This article is meant to help beginners who are trying to create their own WordPress website.
The foundation of any WordPress websites lies in the theme that it is built upon – which means it plays a big role in how quickly your site loads. It’s like our shopping bag – the more bells and whistles we put into it, the heavier it becomes for us to carry. So, unless we are experienced in building WordPress websites, it would be best for beginners to start building a website with a theme that is lightweight, clean and simple.
What Does 'Lightweight' Mean?
To put it plainly, it’s about the file size and the number of requests needed to load the website. For a baseline comparison, it’s best to note that an average WordPress theme is well over ~600 KB in size and has somewhere in the low 20s HTTP requests (for just a blank site).
Let’s look at the following Top 3 FREE lightweight WordPress themes, based on a fresh install with just the default content without plugins.
- File size on a fresh install: 206.0 KB
- HTTP requests on a fresh install: 11
In terms of file size and requests, Neve really fairs well. Like many of the other themes, Neve is built to pair with your page builder of choice and/or the new Gutenberg block editor that became the default editor in WordPress 5.0.
As such, it comes with detailed WordPress Customizer controls for your site’s basic looks, including lots of different layouts for your blog archive pages (you can either go with a list or a grid, with several permutations on each).
You also get page-level controls where you can:
- Change the number of sidebars
- Change the width, including a unique option to specify a custom width percentage
- Disable the header, title, or footer
Beyond that, Neve also comes with its own Sites Library that lets you import any one of 7 pre-built sites (these are built with Elementor).
Currently, Neve is 100% free.
- File size on a fresh install: 96.8 KB
- HTTP requests on a fresh install: 10
Another one that made it on our top 3 list is Zakra with it’s low file size and HTTP request at 10 on a fresh install.
Although it doesn’t offer a lot of styling features but it offers lots of WordPress Customizer controls.
From the WordPress Customizer, you can control:
- Header layout
- Single layouts
Beyond those Customizer controls, you can also choose from 10+ free starter sites. And like GeneratePress, you also get those page-level controls that make Zakra really easy to pair with a page builder. You can:
- Change layouts
- Tweak sidebars
With that being said, it’s not quite as flexible as GeneratePress in terms of what you can disable on a per-post/page basis:
There is currently no paid version of Zakra – everything is 100% free.
- File size on a fresh install: 174.1 KB
- HTTP requests on a fresh install: 9
Astra is another lightweight WordPress theme that’s especially popular with people who use page builders.
Astra comes with a big library of pre-made sites that you can import with just a few clicks. These sites are built with Elementor, Beaver Builder, or Brizy for easy customization. While paid users get access to all the pre-made sites, even free users can still install a solid number of pre-made sites.
Beyond that, you also get a ton of detailed WordPress Customizer settings to control exactly how your site looks, as well as per-post/page options to:
- Change content width
- Disable title, header, featured image, or footer
- Change the number of sidebars
- Enable a transparent header
Astra also has special integrations for WooCommerce and Easy Digital Downloads
If you need more functionality, there’s also a Pro version that adds a lot more modular options for $59.