What is the fastest responsive WordPress theme that supports child themes?

I’ve been on a quest to find the fastest responsive WordPress theme that supports child themes. After running Motionbuzz.com on Drupal 5 and 6 for over four years, I switched to WordPress in early 2012. Why? Great question, but the answer deserves its own post. The short answer is I was impressed by all of the responsive WordPress themes, and most of them were much faster  than my custom Drupal theme. Plus, I wanted to learn more about WordPress 3.

In 2011, I tested Skeleton by SimpleThemes. I loved its simplicity and speed. After using SimpleTheme’s, Element to build a site for my wife, I decided to use it as the parent theme for Motionbuzz.com. I tweaked a child theme to suite my needs.

Since then, we’ve used it as a parent theme for other projects. This approach has allowed us to spend less time coding and more time creating content. Our small-business clients get the best website for their budget since photography, video production, and search marketing are now included as part of our website packages.

In the past few years, I’ve also become obsessed with page speed. In my opinion, page speed is the cornerstone of good UX. If your site is slow, then most people won’t bother to look at it.

Lately, I’ve been testing other WordPress theme frameworks. Some of them have an incredible amount of features, but the bloat seems to negatively affect page speed. Of course web hosting has a lot to do with speed, but some themes are simply more optimized than others.

In order to be as objective as possible, I tested the themes’ demo sites using Pingdom Tools and Google PageSpeed Insights. Granted, each demo has unique content, but this test will still help me decide whether or not I want to try a different theme framework.

I welcome your feedback. Also, I’ll probably add to this list as I test more frameworks. Please let me know if you have any recommendations.

Please note: the following results are not from a scientific test. I simply tested each theme author’s demo site in Google PageSpeed Insights. Results may vary based on the theme authors’ server, WordPress configuration, and content. Also, Google PageSpeed Insights may test different criteria over time. Keep all of these things in mind when you are choosing your responsive WordPress theme.

Retested May 14, 2013:

WordPress ThemeTest DatePriceGoogle PageSpeed
(out of 100)
SimpleThemes Skeleton5/14/13Free23
SimpleThemes Synapse5/14/13$7980
Standard Theme5/14/13from $4944
PageLines5/14/13from $9784
WooThemes Canvas5/14/13from $7060
Theme Blvd Jump Start5/14/13$6587

First test, January 24, 2013:

WordPress ThemeTest DatePricePingdom grade
(out of 100)
Google PageSpeed
(out of 100)
Avg. Grade
(out of 100)
SimpleThemes Skeleton1/24/13Free859288.5
SimpleThemes Synapse1/24/13$79858886.5
Standard Theme1/24/13from $49887481
PageLines1/24/13from $97778480.5
WooThemes Canvas1/24/13from $70817879.5
Theme Blvd Jump Start1/24/13$65853761


For more information on this topic, check out my screencast, How design elements influence website load speed and optimization:

View on YouTube

About the Author:
Thomas is the ringleader at Motionbuzz.
Posted in Web Design & DevelopmentTagged , , ,

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