume a certain percentage of the server’s processing power. So, installing too many demanding plugins can drag a theme’s page load speed down.
Can Updates Decrease a Responsive Theme’s Page Load Speed?
Your WordPress website must be up to date to function properly and failing to update a responsive theme you’re using can result in slower page load speeds.
Do Comments Reduce a Responsive Theme’s Page Load Speed?
Comments help establish a sense of community on a website, but having an endless discussion under a post will increase the amount of time a page needs to load. Limiting or disabling post comments ensures the page’s load speed remains the same.
Understanding Why the Role of Page Load Speed in Responsive Theme is More Important than Ever Before
The quality of the user’s Internet connection still plays an important part in how quickly they can access a website.
At the same time, more and more people are consuming online content from smart devices and the quality of their experience when visiting a website often depends on the mobile network they’re using.
Hence, having a fast-loading responsive website is more important than ever before because it lessens the effects of the issues that result from the shortcomings of mobile networks.
While there’s nothing you can do about the differences between 4G and 5G networks, you can make sure pages on your website load quickly on all devices.
The best responsive themes have page load speeds under 0.4 seconds and a negligible number of HTTP requests. Moreover, they’re highly customizable, so maximizing their speed and search engine performance shouldn’t be a problem.