Are premium themes worth the money?

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I’ve spent many hours searching for a theme for my website. I want it to look good but also be fast. I had this website looking amazing with the Magaziner theme. But on a mobile device, it looked okay at best. The problem is that most of your website visitors will be viewing your website on mobile devices today. When Google crawls your website, they do so with mobile in mind. In 2023 speed is critical.

Fastest Themes

But all of the themes I have tried seem to slow my site down. So I started searching for the fastest themes. These themes will show in most google searches:

  • Astra
  • Neve
  • OceanWP
  • Hestia
  • GeneratePress
  • Airi
  • Blocksy

The thing with most of these themes is that their developers heavily advertise them, and most of the results you see are from people trying to sell you on a particular theme. So which one is best? I have tried all of the above themes, which are very fast after their initial installation. The difference in speeds seems to come down to milliseconds. I was happy with everyone of these as far as speed. So for me it came down to ease of use.

Ease of Use

I do not want to build a theme; I want to concentrate on the content. You can create a child theme and edit all you want, but I did not want to. At first, I tried the site builders. I tried Beaver Builder, Elementor, and the free one that comes with my hosting, but they seemed clunky and slowed the site down. I opted to stick with just the WordPress customizer that’s built-in.

I kept circling back to Astra; I’m not endorsing it; it was just my favorite. It wasn’t much faster than the other themes; I liked its settings in the customizer. Don’t get me wrong; it is quicker than the other ones I tried. But not by much.

Free vs Premium

Another central question is should you buy a theme or use a free one? This can be a complicated answer. For most websites, there is a great free theme out there for you. Themes are expensive, so spending hundreds of dollars just for more functionality can be a difficult decision. Most themes have a free version for you to try, and they also let you know how much better it would be to purchase the full version.

I gave in and purchased a pro version of Astra. I initially regretted it. The additional functionality wasn’t worth the price tag. But I’m slowly getting accustomed to what I can do, and I’m warming up to it.

Ironically buying the premium version of a theme may slow your site down. The free version is just barebones, the premium version adds bloat to the backend of your site. So keep that in mind. If you don’t need the extra features don’t bother spending the money.


Website Speed Tips

Optimizing image size

Make sure to optimize your images before you upload them to your site. Think about this from the point of view of the person you’d like to visit your website. Do they want to see big flashy pictures, or are they there to read about a topic they searched for? This question should be a significant factor in deciding which theme to use on your website.

If your website showcases your photography or your place of business, a large image in the header may be the way to go. It will grab attention and keep your visitors interested. But if your website is more informational, keep the pictures to a minimum.

Featured Images

I resized all featured images to 1200 x 630 on my websites. This minimizes file sizes and keeps all photos the same across the site. Using code to resize your images is a bad idea. Taking a few minutes to resize the pictures before they even hit your server should be standard practice. Make it a habit.

If you aren’t indexed in search engines, all your hard work building your website will be in vain. If your site isn’t quick, search engines will not be forgiving. Speed should be in the back of your mind every step of the way.

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