ThemeForest vs. WordPress: Theme Comparison

Seattle Animal Shelter Foundation contacted me in fall 2021 about a website rebuild.

The organization was satisfied with their overall brand identity, as well as the look and feel of their existing site. However, the board of directors wanted to address concerns of very poor mobile page load speeds, often in excess of 12 seconds.

Scope of Work

My goal was to clone the site content and mimic the existing visual look and feel – while optimizing accessibility, performance, and search engine optimization.

  • accessibility testing
  • front-end web development
  • performance optimization
  • security hardening
  • search engine optimization
  • WordPress training and consulting

It was easy to identify the root cause of the performance issues: a template ThemeForest Theme, with too many Plugins. Overall page size was 3.6 Mb, well above the industry average of 2.4 Mb. However, the main contributor to page load latency is usually ‘web server file requests.’ Together, the Theme and Plugins generated 89 server requests – including 36 Javascript files. In addition to a rotating content carousel, the Visual Composer Plugin was generating significant code bloat. These poor development practices impacted usability, site engagement and conversions.

Below are screenshots during development. Do you notice significant changes in the look & feel?

Before (left) & After (right) optimization screenshots

Performance Analysis

By switching to a Theme, _Underscores, and consolidating and removing Plugins – web server requests were reduced 64%, from 89 to 32; overall page size also decreased 71%, from 3.6 Mb to 1 Mb. Replacing the Visual Composer Plugin with WordPress’ native Gutenberg Block Editor significantly improved performance. These efforts improved page load speed to reasonable sub 3 seconds on mobile devices.

MetricThemeForest (Anima) ThemeWordPress _Underscores Theme
Google Lighthouse: Accessibility88/10096/100
Google Lighthouse: Best Practices80/10092/100
Google Lighthouse: Mobile Speed31/10085/100
Google Lighthouse: Desktop Speed64/10099/100
Google Lighthouse: Search Engine Optimization70/10086/100
WebPageTest Speed Index7.5233.267
Homepage File Size3.6 Mb (1.9 Mb Images + 1.3 Mb Scripts + 199 Kb CSS + 305 Kb Fonts + 70 Kb HTML)1.05 Mb (720 Kb Images + 125 Kb Scripts + 68 Kb CSS + 120 Kb Fonts + 28 Kb HTML)
Web Server Requests89 (21 Images + 36 Scripts +15 CSS + 7 Font + 9 Other + 5 HTML)32 (9 Images + 11 Scripts + 7 CSS +3 Fonts + 2 Other + 1 HTML)
Estimated Homepage Load Time on mobile~7.5 seconds~3.3 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.

The final result is a simpler, faster, yet on-brand, website that is easier to maintain.

Site Credits

WordPress Theme Development by Scott Marlow

Nonprofit Website Training

Job training center website screenshot

Puget Sound Training Center provides career training and employment services to immigrants, refugees and under-served individuals. PSTC trains individuals who are clients of Washington State Labor and Industry (L&I) and Department of Rehabilitation (DVR); PSTC also partners with CBOs (Community Based Organizations) to provide customized skills training.

This website redesign project involved upgrading the job training center’s decade-old static HTML website into a mobile-first responsive layout, powered by an intuitive WordPress Content Management System. During the redesign, nonprofit staff were trained how to add and edit website content – including text, images, and links – using WordPress’ new Gutenberg Block Editor. In addition to editing content, staff can now use the block editor, which has been custom-branded to their identity, to create mobile responsive layouts.

Scope of Work

creative strategy
color palette development
front-end web development
performance optimization
security hardening
search engine optimization
visual design
WordPress training and consulting


Visual Design by: Joan van den Berg
Photography and WordPress Theme Development byScott Marlow

Discover WordPress

Venture fund website screenshot

My latest website build for Tacoma Venture Fund, investing in early stage companies in Pierce County. This new WordPress site features bold typography, accentuated with quality duotone and black & white imagery, in a clean, modern layout optimized for larger resolution monitors.

Site Statistics

Google PageSpeed Insights
Mobile Optimization: 94/100
Desktop Optimization: 99/100

WebPageTest Speed Index: 1.767 (median = ~3.519; top 10% = <1.381)

Total Page Size: 388 Kb (In 2019, the average page size was ~ 2.4 Mb; median = ~1.9 Mb)
Total Web Server Requests: 21 (3 images + 7 scripts + 6 CSS files + 2 Font + 1 HTML) Database-driven sites are performance-optimized when requests are < 20 – 40
Page Load Speed: ~2 seconds

Site Credits

Visual Design: Heidi Grace
WordPress Theme Development: Scott Marlow

Experienced, Professional WordPress Web Development

screenshot Colorado psychiatrists website

Copyediting by Rita Cipalla
Visual Design by Joan van den Berg
WordPress Theme Development by Scott Marlow

A long overdue mobile-responsive website upgrade for Colorado’s Rocky Mountain Neuropsychiatrists. RMNA has specialized in medication management for general psychiatric disorders – such as anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder – for Colorado Springs residents since 1999.

RMNA’s decade-old static HTML site no longer reflected the quality of their service business. The new, cleaner visual design is more inline with their brand identity. Contact information was prioritized for ease of use. Regional landscape stock photos give the light content a positive lift.

Overall Page Size is a lean 489 Kb, ~25% the industry median page size, with only 31 web server requests. As a result, page load speed is well optimized for mobile devices.

My specialty is accessible, mobile responsive, user-friendly front-end web development for Content Management Systems – such as WordPress. And since 2005, I have provided expert, professional marketing support to help you regain control over technology.