The number of visitors spending time on your site, is inversely proportional to your site’s load time (along with other factors of course). Honestly speaking, there is no point in adding content on your site, if no one is going to wait around to see it. Wouldn’t you agree?
We wanted to check why our WordPress site was running slow. So we made a check-list of things that could affect the load time.
- DNS Configured Correctly – Done
- Use of CDN – Done
- Use of a Reliable Web Host – Done
- Caching Plugin Activated – Done
We had all this in place, working as expected. So, here’s a question. What were we missing? Any guesses? The problem (if you have guessed it) was (in fact) – “a poorly architected theme”.
The Tortoise and Hare Equation
I’m sure you’you’ve heard of the tortoise and hare story. But I’d want to set a different moral for the story. In today’s day, it’s not the slow and steady that win the race, but it’s the focused who win.
We were focused on making our site load, fast. And we needed this to happen soon. For this, we knew we had to fix the theme.
To Build or Not to Build – That is the Question
Obviously one option was to repair the current theme. But a better option, was to provide a clean, well coded, light-weight theme. The fact was, that maintaining the (then) current theme was a nightmare. But we couldn’t entirely blame the theme. (And if you were facing similar problems, neither should you). Store bought themes are built, that way. They cater to a wide range of customers, and hence provide lot many features. But then, if you do not use more than a quarter of the features provided, you’d want to consider a different theme. For more control over the provided features, in a theme, for easy extension and maintainability, you’re better off creating a custom theme. And that is exactly what we needed.
Instead of building a theme from scratch, it’s always better to choose a theme framework, to speed up the development process. A theme framework provides you the basic functionality and features needed, to save development time. The work you have to put in is minimal, which makes it easy to maintain your site as well.
And out of all theme frameworks we were considering, we chose Genesis. Having worked with it for several client projects We were certain, that Genesis would provide us the stability we needed.
There is a reason why Genesis is the most recommended theme framework, and has over 100,000 downloads. For all the investigation (and comparison) we did, we concluded the following:
- Genesis Speaks WordPress: Learning a theme framework like Thesis, is like learning a completely different language, because they introduce their own set of elements (Boxes, Skins and Packages). In comparison, Genesis is simpler to learn, because it is in line with WordPress architecture. If you know how to build a child theme, you are set. In addition to this, Genesis framework is easily customizable, because it is built that way. You can remove and add functions according to your preference.
- Large Developer Community: Genesis is well documented (all information you need, is presented well by StudioPress). It has a large development community, which means you will get a lot of support in forums as well. In comparison to a framework like Thematic, where the documentation is more or less non-existent. (We had to work with Thematic on a client project, and we had a hard time mainly because of the lack of documentation support). Although Thesis is quite popular, and DIYThemes have their own documentation, Thesis 2.0 seems to have disappointed quite a few number of people, with the changes they have made.
- Genesis is for Developers: We believe that theme frameworks such as Thesis, or PageLines are great for theme designers. But for theme developers (yes, we develop themes), who do not mind getting their hands dirty, Genesis provides more control over theme development and the features you want to provide. We know where to put the code, it is easier to add widgets, it’s easy to select layouts as well.
Features of Genesis Theme
Genesis provides the following features right out-of-the-box:
- Clean and Lightweight: It is cleanly coded, and has adequate action hooks and filters provided for each setting, to allow you to easily customize a feature to your liking. The theme files are few, thus reducing page load time.
- Responsive Design: Genesis ensures a responsive design, which means the development time is reduced considerably, and we have a solid base.
- Simple Settings: The settings in the admin panel are few, which makes Genesis easy to use. Each page has easy options for layout customizations, without having to add a lot of code yourself.
- Security: Genesis follows WordPress security best practices, to prevent hackers or malicious users from disrupting the functionality on the site.
- Good Support and Consistent Updates: StudioPress provides a good amount of tutorials, and documentation for support. And maintains the framework consistently, to provide updates with newer WordPress versions.
- Search Engine Optimization: Genesis provides fields to optimize your content for search engines. Not only does it provide fields to add SEO elements at the post level, it also supports Schema.org code.
There was No Looking Back
We built our own child theme on Genesis, and added features with some must-have plugins (which we were using along with our previous theme as well). Genesis allowed us complete control on the position of UI elements with the least of effort.
- We created a light child theme on Genesis, by adding only the features we needed. We were able to customize the theme by removing certain functions on the hooks. We then added the functions we needed on the respective hooks. We decided against adding any animations, and created a clean and simple theme.
- We built our own slider for testimonials (check it out on the homepage), and the animated header.
- We removed any unnecessary plugins.
- Instead of using the Genesis SEO options, we chose to continue using the WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast.
- To provide a page composer option, we made use of the Visual Composer and Page Builder Plugin by WP Bakery.
- We created custom elements, to make it simple to add and structure content. For example the boxed content you would see on the homepage or Portfolio page, and on our Product Page.
- It was easy to pull elements from one section of the site and display it on another, by creating elements for the very purpose. We use this on our homepage to display latest projects completed, latest plugins, and latest posts.
- The fonts present were reduced to the bare minimum required.
- We even added our own sharing social sharing icons.
On our previous theme, the loading time for a page on an average, was an alarming 12 seconds. With our new theme on Genesis, we were down to, less than 3 seconds!
Advantages of Moving to Genesis
The advantages of adding a lightweight theme framework, are immense. Now we not only have the site loading faster, but our site is easily maintained as well. We have written the entire child theme as per our requirements, hence we do not have any unnecessary code, to drag the site down. We can even extend the features of the site, without any unforeseen consequences.
You see, since Genesis is a theme by itself, we had to write fewer lines of code. Which means effort spent in development, maintenance, upgrades, and changes is reduced. The benefits are more in the longer run.
For readers who have re-visited our site, you might not have noticed, that we have shifted to a different theme. That is because the look of the site hasn’t changed much. This has been maintained, by our expert UI/UX developers. What has definitely changed, is the page load time. Try checking out different pages on the site to see this change. We would love to hear your feedback, so do leave your opinion in the comment section below.