Are WordPress Premium Themes Becoming Bloated With PHP Code

Premium WordPress Theme providers are everywhere on the net these days with some having made very successful business’s developing themes for sale. Is the relentless push and advancements of wordpress theme development also having a side effect of themes now becoming very PHP heavy and server resource intensive. This is a question I have been asking myself for several months now “Are WordPress Premium Themes Becoming Too Heavy and Bloated With PHP Code?”.

Firstly let me just say I admire the work most Premium Theme developers do and it’s these guys who are pushing the boundaries of whats possible with a wordpress site. In my opinion if it wasn’t for Premium Theme developers wordpress would still be just a blogging platform and not a CMS like it is considered today.

Having developed themes for wordpress I myself have been drawn into the must have features war with wordpress ie, Options Pages, Custom Widgets, Custom Post Panels, Multiple Color Schemes, Specific Type/Category Content Separation Coding, etc. I have also used more than a few Premium Themes in my time from several providers like WooThemes, ElegantThemes, along with a few others. One of the overlooked aspects to having all these nice options within your premium wordpress theme however is the fact each option requires more PHP to be inserted into wordpress template files, more PHP calls equals more server load each time a page on your blog is loaded.

Admittedly some premium themes are better than others in a respectfully thought out coding sense, even the best premium theme frameworks however can be pretty large in size. So how exactly can a wordpress theme with lots of options place load on my server and why does this matter to me.

Well if you are a small blogger with little traffic to your blog it shouldn’t really matter how many php calls your theme has within reason, and of course fewer is always better. If you run a site that gets lots of daily visits though and is maybe popular on Digg, Delicious etc you could run into problems after a while with site speed and server load due to all your nice theme options.

What is a php call you may ask?

Below is an example of a php call for beginners to better understand what I am referring to, this call will appear in all wordpress theme header.php files.

[php]<?php bloginfo(‘stylesheet_url’); ?>[/php]

The above example is a single php call that will fetch the URL to your wordpress theme stylesheet and is used in it’s full context below in your themes header.

[php]<link rel="stylesheet" href="<?php bloginfo(‘stylesheet_url’); ?>" type="text/css" media="screen" /></link>[/php]

Each time you page is loaded the PHP Call will look to fetch the actual URL of your themes stylesheet, this would count as a single call. Now picture if your simple theme has 25 PHP calls on the index page of your site that will place a certain amount of load on your web server, but what if you complicated options laden theme has 80+ calls on the index page thats gonna place a lot of load on your web server and MYSQL database. Most of the cool wordpress features are all stored in your MYSQL database and this is where things can become bogged down at times.

While all wordpress themes have PHP calls in them premium themes tend to have a lot more in complexity and quantity this is where things start to get a little bloated at times within complicated themes in my opinion. I realize you can optimize wordpress sites but this post is aimed at using a wordpress theme as is and with no optimizations. The reason i put this post out there is to get some others opinions on this subject so please leave a comment if you have an opinion on the subject.

4 thoughts on “Are WordPress Premium Themes Becoming Bloated With PHP Code

  1. It’s a delicate balance you need to strike, especially if you are making public themes. You need to employ enough PHP as to allow the end-user to easily manipulate certain aspects of their site via the WP backend, while not so much that it becomes daunting and ends up causing excess load on the server.

    This is where a caching system is nice also =)

  2. YES. I notice this is also a fairly old article but this problem is only getting worse! I have been using WordPress almost exclusively since 2006 and I find myself more frequently looking at alternatives as the code is becoming very bloated.

    Having all these theme options panels and custom write panels is fine if you only want to achieve basic customisation provided in the options panel. But to fit my needs I find I cant just chop and add any more as the code has become so convoluted and complicated I have to pretty much gut a theme and re code it to fit my needs.

    A good example would be any theme from elegant or woothemes. I recently customised one for a client it was fairly complex and at the end I was shocked at just how many php queries (180+) it was making and page load times were also suffering. So after gutting the theme and re-coding it removing all the theme options and unnecessary code I got it down to under 60 queries and page load was around 300% faster according to various load tests.

  3. I’m trying to find some ‘magazine’ wordpress theme that is not bloated with lots of options, loads of scripts and LOADS of CSS – premium or not – but it’s hard.

    Do you have some theme to recommend?

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