Looking for a lightweight, free and FAST theme for your new blog and you don’t know where to start? I get it, I was there myself and made the huge mistake of going too big and too fancy with my first blog.
Let’s sort this out now.
I know what you are thinking “Why is having an awesome-looking theme a bad thing?”
So, it’s not necessarily a bad thing, BUT, if you don’t know a lot about site speed, user experience, load times, and desktop to mobile formatting, you’re awesome theme might just be killing your site’s progress, here’s why:
Why Does Your Theme Matter?
Well, you could argue that the theme of your site doesn’t matter, and in some cases that would be correct.
If you have a lifestyle blog that follows you on your daily life and isn’t really meant for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) purposes to drive organic traffic from Google, then yes, you’re theme doesn’t matter….much.
However, if your blog is a niche site dedicated to driving organic traffic from Google and relies on SEO, affiliate, and ad revenue, then you need a fast theme with limited bloat.
What is “bloat” on a blog theme? Glad you asked!
“Bloat” on a website theme is a term used to describe the number of excess features and tools built into a theme that gives small aesthetic upgrades to the overall look of your site.
For example, maybe your theme has a built-in feature that has animated or moving headers, or maybe transparent scrolling images. For that fancy feature to work on your site, it requires lengthy code and scripts running in the front end when your site loads.
✅ Sure they look nice, but those features are “bloat” built into the code of the theme….and it’s killing your load time and ultimately, your user experience.
You see, when you slow your site with fancy features, you ultimately create a non-user-friendly environment for your user.
Visitors to your site now need to wait for the page to load longer than normal which in many cases makes the user leave before ever reading your content.
You have probably done it yourself, you show up to a website you clicked from google and as you are waiting for the site to load, if it takes any amount of time longer than you are used to waiting you exit the site (bounce out) and look for a new site to answer your question.
Users leaving your site is referred to as a “Bounce Rate” and this bounce rate is a ranking factor in Google as they use this metric (among many others) to gauge the user experience of your platform.
🚨 If Google thinks your site is giving its users a bad experience, they don’t want to keep sending people to your site.
So, just remember, less fancy features mean less bloat, which means faster load times and ultimately MORE users.
What Makes A Blog Theme Good?
If a site with fancy features and slow load times equals a bad theme, then what makes a theme good? Well, just as you imagined, a good theme starts with limited bloat and fast load times.
Certain themes out here were built for speed. However, not all “fast” themes are created equal.
Some themes may be “fast” and may look good, BUT, what if they have sketchy developers and limited users?
If a theme has sketchy developers, they might have injected the theme’s code with malicious actions that will ultimately hurt your site (and your wallet).
If a theme has a limited user-base, it might be very hard to get real support. Not having access to support from a theme could be a nightmare if your site has grown with a large audience and big daily traffic.
Imagine having your theme go down or fail with a plugin and your site is not usable until you get support or have the issue fixed? No Bueno my friends.
⚠️ Remember, bad user experience means increased bounce rate means decreased traffic and revenue.
Let’s say there is no malicious code in your theme, BUT, you have an issue and cant reach their support. You will likely go Google the problem hoping for a solution.
Well, if that theme has a limited user-base you likely will have a tough time finding a fix.
So, as a rule of thumb, stick with themes that have trusted support and a large user base.
OK, So Theme Should New Bloggers Get?
I’ve done a good job of scaring you into a new theme, great mike, but what about the theme should you actually get?
First off: none of these recommendations are affiliated with me or BleowAverageBlogger.com, these are simple non-affiliated recommendations from a once-new blogger myself who had to learn the hard way.
With all of that non-sense out of the way, here are the 5 themes you should consider when starting out in blogging.
Acabado by Income School
I have a love/hate relationship with Acabado but the fact remains, it’s probably the best theme for new bloggers because it’s very fast and easy to work with (no coding at all).
This site right here is on Acabado! I also have a few other sites on Acabado so I don’t hate it that much.
The folks over at Income School had this theme designed with speed and ease built into it, but not the ‘bloat” type of stuff I mentioned earlier.
Some Benefits of Acabado
- Very fast load times and limited scripts.
- Simple, clean, bright design that appeals to many users. Less fluff means users get their answers faster.
- Simple Install, you can focus on writing content, not designing your site.
- Decent support, a good FAQ and Troubleshooting page to help with issues.
Some Frustrations With Acabado
- SEO “baked-in” means they did the SEO functions for you. While that sounds great, if you use an SEO plugin like Yoast or Rank Math, you will likely find that they conflict with Acabado and your SEO plugin will create duplicate meta descriptions and sitemaps.
- The simple clean design is nice, but it’s tough to make your site stand out at all. You can only pretty much change the font and colors. I know that’s a bit contrary to my previous thoughts but if you use Acabado you know what I mean.
- Anti-Bounce protection built-in is dated looking and not very inviting to users.
- Not Free. There is a $67 annual user license but you can pay $179 for a lifetime license
Astra is another fast theme with a large user-base which means you have real support should you need it and you still have access to tons of tutorials and help on Google and YouTube.
Astra is very different from Acabado though in that you can add all sorts of “bloat” if you wanted or you can keep it super fast and clean.
Some Benefits of Astra
- Free, no license fees, but you can upgrade to unlock more features.
- Customize as much or as little as you want, its pretty endless (just remember bloating).
- Most all plugins are compatible
- Great Support and Community
Some Frustrations of Astra
- If you don’t know how to design a site, the default layout is not very appealing
- Ezoic doesn’t recommend it for their LEAP Optimization so your ad network might now be a fan of this theme too.
Generate Press is another fast, fast, and easy theme. Like Astra, it has great support and large user-base meaning feedback and helps when you need it.
Some Benefits of Generate Press
- Premium Not Free: $59 Annual and $249 Lifetime
- Fully customizable, make it as fancy or simple as you want.
- Clean Looking and Lightning Fast
Some Frustrations with Generate Press
- Again, if you don’t know how to design a site, it can be confusing leading new users to add block builder plugins that ultimately slow the site.
- Its not a huge organization, sole developers mean increased risk…persay.
- Free version is pretty darn basic.
Alright my fellow blogging gals and guys from all over the world, I hope this was helpful in giving you some honest, non-affiliated tips for starting your blog!
Remember, it’s not the theme, domain name or niche you are in that makes you money, it’s writing great content!
So, get out there, fire up that site, own your ‘below average blogger” title while you crank out great content, and move up in the SERPs from “Below Average” to “Above Average”.
If I can do it, YOU CAN DO IT!