Hello Elementor. Goodbye bloated themes

Hello Elementor theme screenshot showing placeholder contents in a mock web page layout

My favorite WordPress and WooCommerce theme nowadays is Hello Elementor. It’s more of a theme placeholder than a traditional theme really. Haven’t you heard? Themes are dying!

The move towards Full-Site Editing (FSE) in WordPress means we aren’t stuck with a design (layouts, fonts, colors, styles, bundled plugins) that come with a prepackaged theme. We can use the ever evolving core tools (Block Editor) or our commercial page builder bundle of choice (e.g. Divi, Elementor, etc.) to design our sites more freely, from a more open canvas.

A fully open canvas means designing custom headers, footers, sidebars, and global styles (colors and typography). In more advanced cases it can mean assigning templates to post type singles and archives or applying conditions, such as product categories, search results, or even the site’s 404 page.

Hello Elementor theme (free) is intended for users to combine it with the Elementor page builder plugin (free) and Elementor Pro (paid) theme builder plugin. However, the theme can work just fine standalone when planning to use the built-in Block Editor and code or use plugins to configure CSS styles, widget sidebars, and additional navigation menus manually.

Loading only the browser assets truly required to render content and features is an important goal. The recent push towards decoupled or headless architectures has been in part driven by the need to cut out wasteful theme and plugin assets from the front-end. This is especially true when WordPress and WooCommerce sites run a bunch of plugins or use shared hosting where the initial page response for server processing (TTFB or response time) is already less than ideal. Loading inefficient browser assets (JS and CSS files), particularly render-blocking assets or those contributing to thread-work, oversized libraries, or unnecessary ones, significantly impact performance.

Finding a truly lean theme has been a bigger challenge that one might think:

  • The default Storefront theme for WooCommerce has become just a bit bloated.
  • Popular high performance themes like Astra, GeneratePress, Neve, OceanWP, are set-up for core features as well as Pro upgrades and contain what I consider to be bloat to those effects.
  • The theme starter kit Underscores is large by comparison to Hello Elementor.
  • We can better compare Hello Elementor to non-commercial FSE experiments such as Twenty Twenty Blocks. Experiments are just that, not for production use.

Hello Elementor. This is the theme to end all themes and it’s here today. I sure hope it remains the tiny FSE compliant code base that works even outside of Elementor plugins. In any case; this trend of FSE is here to stay and high-performance within this space will define its winners.

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