Most business owners and managers want a slick, polished website. There is truth to the assertion that a professional-looking website will result in more conversions.
However, beauty has traditionally come at a measurable cost in terms of WordPress website performance. In a sense, beauty is the beast.
Page builders like Elementor, Divi, and WP Bakery exist because they can give a business’s website a stylish look. However, a builder can add undesirable bloat to a website. The result is a Lighthouse performance score that’s in the red. There is now reason to worry about red and yellow performance scores.
So, we did some analysis and testing. Below, we recommend a set of tools to help marketers and their developers create WordPress websites that look great—but not at the expense of performance.
Regarding page builders, the Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) seems to be the toughest nut to crack. In a recent study, Backlinko found that 46.23% of sites had “poor” or “needs improvement” LCP ratings.
Google and Page Experience
In a friendly way, John Mueller of Google has been striking fear in the hearts of webmasters and business owners about coming changes as to how Google measures page experience and about the consequences of a poor page experience.
In mid-June 2021, Google started to roll out the page experience ranking change. Websites that fail to achieve a high enough overall score may have started to experience lower rankings in the search results.
Webmasters scrambled to throw enough time and money at their page builder-based sites to get an acceptable score.
But, for many small businesses, the myriad of required technical adjustments are out of grasp on several levels.
What are the options for businesses that use WordPress?
The Simple Case – A New WordPress Project
In May 2021, Martin Splitt of Google told SearchEngine Journal, “For new projects, I definitely advise them to look into Core Web Vitals from the get-go.”
For new WordPress websites, it’s worth strongly considering an alternative to using a traditional WordPress page builder. That alternative is the following combination of actions:
- Use a lightweight theme like GeneratePress
- Author your pages using the WordPress block editor
- Author your posts with the block editor or the classic WordPress text editor
- Install a block enhancer plugin like GenerateBlocks
The pro version of GenerateBlocks has a library of block templates that can give your pages that “builder” look. GeneratePress offers a collection of site templates, many of which include blocks from its sister site GenerateBlocks.
Along with a web host that specializes in WordPress (WPEngine or Kinsta), you should be able to get a performance score in the 90s without breaking a sweat. The score will get knocked down somewhat if you, for example, use a Google font and add Google Analytics tracking code.
Also, try to keep the number of plugins to a minimum. Each time you add a new plugin, retest your site’s Web.dev Measure score.
Just to prove a point, we stuck to the barest of bones on the WordPress microsite you’re on now (https://inbound.crmswitch.com) and initially earned the Lighthouse Easter egg:
I’m not suggesting that your site look as basic as this one. However, you should be able to achieve a performance score in the low to mid 90’s even with the visual enhancements that GeneratePress’s site templates or other block-based templates provide.
Mike Oliver, who creates many of the GeneratePress site templates, sells a course on how to build lightweight websites using GeneratePress and GenerateBlocks.
The Complex Case – An Existing WordPress Site
You have an existing website that has been built out using a page builder. However, the person who built your website may be more of a designer than a technician.
What are your options?
#1: You could try to find someone to make the technical adjustments to your website that will result in a performance score that’s in the green.
#2: You could ask a web designer for a quote to redesign your existing content using the WordPress block editor and a block enhancer plugin.
#3: You could take a wait-and-see approach. If you stay the course, your rankings may not drop by enough to concern you—even if you have low (“poor” or “needs improvement”) scores.
Martin Splitt stated, “For some, [ranking changes] will be quite substantial. For some, it will not be very substantial. So, you don’t know which bucket you’ll be in because that depends a lot on context and industry and niche.”