GeneratePress Theme Review: Using It for Increased Page Speed

The loading speed of all the pages on your blog is vital when it comes to modern blogging: not only that it is a ranking factor for Google, but it also has a big influence over your visitors’ behavior. In the century of speed, it makes sense for fast loading blogs to be preferred to sluggish ones.

And one of the things that can have a major impact over your blog’s overall speed is the theme that you are using. I kept hearing that GeneratePress is one of the fastest themes available, so I decided to give it a try.

After testing its free version for a while on a brand new website and comparing it with other themes that I was already using on my blogs, I decided that it’s actually worth trying to take the leap and start using GeneratePress on a larger scale.

And the first important website that I decided to install it on was this one – Nomad, Not Mad. Read on to see how well this theme performed against the previous one – and also some extra speed tests made on other blogs that I own.

GeneratePress Free vs Premium

The amazing thing about GeneratePress is that a free version is available for download, offering the same speed benefits that the Premium one does. The main difference between the Premium and the Free one is that the latter has fewer customization options available.

Also, the free theme has a footer link to the GeneratePress website, one that you are not allowed to remove. But if you’re just starting up and you want to start with the advantage of an insanely fast theme, you have the option to do so for free and upgrade to the Premium version when you grow a bit.

Or do it like me and jump into the Premium GeneratePress ASAP. I opted to do this because it offers a lot more in terms of customizations and options to further personalize your blog.

Three of the designs you can import with Premium

Here are the main features that the Premium version offers (listing my favorite at the top):

  1. Site library: a bunch of pre-made sites (that are pretty beautiful, I must add) available with a one-click import
  2. Blog option: Featured image controls, columns & masonry, infinite scroll & more.
  3. Typography & Colors: to give you full control over your fonts and colors used (which is a must in my opinion)
  4. Secondary Navigation: Add a second navigation with all the same options as the primary navigation (an extra menu, for example)
  5. Sections: If you want to do it yourself, this is a fast page builder that offers a bit of customization (I used it to build the home page from scratch, for example with no coding needed)
  6. Copyright removal (in most cases, you won’t want to link out to a theme’s developer and have your own copyright instead)
  7. Spacing – to further control how your blog looks like
  8. Menu Plus: Good for adding mobile navigation, off-canvas menus and a sticky menu if you want it
  9. Backgrounds: Again for even more control over your design – it’s not something I actively use, though.
  10. Elements & Disable Elements: some more advanced stuff for those with a bit of coding experience, to customize the theme even more
  11. Import / Export options to quickly transfer the same settings over to other blogs or backup yours before making any changes
  12. Woocommerce extras: I don’t use Woocommerce, but for those who do, it offers a bunch of more options to further customize it

All in all, as you see, the Premium version of GeneratePress does give you more options to make your blog really stand out and really your own. But the core is the same and using the free version of the WordPress theme would still give you the same benefits (speed-wise).

Speed Test: GeneratePress vs Other Themes

The biggest and most important test for GeneratePress is if it delivers (or not) in terms of page speed improvements. And in order to see that, I ran a PageSpeed check of a page on Nomad Not Mad before changing the theme.

(Note: Always check the page speed of an article, not the home page, because these are built differently and most people will see your articles and not the home page!)

Here are the scores that this blog was getting before GeneratePress Premium:

Mobile Speed Score: Before

Desktop Speed Score: Before

Ouch! On mobile, the blog needed 16.5 seconds to load the page and it took 3.4 seconds before it moved from a blank page to showing something to the reader. With an overall score of 22 (which is the score that Google calculates, since its indexing is mobile-first), things didn’t look that good.

Here is how things changed after switching to GeneratePress Premium. Same article, same host, same plugins, just a different theme:

Mobile Speed Score: After

Mobile Desktop Score: After

As you can see, the speed instantly jumped on mobile. The same blog page now loads in 7.9 seconds and it only takes 1.9 seconds for the first paint. This is a major improvement, with a 59 page speed score (more than twice as better as before).

On desktop, the speed is blazing fast – almost incredible to me, as the page now loads entirely in less than a second – 0.8 seconds actually and 2 seconds faster than with the previous theme.

Have in mind that this test was ran on a shared server that I am not 100% satisfied with and which I am planning to change. But even without changing the servers or doing any additional optimizations for speed, simply changing themes had such a major impact!

More tests, other websites

As I said, I liked GeneratePress so much that I decided to use it on some of my other projects as well. It is currently running on three of my other blogs, with amazing speed results.

I didn’t save screenshots of the scores that the blogs were getting before switching, but they were much, much lower. But here are the scores after switching (mobile scores, not desktop!):

1. Blog with no ads (which slow down the site) hosted on a fast virtual private server over at Dreamhost:

2. Blog with ads hosted on a shared Bluehost server:

3. Blog without banner ads hosted on a shared Dreamhost server:

As you can see, all the results are extremely impressive. Simply changing the theme comes with massive advantages! I don’t have the screenshots to prove it, but for the 1st website, the score before switching to GeneratePress was in the mid 70s, for the second it was in the low 20s, and for the 3rd it was in the low 40s.

I am running similar optimizations for all blogs that I own, so the main differences come from two things here:

  • the hosting (better, more expensive hosting gives better scores simply because it is faster)
  • the content used (the site with no advertisements and minimum extra javascripts performs much better – although it’s also hosted on the best server).

Still, even without making any other changes to increase the speed of your blog, simply switching themes improves the score. And that is a massive win.

Is GeneratePress Premium Worth Getting?

Definitely, by all means, you shouldn’t think twice before getting this theme for your blog!

It is indeed a super fast theme (the fastest that I ever found) and the Premium version is extremely cheap: it costs $49.95, but its main advantage is that you can use it on as many blogs as you wish. So the more you have, the cheaper it gets!

The biggest complaint you could have with GeneratePress is that, compared to other themes out there, it’s pretty basic. It doesn’t offer all the bells and whistles that other themes offer, but there are two extremely important things to have in mind here:

1. You DON’T need all those bells & whistles!

2. Those bells & whistles make your site slower, therefore negatively influencing user experience and ultimately ranking, so even though you have a beautiful site, fewer people will visit.

Nowadays, most of the traffic to our websites comes via mobile phones (just check your Analytics if you don’t believe me). And most themes and websites look about the same on mobile – including GeneratePress.

The main difference in design comes to the home page, but again that is one of the least visited page of most blogs (again, check your Analytics to see!).

So even though on desktop, GeneratePress might not look as amazing as some other themes out there do, only a minority of your visitors will actually see the desktop version and even so, it won’t be an ugly site they’ll be seeing.

Content is the most important thing when it comes to blogging and if that’s crap, you can’t get fans and readers no matter how good the design is.

This is one of the most important lessons that is also really difficult to learn: design doesn’t matter that much and most readers don’t see that extra splash of color that you add here or there, the extra line that you put at the end or whatever. It’s the text that matters and the loading speed – and for that, GeneratePress is perfect!

If you’re just starting out (or haven’t started yet, but you want to launch your own travel blog), and you don’t want to invest much money early on, you can also go for the free version and use it until your blog picks up – and afterwards upgrade to Premium.

But there are few businesses that you can start with $50 (if any), so investing in the Premium theme could be the better choice in all cases thanks to the added customization options.

How to install GeneratePress Premium?

The Premium “theme” is actually a plugin that adds more features and code to the base, free version of GeneratePress – this is why upgrading from free to pro is extremely easy!

After purchasing Premium, simply go to Plugins -> Add New, hit the “Upload Plugin” button and install the archive from your computer.

Then, you will get access to the options that you can activate or deactivate, as seen below:

I recommend activating them all first and disabling the ones you don’t need (if any) afterwards. And that’s it! Head over to Appearance -> Customize and start taking advantage of all the new features!

Tip: Extra plugin to install

The developer of the theme, Tom Usborne, also has an extremely useful plugin that I recommend installing ASAP: WP Show Posts. It is available for free (just search for it in Plugins -> Add New) and gives you full control over sharing and customizing lists of articles (like the ones I have in the sidebar or the ones at the bottom of my home page).

This is vital and even though I said that design doesn’t matter that much: but making those articles a bit more click-able with nice photos is definitely a bonus.

And this would be all for my analysis of the surprisingly amazing GeneratePress theme for your blog. I hope that you’ll find it useful and that my article will help you make the best choice for the future of your blog.

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