Developing Outstanding WordPress Websites for 12 years

Presenting my latest website overhaul for Early Music Seattle, a nonprofit presenting classic concerts at venues around the city – including Benaroya Hall, Bastyr University Chapel, Federal Way Community Performing Arts Center, Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute, and Town Hall.

Early Music Seattle screenshot

This project involved converting a custom-built WordPress Theme and migrating content into a new performance-optimized Theme (_Underscores). The Block Editor was integrated for more robust layout and styling. Accessibility improvements included higher contrast colors, navigation skip links, keyboard accessible menus, and mobile-clickable phone numbers. A new branded event calendar was also integrated, with the ability for community organizations to submit third-party events. By reducing server requests 45% and reducing page size 85%, page load speed now ranks in the upper 10th percentile of sites.

Scope of Work

  • Accessibility consulting
  • Content migration
  • Performance optimization
  • Security hardening
  • WordPress training & consulting

Site Statistics

Performance MetricOld WebsiteNew Website (September 2022)
Google Lighthouse: Accessibility79/100100/100
Google Lighthouse: Best Practices67/10092/100
Google Lighthouse: Mobile Speed62/10090/100
Google Lighthouse: Desktop Speed89/10095/100
Google Lighthouse: Search Engine Optimization83/100100/100
WebPageTest Speed Index4.4262.804
Total Homepage File Size2.1 Mb ( 1.36 Mb Images + 574 Kb Scripts + 156 Kb CSS + Kb HTML)323 Kb (169 Kb Images + 57 Kb Scripts + 45 Kb CSS + 43 Kb Fonts + 18 Kb HTML)
Total Web Server Requests64 (22 Images + 29 Scripts + 11 CSS + 5 Other + 2 HTML)35 (7 Images + 11 Scripts + 13 CSS + 3 Font + 1 HTML)
Total Homepage Load Time~4.4 seconds~2.8 seconds

WebPage Test Speed Index: median = ~3.591; top 10% = <1.388
In 2021, the average page size = ~2.4 Mb and median page size = ~2.1 Mb.
Database-driven websites, like WordPress, are more performance optimized when server requests are < 40 – 60.

Photography: EMS staff, volunteers and Scribe Music
Videography: Markdavin Obenza: Scribe Music
Visual Design
: Amy Tullis
WordPress Theme Development: Scott Marlow

Building WordPress Websites with Equity and Accessibility in Mind

Sometimes a website with reasonable benchmarks can still perform poorly. This dental foundation website is a perfect example. The former site’s 2.2 Mb page size was well within the industry median; and 84 server requests is above optimum, but certainly not atrocious. Still, migrating from a custom-coded Theme to a WordPress-approved Theme (_Underscores) significantly improved perceived page load speed, despite server requests increasing and page size decreasing nominally.

Dental Foundation website
Arcora Foundation’s new WordPress Block-powered website

Benchmark Analysis

Performance MetricOld Website
New Website
Google Lighthouse: Accessibility95/100100/100
Google Lighthouse: Best Practices92/100100/100
Google Lighthouse: Mobile Speed31/10073/100
Google Lighthouse: Desktop Speed81/10091/100
Google Lighthouse: Search Engine Optimization80/10083/100
WebPageTest Speed Index7.3091.926
Total Homepage File Size2.2 Mb ( 1.36 Mb Images + 574 Kb Scripts + 156 Kb CSS + 110 Kb HTML)1.7 Mb (1.28 Mb Images + 295 Kb Scripts + 63 Kb CSS + Kb Fonts + 124 Kb HTML)
Total Web Server Requests84 (25 Images + 32 Scripts + 16 CSS + 11 Other + 1 HTML)92 (64 Images + 15 Scripts + 8 CSS + 3 Other + 2 HTML)
Total Homepage Load Time~7.3 seconds~ 1.9 seconds

WebPage Test Speed Index: median = ~3.591; top 10% = <1.388
In 2021, the average page size = ~2.4 Mb and median page size = ~2.1 Mb.
Database-driven websites, like WordPress, are more performance optimized when server requests are < 40 – 60.

Scope of Work

  • Accessibility auditing, consulting and remediation
  • Performance optimization
  • Security hardening
  • WordPress training & consulting

Web Design + Development Team

Visual Design by David Owen Hastings
WordPress Theme Development by Scott Marlow

Proven WordPress Websites that Nonprofits Love!

Sound Generations’ Project Enhance provides licensing, training and assistance for two nationally recognized evidence-based programs: Enhance®Fitness and Enhance®Wellness.

The new Project Enhance WordPress site features an integrated members-only content area for fitness instructors and affiliates across 43 states. Benchmarks across all measurable areas have improved significantly. Overall page size has reduced 93% from 6.5 Mb to < 500 Kb; web server requests have reduced 69% from 59 to 18. These improvements result in page load speeds less than 3 seconds.

Enhance Fitness and Wellness website

Site Statistics

Performance MetricOld (Divi) WordPress Theme
New Custom-Branded WordPress Theme
Google Lighthouse: Accessibility88/100100/100
Google Lighthouse: Best Practices75/10092/100
Google Lighthouse: Mobile Speed47/10096/100
Google Lighthouse: Desktop Speed64/10099/100
Google Lighthouse: Search Engine Optimization82/10090/100
WebPageTest Speed Index6.1212.008
Homepage File Size6.46 Mb (6.06 Mb Images + 205 Kb Scripts + 239 Kb CSS +100 Kb Fonts + Kb HTML)484 Kb (302 Kb Images + 3 Kb Scripts + 33 Kb CSS + 149 Kb Fonts + 8 Kb HTML)
Web Server Requests59 (16 Images + 17 Scripts + 19 CSS + 5 Fonts + 2 HTML)18 (7 Images + 2 Scripts + 6 CSS + 2 Fonts + 1 HTML)
Homepage Load Time~6.1 seconds~2 seconds

WebPage Test Speed Index: median = ~3.591; top 10% = <1.388
In 2021, the average page size = ~2.4 Mb and median page size = ~2.1 Mb.

Database-driven websites, like WordPress, are more performance optimized when server requests are < 40 – 60.

Other site updates and improvements include:

More readable content with font sizes > 16 pixels and reduced line widths; keyboard-navigable menu with skip to content link for screen readers;  custom-branded browser favicon; improved security, including bruteforce protection.

Project Enhance is a collaboration between Sound Generations, University of Washington and Group Health Cooperative (now Kaiser Permanente).

Accelerated Rebranding for Nonprofit Consulting Firm

A visual design refresh for Alford Group, a minority & woman owned firm that provides fundraising and strategy consulting to nonprofits.

Scope of work for the website refresh included:
a new logo, new typography, updated color palette with a bright orange accent; as well as other layout and style updates to coordinate with the updated brand identity (created by Advocate Creative).

Before (top) compared to After (bottom)

Despite a homepage content slider, Google Lighthouse performance benchmarks remain impressive:

Accessibility: 96/100
Best Practices: 92/100
Mobile Optimization: 78/100
Desktop Optimization: 99/100
SEO: 83/100

Total Page Size: 948 Kb (In 2021, the average page size was ~ 2.4 Mb; median = ~2.1 Mb)