Fastest WordPress theme test – Free default WP themes

📂 Category: WP Blog

🖺 Last modified: 7th Dec 2021

🕑 Read Time: 4 min

Website loading speed is becoming one of the most important factors in web development and shouldn’t be ignored by developers. To develop a fast loading WordPress website it’s important to start with a fast WP theme as base. Development often starts with one of the free default WordPress themes and that’s a good practice. We tested the free default WP themes to see which one is the fastest WordPress theme.

Why is it important to start with the fastest WordPress theme available?

There are two main reasons why website loading speed matters. The first one is maximized user experience. Website visitors are inpatient don’t like to wait until a slow website loads. There is a great chance that visitors will move along and search for information elsewhere if a website doesn’t load in a second or two. Developers should be very aware of that potential issue and start developing a website using the fastest WordPress theme available.

The second and even more important reason to have a fast loading website is SEO and search engine rankings. Since the Speed Update to the Google search algorithm in 2018, Google started using website loading speed as an important factor in website ranking. If two competitive websites with similar SEO optimization level compete for the same keyword, Google will rank higher the faster website. Therefore, the base of each modern WP website should be the the fastest WordPress theme available.

Fastest WordPress Theme Testing

Choose a fast WordPress theme as base of your website. It will help achieving great user experience and high search results rankning.

Our fastest WordPress theme testing environment

For the purpose of our fastest WordPress theme test we used a standard economy hosting plan suitable for most websites. The hosting was set to run the latest version of PHP (7.4 at the time of writing this article). We created a clean, latest version of WordPress (5.4.2 at the time of test) installation without any additional plugins or scripts. No additional content was added except the default “Hello World” post and pages bundled in the installation. We also removed all the default widgets from the sidebar to reduce the number of server requests.

To measure which is the fastest WordPress theme on our test we used Pingdom Tools and Google PageSpeed Insights. Both of those tools are of great help when optimizing websites for loading speed. In addition to giving insight into loading speed, those tools will also show you which elements slow down your website. Pingdom Tools and PageSpeed Insights measure the loading speed differently, so the results are not same in both reports. Nevertheless, the measurement results should be taken as a reference and a guide how to improve your website loading speed. In our test, both tools agreed about which is the fastest WordPress theme.


Which is the fastest default WP theme

We have chosen the default WP themes for our test because we consider them a solid base to start developing any kind of WordPress website. Since those themes are made by the WordPress in house developers, they’re perfectly optimized to run on the WP system. For that reason, those are among the fastest WordPress themes available.

At the time of our test, the latest version of WordPress was 5.4.2 and it came with bundled with the following themes:

The results of our fastest WordPress theme are the following:

Twenty Sixteen515 ms19 req.99933.1
Twenty Seventeen540 ms19 req.97853.3
Twenty Nineteen480 ms9 req100992.2
Twenty Twenty460 ms9 req100992.0

Table data columns:

  • L.S. : Pingdom loading speed (lower is better)
  • S.R. : Server requests (lower is better)
  • P.I.S.D. : PageSpeed Insights Score – Desktop (higher is better)
  • P.I.S.M. : PageSpeed Insights Score – Mobile (higher is better)
  • S.I. : PageSpeed Speed Index (lower is better)

From the loading speed measurement it’s obvious that Twenty Twenty is the fastest WordPress theme among the default ones. It’s closely followed by the Twenty Nineteen theme, which makes it also a good option as a starter theme. Twenty Seventeen and Twenty Sixteen are significantly slower with a double number of generated server requests.


Making the fastest WordPress theme even faster

This test showed that Twenty Twenty is a great and fast starter WP theme. It doesn’t mean that there are no faster themes currently available. If you’d like to use another WP theme as the base for your project, you can measure it’s loading speed and compare the results to those from our test.

If you’re experienced enough to edit theme files, you can make the the WordPress theme even faster. You can rip the theme of any elements and functionality that you don’t need for your project. Another way to keep your website loading speed as fast as possible is to carefully choose plugins and scripts you’re going to use. Since there’s almost always a choice of plugins to achieve certain functionality, make sure to choose the fastest one.

There are plenty of other possibilities to optimize your website loading speed. To learn more about optimizing WordPress websites for speed, read carefully our Speed up WP websites in 5 minutes Tutorial.