Speed Testing WordPress for Optimal Performance

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We’re going to see how fast WordPress runs using a range of tools and will be using a range of plugin configurations to see what effect they have on the speed of WordPress websites. A faster website makes Google happy. Your website speed may give you the edge over your competitors, so understanding how different plugins and systems affect performance is crucial to making your site a success.

We’re going to start off with a simple installation. We’re using https://speedtest.wpessentials.co.uk/ as our testing site. This is a sub-domain of this website, hosted by 1&1 / Ionos.

Testing was made using GTmetrix. To give each configuration a fair chance, three tests were carried out for each option, with the quickest result shown in the results.

Do Security Plugins Affect WordPress Performance?

Our first tests were to have a simple installation with no added content. Our test site was tested with four of the most popular security plugins. As you can see from the results, having a security system on our website has no effect on the speed of our website. Our theme is the default Twenty Twenty.

PageSpeed ScoreYSlow ScoreFully Loaded TimeTotal Page SizeRequests
(no plugins)
A (99%)A (93%)2.3 s277 KB9
WordPress / WordfenceA (99%)A (93%)2.2 s277 KB9
WordPress / iThemes SecurityA (99%)A (93%)2.3 s277 KB9
WordPress / Sucuri SecurityA (99%)A (93%)2.3 s277 KB9
WordPress / All In OneA (99%)A (93%)2.2 s277 KB9

Going forward, for our future testing we’re going to enable WordFence as part of our base installation.

How Does UpdraftPlus affect WordPress Performance?

UpdraftPlus is one of the best plugins for backing up your WordPress website. Scheduled backups can be automated, and backups can be made via FTP as well as to Amazon, Google Drive, and Dropbox. How does it affect the performance of your WordPress website though?

As you can see, using UpdraftPlus as part of our installation is not having a detrimental effect on the performance of our website. We will leave this as part of our base installation going forward with our tests.

PageSpeed ScoreYSlow ScoreFully Loaded TimeTotal Page SizeRequests
(no plugins)
A (99%)A (93%)2.3 s277 KB9
WordPress / WordfenceA (99%)A (93%)2.2 s277 KB9
WordPress / Wordfence / UpdraftPlusA (99%)A (94%)2.4 s277 KB9

Which WordPress Theme is Fastest?

Let’s now test our installation (WordPress / Wordfence / Updraft Plus) with the other available WordPress themes to see if these have any effect on performance…

PageSpeed ScoreYSlow ScoreFully Loaded TimeTotal Page SizeRequests
Twenty TwentyA (99%)A (94%)2.4 s277 KB9
Twenty NineteenA (99%)A (94%)1.9 s55.8 KB8
Twenty SeventeenA (97%)B (88%)2.3278 KB18
Twenty SixteenA (96%)B (86%)2.1 s159 KB18

Although it’s relatively minor in effect, we’re now starting to see a difference in how our website can be affected by the theme that we use. Twenty Twenty and Twenty Nineteen have a minimal effect on our site performance, compared to earlier versions.

How Does WooCommerce affect WordPress Performance?

It’s time to check out WooCommerce. It’s our fully-featured goto plugin for selling online, so it’s important to understand what effect WooCommerce will have on the performance of our WordPress website. We’ll install WooCommerce on top of Twenty Twenty and see how our site performs. We’ll then add the Storefront theme, one of the most popular off the shelf WooCommerce themes to quickly get up and running.

Our initial WooCommerce installation included WooCommerce Admin, and excluded the additional plugins to minimise the impact of the installation.

Our Storefront installation was tested as a fresh install with no content, a fresh install with a homepage layout, and finally including dummy content.

WooCommerce integrates with Jetpack to provide payment processing via Stripe and PayPal, so additional plugins are required to provide a fully working e-commerce solution. Our final test included the installation of Jetpack, with most features disabled, except for the ‘Site Accelerator’. This enabled us to achieve a respectable 80% PageSpeed score. We can look at improving this with additional performance tweaks.

PageSpeed ScoreYSlow ScoreFully Loaded TimeTotal Page SizeRequests
Twenty TwentyA (99%)A (94%)2.4 s277 KB9
Twenty Twenty / WooCommerceA (97%)B (87%)2.7 s352 KB21
Storefront / WooCommerceA (94%)B (83%)2.9 s280 KB30
Storefront / WooCommerce (homepage)A (92%)B (83%)2.7 s458 KB31
Storefront / WooCommerce (homepage & demo content)C (70%)B (83%)3.4 s822 KB47
Storefront / WooCommerce (homepage & demo content) / JetpackB (80%)B (80%)3.4 s644 KB48

Testing Popular WordPress Themes

We’ve previously tested some of the official WordPress themes, so let’s take this a step further and look at some of the most popular themes available from the official WordPress repository.

Astra Speedtest

Astra is one of the most popular themes and has a range of templates that can be used to give your site a headstart. Straight out of the box Astra scores a very respectable 100%, a great starting point for any WordPress website!

We can then import a dummy website to use as a basis for our design to help us get started. This makes WordPress look so easy, anyone can do it! Here are a few results for Astra using a range of starter templates.

PageSpeed ScoreYSlow ScoreFully Loaded TimeTotal Page SizeRequests
Astra (No content)A (100%)A (94%)2.2 s45.5 KB9
Astra (Travel Blog)A (93%)B (84%)2.5 s1.71 KB50
Astra (Motivational Speaker)B (86%)B (85%)3.0 s627 KB30
Astra (BBQ Restaurant)A (97%)B (88%)2.8 s1.79 KB31
Astra (Plumber)A (97%)B (86%)2.5s971 KB29

As you can see, even with the dummy content installed, Astra achieves some impressive results. These sites are not weighed down with extraneous plugins, just the required plugins for the theme, plus UpdraftPlus, Wordfence, and Jetpack.

Hello Elementor

Hello Elementor is a theme built by Elementor as a bare-bones theme from which to utilise the Elementor page builder. As such we would expect it to be pretty quick straight out of the box and it doesn’t disappoint, clocking in with a PageSpeed score of 100%. It’s probably the most minimal theme around. Elementor claim they have the fastest theme, and they may be right.

Obviously this is just the starting point for using Elementor. Your next step would be to utilise pre-made Elementor templates or build your own, obviously this would increase the page speed somewhat. Below the Hello Elementor results are some Elementor templates for comparison.

PageSpeed ScoreYSlow ScoreFully Loaded TimeTotal Page SizeRequests
Hello ElementorA (100%)A (95%)1.6 s19.5 KB7
Hello Elementor (Hotel)B (83%)C (79%)3.3 s1.40 MB49
Hello Elementor (Restuarant)C (73%)C (70%)3.4 s2.16 MB87
Hello Elementor (Law Firm)A (92%)C (78%)3.3 s2.09 MB65

I guess these results show the importance of choosing the right template, with your criteria needing to be based upon speed, and not just good looks!