Which WordPress theme would you choose for best mobile speed?

Honest and common-sense alternatives to paid themes.

You can’t judge speed quality by looking at a theme on a desktop screen – nor by a demo page. You have to test with either iPhone simulators or web tools like Firefox browser addons. Or real hardware devices. No one owns that much hardware.

And how a theme looks – the “Out Of the Box Experience” (the oo-bee) – is nothing like the beautiful demo page. When you first install your new theme,

Unfortunately, theme selection is often based solely on looks (aesthetics). Demo-page performance is deceptively “tuned and tweaked.” Premium themes are available for sale from marketplaces and individual WordPress developers. Purchaser speed-evaluation or testing is rarely done at all. It’s a faith-based buy. Speed is an after-the-fact repair job. This is “consumer-like” impulse buying. There’s buyers remorse for a non-returnable theme product. We’ve been there. We sympathize.

Our speed philosophy starts with a stripped-down, free theme. Then add only necessary features with free plugins. This is the foundation of good speed design. These kinds of themes are sometimes called: stripped-down, bare-bones, generic, basic, naked, essential, fundamental, or “bootstrap.” Those key phrases return pages full of affiliate links to theme-publisher houses.

We’ve found free themes in the WordPress directory often get a bad rap. Paid-theme publishers claim free themes have inherent flaws. This is advertising hype (aka lies). These imagined flaws include:

  • Lack of Updates
  • Security Problems
  • Lack of Support
  • Lack of Features
  • Lack of Customization

Nothing could be further from the truth. You can get the same lousy service from paid authors. Some of the biggest and best authors in the business fall flat on their faces sometimes. Even WordPress makes security mistakes and suffers from favoritism and apathy. Don’t believe myths that “premium” themes are better – or delivers better guarantees.

SPEED CLONE ISSUE #10: THEME.ME examines 1,602 free, responsive alternatives to premium themes.


There are 5,100 free themes in the WordPress theme directory. Of those, only 1,602 are responsive. All the rest are fixed-width junk. No one should design today with a theme that doesn’t adapt to small-screen size. That limitation immediately reduced the number of candidates.

How did we sort the remaining 1,602 free responsive themes to find the fastest loading? A tedious job or did we use some tricks? You can learn our techniques and find fast themes. We also make some recommendations.

One featherweight theme is equal to 50 lightweight plugins. A heavy popular theme – like “The7” or “Divi” – is equal to hundreds and hundreds of plugins. Yet, plugins get the blame for slowdowns. Not the bloated popular theme.

The THEME.ME ebook examines 1,602 free responsive alternatives to  premium themes. Get mobile WordPress speed!

What are Speed Clones?
Speed Clones are ebook-only guides to essential page-speed fundamentals, speed techniques, or deep obsessions on a single aspect of WordPress plugins and themes. Whatever the report, you’re only a quick read away from learning vital, practical know-how for faster mobile speed. Popular plugins and themes are usually the heaviest loading. You get alternatives for better speed.

PayPal is a secure SSL-encrypted payment.

Our “THEME.ME” report is 5,678 words.
PDF: 20 pages, 8.5×11 inch, 1.5MB.


THEME.ME $1595


  • What matters most and why you should care about mobile themes.
  • How to find a winning fast theme from so many offerings.
  • Our criteria for selecting a fast mobile theme.
  • Non-premium, open-source, free theme alternatives.
  • Examining Google fonts and added page weight.
  • Six plugins to enhance fast themes for speed optimization.
  • Ten candidates for mobile speed.
  • Our recommended theme.

About the Author

Steve Teare
Steve Teare, Performance Engineer

Steve Teare researches WordPress plugin and theme speed techniques and methods. Steve’s most valued super-power is creativity.

Site owners need education. Not how to make nice-looking sites. But how not to abuse and ruin WordPress – and thus the Internet itself. Steve’s mission: save the Internet from the approaching WordPress Apocalypse!

Steve’s passion is balancing the perception of speed with color and images. Building for speed stops mobile website abuse. Performance is not just an afterthought, bake it in from the start.

Get speed clones.
If you’re ready to give your WordPress site wings, here are 12 other powerful tools to speed up your site.

Speed Clone
Speed-mastery for WordPress power users.

Twin Θ Replica Θ Knockoff Θ Imitation Θ Duplicate Θ Copy Θ Identical Θ Lookalike

We reverse-engineer premium and popular themes and plugins. We discover ways to duplicate their main features. We use a blend of discrete, free, copycat plugins and a fast theme. These lightweight – sometimes esoteric – clones won’t slow down your website.

Get speed tips and instructions. You’re buying our knowledge and expertise. Links to themes and plugins are included for your convenience and backup. All open-source theme and plugin downloads are the property of their original authors and protected by GPL licenses. They are endorsed and available from the WordPress plugin directory. We don’t provide plugins or support. But we do answer email speed questions for 30 days after purchase.


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