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WordPress Site Speed

Page and Site Loading Speed is now a search engine ranking factor; supposedly crucial going forward if you want your site to feature higher in the Google Search Results.

Improve Page Speed and User Experience is the most consistent message to come out of Google in 2021. This feels like another big shift in website marketing.

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Choosing a WordPress Build

On top of relevance, content quality and device responsiveness, we are now guiding our clients on choosing the right WordPress website builds that will perform now and in the coming few years to get a return on your investment.
The cost of producing a site is directly related to the technology you choose. And, the cheaper it is, the less well it will work in the future.

Firstly, does page speed make a difference?

Yes. Faster sites deliver more leads, from the same amount of visitors, regardless of ‘SEO ranking’, so we should make the page experience fast in any case.
And then, high Search Engine Results Positions deliver exponentially more site visitors. It’s a double win to make pages faster
You can’t argue with Google’s logic: users prefer faster sites, and Google wants happy users, because they click more, which means, Google earns more.

It’s not only page load speed.

Pages that jump around whilst loading are not a good user experience, and so Google are grading us on how quickly pages fall into line and users can start clicking.
User experience is affected by how efficiently the site is coded. And there are tools that help non-coders build websites. It is almost true that the easier it is to build, the slower and less visitor friendly it is, and the worse the performance.

The Page Builder / Speed Trade-Off

Hand built software would deliver the quickest page speed. But, like a Formula One car, you would need an expensive team of full-time mechanics to run the site. The more shiny and more animated a website, the quicker it is built, the slower it is, and the less well it seems to ‘work’ for Google and for visitors.
Compromise of some sort is needed between low cost of ownership, the pride of a business in how things look, and how well the site works.

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Can WordPress be fast?

Oh Yes. But there are lots of build choices that affect the ultimate speed of the site and the visitor experience.

Design Choice

The shinier and more animated the site the harder we have to work to get it loading quickly. This is one of the main factors, the software and images used to make the page ‘look good’ and be entertaining can slow down the site and page speed.
So, this is one of the easier decisions to make. These elements actually distract the visitors, so we don’t need bells and whistles for the site to perform well. But it is the design choice that has a lasting impact.

Underlying Theme Speed

The underlying ‘installed Theme’ provides speed and functionality and consistency for WordPress Agencies. How the theme is created matters. Skilled developers write leaner code – which kind of sums up the whole thing.
The theme is a framework that delivers consistency. It is the chassis of a car…
We have used the Genesis Framework for WordPress, because it can do pretty much anything. Its flexibility, underlying speed and security are a great combo. But we currently have our eyes wide open, because things are changing.

Page Builder Software Slows Down Websites

This breed of software lets you do all that shiny, animated, easy page layouts without developers and even beginners find it easy to be creative with content (like a content management system should be). No wonder they got so popular.
Page builder software is the main page speed killer. But there are many different page builders and they bring very different performance.

Bloated Page Builders?

Without analysing it too deeply, the problem gets worse when you have ‘site builder’ software instead of page builder software.
Here’s a list of page builders – it’s not directly related to speed, but there is a big difference – source – We use Beaver Builder, which has a great functionality vs page speeds.

The common speed culprits seem to be WordPress add ons called Divi, Visual Composer, WP Bakery and a number of others. These combined ‘themes and pagebuilders’ are now going out of fashion because they are the worst performers.
Elementor seems to be middling speed-wise, perhaps it’s ok if used sparingly, but it can be among the worst at times. We have seen ‘brand new’ websites at speeds of 8/100 for mobile.
Things have gotten bad out there. Which is why the Internet powers are taking action.

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WordPress is changing – What’s Next?

Automatic runs WordPress successfully, with 40% share of all global websites built on its platform (2nd place has 7% of the market). It has achieved this dominance in part because it has been so ‘Google and visitor friendly’. So you can see why they need to solve the speed problem to keep their place.

Gutenberg is the WordPress creator’s answer to page building software. It is a new ‘built-in’ WordPress page editor.


The Gutenberg software provides for ‘blocks’ for more of the required ‘design layout’ inside posts and pages which will run fast in browsers. Only, it’s just not finished yet.

Speed is not the only consideration

Clients need user-friendly page layouts without developer support. If you are happy with hand built pages, and the associated cost, then Gutenberg might be the right answer.
But getting websites built quicker for lower cost is the goal.

What is Gutenberg like?

Now, we have delivered a site with Gutenberg, and it is fair to say that nobody likes change. But also, it has that hand built nature which gives us an ongoing difficulty to manage content delivery which over the lifetime of a website, adds up to a lot more hours spent.
We could use add on software to make Gutenberg blocks work ‘better’ than it does ‘out of the box’ but there is no clear winner as yet. And things are changing so rapidly.

Changing an engine mid flight

Lots of developers are adding software to WordPress Gutenberg ‘blocks’ to help manage the whole thing. It’s a messy set of blocky plugins, all of which are being developed in public. Its difficult to see where it will end up.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure I want to be on a flight where they are changing the engine. (I forget where I stole this analogy but it is a powerful one). Wait until it’s safe and then make a choice. Baling is expensive – you have to go back and replace everything.

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WordPress Gutenberg is fast, but, if you can’t easily get content up and running, then you have nothing that needs ranking.
So this is yet another challenge for website companies. Do we wait?

We can’t wait. What to do?

Select the fastest most flexible theme with ‘hooks and filters‘ (this allows insertion of content anywhere on a selectable basis and is developer friendly.
Start with fast, user-friendly page builder software, and then migrate pages when Gutenberg is ready, on a page-by-page basis.

Why developer friendly themes?

Flippantly, if you ever want to make your website work well, at some point in time you will need a developer to do their stuff, and they need the right tools.
You can take our word for it because we make websites work all of the time.

Never get stuck with something

Replacing things that are not fit for purpose is always painful and expensive and takes too long.