The Web Developer for People of All Races

screenshot for El Centro de la Raza

Another performance-optimized website rebuild from a ThemeForest template Theme to an open source WordPress Theme.

El Centro de la Raza provides 43 programs and services in 9 different service areas for children, youth, families and seniors around King County. The website features a new events calendar, language translation, and more dynamic program content in a more accessible Theme. The Gutenberg Block Editor provides more streamlined editing, with a plethora of layout and design options for content contributors.

Scope of Work

  • Accessibility Consulting
  • Branding & Visual Design
  • Content Migration
  • Performance Optimization
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Security Hardening
  • WordPress Theme Development
  • WordPress Training & Consulting


Page load speed significantly improved since 2022. By reducing overall page size 88%, from 11.5 Mb to 1.4 Mb, and reducing web server requests 19% from 64 to 52, average mobile page loads have improved from ~11 to ~3 seconds.

Before & After Performance Comparison

Performance MetricOld Website
New Website
Google Lighthouse: Accessibility88/10098/100
Google Lighthouse: Best Practices92/10092/100
Google Lighthouse: Mobile Speed39/10087/100
Google Lighthouse: Desktop Speed54/10099/100
Google Lighthouse: Search Engine Optimization79/10077/100
WebPageTest Speed Index10.7293.024
Total Homepage File Size11.5 Mb (10.1 Mb Images + 853 Kb Scripts + 136 Kb CSS + 31 Kb Other + 42 Kb Fonts + 42 Kb HTML)1.366 Mb (1 Mb Images + 239 Kb Scripts + 123 Kb CSS + 22 Kb HTML)
Total Web Server Requests64 (18 Images + 18 Scripts + 14 CSS + 10 Other + 4 HTML)52 (13 Images + 14 Scripts + 22 CSS + 1 Other + 2 HTML)
Estimated Mobile Homepage Load Time~11 seconds~3 seconds

WebPageTest Speed Index: median = ~3.591; top 10% = <1.388
In 2022, 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.

Site Credits

Visual Design: Pixel Lighthouse
WordPress Theme Development: Scott Marlow

Accessible Websites You Need. Content Editing Features You Want.

A new WordPress Theme for Base Supply Center, operated by The Lighthouse for the Blind. This new Gutenberg block-powered Theme replaces the former Avada Theme. Website improvements include:

  • mobile-friendly phone numbers;
  • increased font sizing with improved line-height for readability;
  • improved color contrast;
  • and table-less HTML layout.

supply center website

Scope of Work

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


Performance MetricUnderscores Theme
Google Lighthouse: Accessibility100/100
Google Lighthouse: Best Practices92/100
Google Lighthouse: Mobile Speed67/100
Google Lighthouse: Desktop Speed89/100
Google Lighthouse: Search Engine Optimization91/100
WebPageTest Speed Index2.396
Total (Discover) Page File Size2.09 Mb (1.4 Mb Images + 528 Kb Scripts + 81 Kb CSS + 138 Kb Fonts + 20 Kb HTML)
Total Web Server Requests90 (26 Images + 38 Scripts + 16 CSS + 6 Fonts + 3 Other + 1 HTML)
Estimated Mobile Homepage Load Time~2.6 seconds

An optional HTML Table Caption
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.

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

What Would WordPress Do?

City of Gig Harbor parks website

WordPress is the most popular Content Management System in the world. WordPress powers 42% of all websites; and 62% of CMS-powered sites.

But not all WordPress sites are created equal.

One of my favorite tasks is showing clients the benefits of open source technology. In particular, I enjoy demonstrating Core Web Vitals for open source WordPress Themes vs. cheap, popular paid commercial themes from vendors like ThemeForest. I primarily use Google Lighthouse to evaluate sites, but I also rely on Pingdom, WebPageTest and other benchmarking tools.

This latest nonprofit project for PenMet Parks in Gig Harbor involved rebuilding a commercial theme-powered WordPress site with my favorite Theme, _Underscores.

The client’s previous page load speed was atrocious, and the website crashed on a regular basis. Worse, content contributors could not even use the CMS to make the most basic content edits due to bloated Theme and Plugin features.

By following better WordPress and web standards, web server requests were reduced 69% and page size was reduced 73%. As a result of better web development practices, page load speed improved 78%. And the parks organization can now easily, intuitively edit all of their site content.

Scope of Work

accessibility testing
brand discovery
project management
content migration
creative strategy
art direction
color palette development
front-end web development
performance optimization
security hardening
search engine optimization
visual design
WordPress training and consulting

Site Statistics

Performance MetricOld WebsiteNew Website
Google Lighthouse: Mobile Performance3/10067/100
Google Lighthouse: Desktop Performance12/10092/100
Google Lighthouse: Accessibility97/100
Google Lighthouse: Best Practices93/100
WebPageTest Speed Index7.1761.831
Total Homepage File Size
(In 2020, average page size was ~2.4 Mb; median size was ~2.1 Mb)
4.5 Mb1.2 Mb
Total Web Server Requests19461
Estimated Mobile Homepage Load Time~7 seconds~1.8 seconds


Photography by Chrisy Dorsey
Visual Design by
Heidi Grace
WordPress Theme Development by Scott Marlow

Designing Seattle Websites Since 2005

Eagle Eye Painting screenshot

A rebuilt WordPress site for Eagle Eye Painting, a family-owned Seattle residential painting company.

This project involved cloning a commercial (paid) Theme Forest Theme (Salient) into a WordPress-approved open source Theme. Project goals were to improve performance, security, and content management. Plugins were consolidated and limited to simplify site management and improve page load speed. PHP 5.6 (deprecated in  December 2018) was upgraded to version 7.3 on the existing web host. By reducing overall page size 35% and web server requests 59% – page load speed improved 3 fold.

Salient’s  heavyweight Visual Composer editor was replaced by WordPress’ native Gutenberg Block Editor, customized and color-coordinated around the company’s existing brand identity. The painters can now more intuitively edit content and duplicate Portfolio template layouts to showcase new painting jobs.

Scott is the best! I highly recommend him. The “responsive” in his business name is no joke – he is lightning fast and not only knows his stuff but communicates clearly and patiently to boot. If you’re looking to replace frustration with competence and clarity, look no further than Marlow-Five-0.
Dianna Elam, office manager
Eagle Eye Painting, LLC

Scope of Work

Mobile Responsive Theming
Performance Optimization
Security Hardening
WordPress Training and Consulting

Google Lighthouse benchmarks
Mobile Page Load Speed: 84/100
Desktop Page Load Speed: 97/100
Accessibility: 100/100
Best Practices: 100/100
SEO: 93/100

WordPress Theming by: Scott Marlow