How to pick a FREE WordPress Theme That is FAST!

If you didn’t consider speed when picking your WordPress Theme…

In my research on SEO for a small website, one topic I came across a few times was experts saying that my site should have a “modern design” and that it needs to be “mobile ready”. The writers of these articles almost always mention website responsiveness, speed, and loading times.

Websites should load in under 1 second!!

Said many of the articles I read…referring to short attention spans, mobile internet speeds, etc.

With my past websites, I would dabble in trying to make my site a little more lightweight, but I never really cared too much. If it loaded in a couple seconds then I was good.

Photo by Oladimeji Ajegbile on Pexels.com

However, a couple years ago I came across this website speed test over at Pingdom.com. It opened my eyes as to how slow some sites are, including my own past blogs!

But no more!!

After a bit of research, and some fiddling with various WordPress themes, I’ve found a theme that has significantly sped up my own site. I also adopted some tools and tips on things to consider when trying to make your website faster. While load speed isn’t quite the same as mobile SEO…if your SEO is amazing but your site won’t load, will people read it?

Who needs a Fast and Mobile ready Website?

Anyone and everyone. As previously mentioned, the shift to mobile has dictated the need for faster load times as over 50% of internet searches are generated from a mobile device. Whether you are a write, blogger, tech reviewer, or more…mobile design and SEO is crazy important.

WordPress hosting and themes aren’t just for the little guys either. Here are some pretty big sites and companies that use WordPress.

  • TechCrunch
  • The New Yorker
  • BBC America
  • Bloomberg Professional
  • The Official Star Wars Blog
  • Variety
  • Sony Music
  • MTV News

What is a WordPress Theme?

Essentially the theme you pick is the layout of your website. According to WordPress…

a theme is a collection of templates and stylesheets used to define the appearance and display of a WordPress powered website.

This is basically how your site will look and your theme will dictates how your readers will interact with your site. If things are not laid out well, your bounce rate (when people come to your site and leave without clicking around) will be much higher.

Why Does a WP Theme Matter?

Design matters but not 100%. This is largely because you probably don’t want your website to look like something from the 90s…unless that is what you’re going for. You will want to get your site looking like you want, and how you want people to interact with it…but load speed will be a HUGE component of your initial traffic inlet…or at least what lands people on your front page or keeps them reading your blog link they clicked. You are MUCH MORE LIKELY to have someone come to and browse your website (or conduct a session as Google Analytics calls it) if it loads as fast as possible when they click that link.

I mentioned Pingdom.com and the speed test tool that it has. If you are curious, try out your own site, then try out some of the one I listed below in that speed test tool. (Or just look at the results for each that I screenshot and put below)

I was surprised when I saw that my website got the best grade out of all of them. Especially Daring Fireball, as John Gruber is known for his take on design and simplicity. Yet, as you can see…if you are a giant news outlet or popular apple blogger…you don’t have to worry about it as much because in the end…

Content is King

Bill Gates

How do I pick a good WP Theme?

First it helps to have a vague idea of what you want. Don’t be afraid to preview a WP theme for your site and go ahead and activate it, throw your URL in to the Website Speed Test tool and see how it does. Make sure you write down what your current theme is so you can switch back if you don’t like the ones you are testing, and I would also do this in the off hours of when your readers normally come to your site. (Google Analytics has a great readout for higher traffic hours if connected with your site)

Read some of what Pingdom.com says is slowing your site down (large images, url redirects, etc) and see if you can find ways to improve in those areas. Or…find a theme that does those for you, like I did.

theme selection screen in wordpress
theme selection screen in wordpress

I use the Hermes Theme by Themes Harbour and it was mostly by accident that I realized how fast it was. I was actually looking for a specific design, tried this one a few others out (Canard, Verity, Dyad 2, Carbon) and once I saw this one in action I was sold. I had to customize it with some of my own CSS to tweak it to my liking, but that is a post for another day.

Ultimately it’s what you want…and I used to accept that C or D grade as long my site looked the way I wanted. Now, with more than 50% of internet searches generated via a mobile device, mobile SEO and site design has never been more important.

Your Goals May Be a Mirage Hiding a Cliff

People think that summiting the mountain is the goal…they’re wrong.

People think that summiting the mountain is the goal…they’re wrong.

If you start a new job, build your own business, or begin a training plan to climb a mountain, you better realize that your goal should not be promotions, contracts, or summits. All of those things are the result of a lot of hard work and dedication, but they should not be the outcome you seek.


After finishing college, I took up rock climbing to fill the void that being a college athlete had filled. Like most people I started in the gym to establish my confidence and skills, and before long I was lucky enough to befriend folks who climbed outdoors.

Fast forward a couple years and I was now an experienced indoor and outdoor climber, working part time at my local gym, climbing bigger projects outside, and even volunteering with a local Mountain Search and Rescue Team.

The more I was around my outdoorsy kin, I learned lesson after lesson…but none stuck out to me as much as this one.

It’s not about making it to the top. It’s about making it back down.

Photo by alan parker via unsplash

In the Search and Rescue world, “the way back” is always at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Why? Because SAR folks are out there rescuing people who reached the summit and didn’t plan (properly) on how to get back down to safety!! It is quite literally, life and death on the side of a mountain if only one half of the equation is considered.

The same can be said of a lot of things in life. (maybe not life and death…but failure and true long term success)

Author and entrepreneur Ryan Holiday was recently interviewed by GQ, and addressed a comment about how motivation should not be outcome focused:

I work with lots of different writers. I ask, “Why do you want to write a book?” And whenever someone tells me it’s because they want to be a New York Times’ bestseller, I’m out. Because it’s a bullshit goal. It’s a goal that you have almost no control over. So the idea that you are going to spend a year or two years or five years of your life engaging in a process to get an outcome that you don’t control is insanity.

When your motivation is not really outcome focused, and you intrinsically like the thing, I would argue that the best work comes from that place.

Bingo!

Writing a book (or climbing a mountain) is a fantastic pursuit, but when the goal of that process is only recognition (a summit in the mind of the writer) you are destined to ultimate failure. You may summit that mountain, but you will be up there all by yourself, with no plan and now way down.

You will freeze to death in the cold of desolate success. Unless you consider the whole journey.

It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters in the end.

–Ernest Hemmingway

How to avoid the outcome focused cliff

1. Don’t get locked in on the goal

Avoid being like the intrepid Wile E Coyote, who gets so focused on catching the Road Runner that he falls into the canyon amidst a cloud of dust. Force yourself to step back and look at the big picture. Only then will you see the hazards that are just past the “prize” and know to adjust course to avoid disaster.

2. A partner can keep you in check

In the mountain climbing world, a solid partner is not only competent and as motivated as you are, but will also not be afraid to tell you when to turn around. It’s easy to be so motivated to achieve the goal you set for yourself, that you lose sight of everything around you. Like a snow storm that envelopes the top of a mountain, reducing visibility to only your own feet; your career dedication has the potential to harm you more than help.

A worthwhile partner can pull you out of that haze and show you the abyss you were about to march right in to. We all want to see that life changing sunrise come over the horizon…but sunrise is when visibility is at its worst….your partner can tell you that light you see is a train about to hit you, not the sun.

3. Accept the cliche: you have to love the process

If you are reading this article then you’ve probably heard “you have to love the process” a thousand times. That’s because it’s true. In the context of this article…if you don’t love the process and are only focused on the goal you set, you will be let down once you reach that goal. Sure you’re a success…but was it at your own expense? Others expense? What’s next?

Passion for the process safeguards you from those potential pitfalls; and that “process” may mean different things for different people. For some, it may mean the actual work, for others it may be the people they work with, and yet for a few it may be the overarching mission of their organization. Either way, the passion is there and will keep you steady.


“The big picture doesn’t just come from the distance; it also comes from time.”

Simon Sinek

Implementing this ethos in your life and career takes time. It’s hard when all you see in the short term is the restrictions all around you, not allowing you to do what you would like. Yet, if you can keep coming back to those three things to steer away from that cliff…you will be shocked at how beautifully things can turn out for you in the long run.

Photo by Suzanne D. Williams via Unsplash

What is More Important – Design or Speed?

or does it all come down to a Bill Gates quote?

The past few days I’ve been looking into getting my site to be quicker. This quest was sparked by something that Ben Brooks wrote a few years ago and I’ve always remembered. In his post he goes through his brief take on web design and what makes a site readable, comparing and contrasting some popular sites. Go read it…he breaks down some website design standards that you didn’t realize were there…good stuff if you’re looking to make your own site better.

During my own quest, I came across this free website speed test over at Pingdom.com – and this site’s results were less than optimal…or at least much slower than I was hoping. Pingdom has a great tool to see how long your site will take to load, what all is loading in what order, and how big your site is when loaded. Initially, mine was over 6MB and took 5 or 6 seconds to load. I thought this was odd since I didn’t have any crazy graphics, but upon further digging I saw that all the pictures I had with my blog posts were drastically increasing the size of my home page. (the blog page at the time) In the past I had other things that were slowing down my site load times – some custom CSS as well as Bigfoot.js that I spent some considerable time figuring out so I could have those handy pop-up footnotes. (my past sites had them…not going to bother with them here right now)

I am not a programmer by any stretch of the imagination, and I used to host my sites on Squarespace for the WSYIWYG simplicity (what you see is what you get). With that, there wasn’t a lot that I could do other than poke around and see if any specific templates were faster, change my site to text only, or move to another web host. This time around (this is my third website) I decided to switch where my website is hosted and I landed on WordPress.

I may be an edge case as I like to tinker, and have messed with this site’s template here and there. I enjoy that. But it got me wondering, what is more important to someone browsing the web looking for a place to settle in and read for a bit? Aesthetics or Speed?

Most folks who read my past websites did so by subscribing to the free RSS feed, so those folks were looking for content and page load times aren’t as important. Completely fine, that’s what I do too. While I would love to have numerous readers visiting my website every day, week, or month…I’m not a full time writer and doubt that will happen any time soon. However, internet speeds have really picked up over the past few years and website design sites like Squarespace and WordPress are REALLY good at giving you plug and play templates that get you both a fast and good looking site. So RSS is not as “necessary” as in years past when you didn’t want to jump online to slog through links to get to your favorite blog.

Additionally, with 5G coming to the U.S., I think we’re entering an era of being able to have both aesthetics AND speed in the palm of our hand.

BUT…

I do find it apropos that it was Bill Gates who is credited with the saying:

Content is king

In the end, we must keep reminding ourselves that it doesn’t matter if a blog page is fast or beautiful to look at…if there is no content, none of it matters.

Bill would probably tell us to stop sweating the design and google speed-tests – and to just get to writing, vlogging, creating.

Links of the Week (9/02/2019)

Another week of some quality links…

  • Beautiful photos and very thoughtful concept. It made me think…

In each portrait, electronic devices have been “edited out” (removed before the photo was taken, from people who’d been using them

Photographer removes our smartphones to show our strange and lonely new world

  • If you like be in the know on the new trends in tech then this quick read will let you be the one to explain to your parents what “WiFi 6” means when they’re buying a new phone or laptop.

It’s Wi-Fi for a world crowded with mobile gadgets, IoT devices, and connected equipment.

Wi-Fi 6 Will Be Here Soon. What Is It?

  • I’ll be buying this book. You surprised?

Unless you have at least a modest understanding of and appreciation for technical rock and mountain climbing, you will likely be some combination of bored and confused by half of the stories in Some Stories, a new anthology of the writing of Yvon Chouinard, best known as the founder of outdoor gear and apparel company Patagonia.

Some Stories is Patagonia Founder Yvon Chouinard’s Guide to Life | The Manual

  • I’m keeping this one to reference. Great few pieces of advice here.

Most creatives don’t understand one, simple truth:

Turning what you love into a business involves being good at business.

4 ways to get high-paying writing work — don’t self-publish.

I was surprised at how close to home some of these hit. I bet you will be too.

But as I began thinking about all the things I’d like to say, a realization hit me: I’d have to get my message tight because the odds are high that no matter how strong my conviction my younger self wouldn’t listen to a word I’d say.

Below are four pieces of advice I would roll the dice on anyway —

The Only 4 Pieces of Advice I’d Tell My Younger Self

Quality vs Quantity

“You do not need to be prolific to find success with your words. You just need to commit yourself to creating your specific value in the world and allow others to join in on it too…”

You do not need to be prolific to find success with your words. You just need to commit yourself to creating your specific value in the world and allow others to join in on it too.

You are not a product of the quantity of your output, but the quality of the value you put out into the world around you.


Do you see your contribution to the world as work en masse? Going for volume like a kid piling up a bunch of rocks to prove how many he can stack until they fall over?

Or do you have a paced intentionality? Work that may never be impressively voluminous but will make someone stop and really look at what you have created – bringing them moments of peace and reflection.

​It is easy to get excited when starting something new…even if it is something you have done before, like me with this website. I fell in to that trap with my past sites, and not only did I burn myself out doing it, but I didn’t always have a site that I was completely proud of.

I’ll have to take heed of this as I move forward here. Call me out if you see me falling off the quality train and appearing to go for quantity!

You Don’t Have to Be Prolific to Accomplish Your Blogging Dreams

What You Can Learn from Making 40 Vlogs in 40 Weeks

7 Lessons that apply to more than just Vlogging

7 Lessons that apply to more than just Vlogging

I learned some valuable lessons about vlogging in 2018. Some I liked and some I didn’t. These lessons range from the art versus science aspects, to the external versus personal – sometimes very personal.

I don’t know what gave me the vlogging bug at the beginning of 2018. It was probably the fact I had started watching more YouTube in general…discovering creators out there that inspired me, or that I wanted better keepsake videos of my kids and family events than 1 random iPhone video with no context, and still perhaps some subliminal YouTube message seeped in to my brain; but I got bit and bit hard.

Below I’m going to share with you 7 lessons I learned from creating and posting 40 vlogs in 40 weeks.


image via SwellRunner.com
image via SwellRunner.com

Jason Koertge is one of my favorite, what I call, accidental YouTubers and probably my biggest personal inspiration because of how he vlogs with his kids in tow. Now it’s no accident that he currently has over 41,000 followers because he checks all the recommended YouTube creator boxes:

  • He has “niched” down
  • He consistently posts videos
  • His thumbnails are almost always killer
  • oh…and his content is really good (I thought he was a professional editor at first)

I call him an accidental YouTuber because I don’t believe he intended to try and build a following on YouTube. He found something he was passionate about (his 4Runner & Overlanding), that people are interested in (like me), then he made a ton of really good videos about that…and he posted them to YouTube.

The YouTube algorithm ate his stuff up and wanted more.

#1 Consistency is Key

There’s a reason that I am putting this as #1. In my opinion this is THE MOST IMPORTANT thing you can do if you want to create a following on YouTube. I even created a video about just that…but if you’re reading this, I would only watch it if you have 4 minutes and 31 seconds to watch me tell you what I just told you here. (and you can learn what my voice sounds like I guess)

All the big time YouTubers do this 1 thing extremely well. At least they used to…Casey Neistat is a more recent exception to this rule…but he has hundreds of videos out there circulating the interwebs and was incredibly consistent for years.

#2 Content Over Gear

This was a tough lesson for me to learn and it wasn’t fully realized until my very last vlog of 2018. Like a lot of people, I went a little crazy, spent a bunch of money, and got nice but not professional gear. More than I ended up needing.

I reveled in all the Amazon price hunting, the box opening, gear organizing, learning, and more. I got a pretty nice lens for my Canon 80D along with some other nice to have/less expensive lenses…and guess what, a year later I have just sold the majority of it.

You’re probably shaking your head right now and telling me that I’m an idiot…even a non-YouTuber could tell you that Scott! Well, this lesson is about how incredibly easy it is to fall right in to the rabbit hole of camera gear and enjoy the wonderland of better images, video with more bokeh, wide angles, better audio…the list goes on.

Why did it take so long to learn this lesson? Why wasn’t this realized on vlogs 1-39? First, I saw a Casey Neistat video where he said that for a long time, almost 50% of the content for his vlogs were filmed with his iPhone. Second, on vlog 40 my expensive lens was acting weird and I used my “cheap” lens. Vlog 40 turned out to be my favorite video I created, got some gorgeous shots, and the resulting video almost made me cry when I finished it. (don’t worry…sentimentality is in the eye of the beholder…me)

Somehow, due to this “restriction” to using the less expensive lens made me focus on everything else and the result I will cherish forever.

#3 Story Matters Most

No one will watch your high quality vlog if it’s not interesting.

This is why major Hollywood productions flop. The story line sucks, people can’t identify with the character, no flow, etc. Think about your storyline before you start filming for the day and you’ll be much more likely to have a good end product.

I’ll refer again to Mr. Neistat…who is a legit professional storyteller. Seriously, he’s so good.

#4 Editing is Where the Magic is Made

This was the steepest learning curve for me, but once I got the hang of it, it made all the difference.

Felix Schlater is a vastly under rated YouTuber who actually started as a video editor who came to vlogging. You can see it immediately and has a great series he’s making that covers the process of video making, vlogging etc.

You can overcome (sometimes) the lack of a planned out storyline with good video editing…if you have enough footage to work with. Sometimes this means that your video ends up going in a completely different direction, but you salvaged it.

#5 The Flow is Fun

I really enjoyed making these vlogs. It was challenging but very rewarding. It forced me out of my own comfort zone, prompted me to shoot video when I wouldn’t have previously, and I now have 40 videos of 2018 that I can cherish forever.

#6 I am Not a Full Time YouTuber

2018 was the year of vlogging and YouTube for me.

There is an amazing community of vloggers you can discover out there. I saw some creators start the year with only a couple hundred followers that are now over 50 thousand, some create literal movements, and some that I purely enjoy for enjoyments sake. However, just like all the “How to Write Everyday” posts you find on Medium, the one thing you will figure out by making vlogs every week…is if you enjoy the grind.

I am very satisfied with my vlogging experience and I will still make more. I learned a new skill, made some memories, and get to keep those memories. 40 vlogs with hundreds of hours of video footage, many afternoons and evenings editing video, and getting comfortable talking at a camera in public is not easy. Nor did I expect it to be…and that’s ok.

I tried it and it’s fun, but not my current profession.

#7 If You Decide to Try Something, Give It Your Best

It doesn’t matter if it’s vlogging, blogging, exercising, or eating healthier for a new year, new you. Give it your best shot…don’t hold back…and you will learn more than you ever imagined.


Take another look at this list…but this time, in your mind, replace the terms video, gear, or YouTube with whatever project or new practice you have taken up.

  1. Consistency is key
  2. Content over gear
  3. Story matters most
  4. Editing is where the magic is made
  5. The flow is fun
  6. I am not a YouTuber
  7. If you decide to try something, give it your best shot

See what I did there?

Hello…

My name is Scott. That’s not particularly important and probably not why you’re reading this.

Why are you here?

  • Did you accidentally typed more than intended when heading online to your favorite outdoor clothing store?
  • Did you google ‘Patagonia Dad’ after reading the Romper.com article that gave me the idea for this site?
  • Or maybe you actually clicked a link via LinkTree from one of my social media accounts?

Whatever your reason, please allow me to introduce myself.

I’m Scott. I know, I already said that:

  • I’m from California
  • I grew up camping and loving the outdoors…rarely wanting to wear a shirt or shoes
  • I’m Dad now
  • I still love the outdoors…and I still wish I could go around without a shirt or shoes more often (but I don’t)

Aside from the above, I am writing to you today because I want to share my experiences with you and my kids. I plan to leave the world a better place than it was before I got here…and I think most PatagoniaDads do too.

I hope you follow along or join in the adventure.