New theme, who dis?

Screenshots of the old and new themes for the blog, side by side

I’ve deployed a new theme on the blog. If you’re reading this in your feed reader, firstly, go you, because so few people do nowadays, but also, please click through and have a look.

The theme I’m using is GeneratePress, with mostly default settings. This replaces one of the default WordPress themes that I was using before.

Why the change? Mainly page bloat; whilst the default WordPress themes are very extensible, the output code includes shedloads of extra JavaScript, CSS and style tags which result in web pages which are bigger than they should be. Whilst I’m at no risk of exceeding the data transfer limits offered by my hosting company, it does affect the speed of the site, and not everyone has unlimited mobile data or a fast connection.

I learnt HTML at a time when it was the done thing to hand-code pages – indeed, back when I used Blogger and later Movable Type as my blogging tools, for the most part I used themes that I had written all myself. JavaScript was used very sparingly, and the HTML and CSS code was nice, clean and simple. So seeing the code soup that was being outputted by the default themes was off-putting.

I also think about this blog post by Terence Eden, ‘the unreasonable effectiveness of simple HTML‘, where he gives an example of someone applying for housing benefit on a PlayStation Portable (PSP). This is presumably because it’s the only portable device with a web browser that she can use. But because the HTML on is so clean and lightweight, the old, under-powered web browser on the PSP is still able to render it, and she’s able to get the information that she needs. A big, flashy web site oozing with various JavaScript frameworks, loads of tracking scripts and adverts everywhere just isn’t going to work on such an old device.

And then I saw this toot today:

I can't help but notice the new Apple laptops rate "Video Playback 22 hours, Web Browsing 15 hours" under battery life.

Congratulations web developers everywhere, it's now more computationally intense to render a webpage than video playback!

— Brad L. :verified: (@reyjrar) 2023-11-05T04:41:28.299Z

Web pages are getting so full of cruft, that they require more processing power than video playback.

So, that’s why I’m going with a lightweight theme. It makes the web site much more accessible to more people. GeneratePress seems to output lighter code that displays fast, and it offers a good balance between extensibility and speed. It won’t be for everyone, but it seems to work well for me.