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Premium themes are bulky & bad for SEO

they are great for getting your WordPress website up and running quick, but at what cost?

Alex from UnderStrap Alex from UnderStrap December 17, 2019 2 Comments

When I think of getting a project up and running (my main skill is programming rather than design) I tend to look towards premium themes as a massive time saver.

I buy an awesome bells-and-whistles pre-made theme from somewhere like ThemeForest for $60 or so and then mould it into the website I had planned in my head. Cutting out the demo content and moving sections around before finally adding my Alex Magic™ in the form of plugins to make the site do what I want it to.

The problem with this Swiss army knife method is that you are left with the supporting code for parts of the theme you didn’t use. You could go through and try to cut it out but thats easier said than done…. plus this theme was supposed to save time!

The worst culprits are usually sliders, they have so much JavaScript hidden away in files that you can’t see just to make them work. The more modern variations of sliders have amazing animations and effects with some appearing like a high production film, all at the cost of inflating every one of your websites pages (not just the ones it appears on).

Why a large page size is bad for SEO

Have you ever visited a website and found that the pages load dead slow? It makes you want to hit the back button and find a faster alternative to solving your problem. Well, Google has noticed that too.

So instead of sending you to a website that is slow and annoying, they are more likely going to send you to a competing result.

They measure this by scanning your website frequently and recording the time it takes to download a page. Google may also use the behaviour of the visitors it sends to you, watching to see if they bounced quickly and came back for a different result.

For a more in depth look at page speed and SEO you can read about it on MOZ. For more info on WordPress themes and SEO read on:

The weight of a premium theme

Lets take a look at some of the popular themes for sale right now and test the for speed. I’m using Pingdom to test the page size and speed.


A multipurpose, best selling WordPress theme from ThemeForest.

The images (which you do have easy control over) make up 2.7mb of the page size but HTML, CSS and JS make up around 0.7mb.

The 7

Another multi-purpose WordPress theme (great value as you can use it many times for different projects) that’s ThemeForest’s second best selling WP theme.

Similar to Avada above, The 7 theme had 700kb of scripts to download to view a page when you subtracted the images.


Our last test is on BeTheme, the third biggest selling theme on ThemeForest right now. Another massive multi-purpose theme with hundreds of demos to be inspired from.

The home page download size was actually better than the first two themes here, being only 540kb once you subtract the images.

The weight of our OverStrap themes

With UnderStrap being so geared towards the minimalist approach we attract a lot of SEO enthusiasts who want fast websites that rank well. The problem is that they then realise the massive task they have taken on, starting with a bare framework like UnderStrap and then failing to complete their project due to time constraints.

So we decided to come up with a fix for this problem:

OverStrap by UnderStrap

Our OverStrap child themes pack were created in-house using the same fundamental ideas as UnderStrap, fast and minimal – in design and functionality.

We wanted something that developers could take and save themselves hours of time on projects with. You have a good looking site template straight out of the box that you can build on or use to create fast themes to sell.

Currently the pack has the 5 following flavours:

  • Blog – a basic blog design with a lightweight slider option to create a blog style site or build upon to make something more exotic (like a magazine or directory style site) – 200kb~ without images
  • Portfolio – display your visual content up front, photos or past work – 250kb~ without images
  • Corporate – a smart business one pager site – 400kb~ (uses Contact Form 7 for home page form, but can be disabled to shed off 100kb+)
  • Event – countdown to something important – 350kb~ without images
  • Tech – display your latest tech product/service/SaaS for the world to see – 400kb~ (slowed down by Google Maps which can be disabled easily)

The page size has been kept down to a minimum while still looking modern and clean. The themes all have an optional customisation framework so they can be fully editable in the /wp-admin/ area of your (or your clients) site without having to edit code.

2 responses to “Premium themes are bulky & bad for SEO”

    • Thanks, I just took a look at that article and I massively agree with the User Experience aspect, I always try my best to keep down the bounce and session duration – which to me shows a visitor has found what they are looking for or at least something valuable to them

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