How to Choose
a Web Design Agency

Benchmark of 400 web design agencies around Cambridge 2021

  • When choosing a designer for your website, make sure to look at their site’s page load speed first
  • Double-check that the selected agency is not using NitroPack – Black Hat SEO speed optimisation plugin
  • Study activities described in our website design template
  • Check if your website will be designed using Elementor Pro or Kadence Blocks
  • Suggest a few themes for the layout design
  • Define what will be included in the scope of work
  • Enjoy your new website
Combined page speed score
Combined page speed score for design agencies around Cambridge
Dipak Gajjar
Very well written and interesting. I shared this in my speed optimisation experts slack channel.
John Boland
Very good article. Well researched. I liked it.
Sergey Chernuhin
You did great research. I will recommend reading it if asked How to Choose a Web Design Agency.
25 minutes read | Last modified on July 7th, 2021

The reason for the study

In August 2021, Google is updating its algorithms to include Page Experience metrics based on Google’s Web Vitals. It is going to be a significant change that will have an impact on ranking. Things like First Contentful Paint (FCP), Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), Flashes of Unstyled Content (FOUC), Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) are going to create a nightmare of optimisation concerns for web designers. This new ranking signal will result in a sudden and urgent shift towards page load speed optimisation, lightweight HTML, CSS, and reduced JS payloads. Web pages measured below the new benchmarks will be left behind in the rankings. This means a significant drop in traffic and disappointment. Optimising for mobile and improving page speeds are the first steps to take, as they have a massive impact on user experience.
Holy macaroni! You did your homework and wrote it down well. Very nice. (Except now I have to check my own website. I am not sure it would pass. Yikes!)! I like that you acknowledged other web developers. Nice, very nice approach. Gentle, not too pushy. Very professional. I FREAKING LOVE IT! You have set a standard here.
If you plan to hire a web design agency to modify an existing website or build a new one, you will benefit from reading our post. It will provide some basis for evaluating the potential web designer you have to select for your project.  This decision will critically impact your website’s loading speed and directly affect your business’s success.
Faster websites make more money, rank better, and improve the overall user experience! Slow pages will never rank high in organic results and are less efficient in converting paid clicks – and this issue is even more important for the eCommerce websites owners.
 When it comes to optimising your site for Google “mobile-first”, the page load speed is one of the most important factors. Page load speed plays a major role in everything from usability to bounce rates and determining whether potential buyers will return to your site.
Website load speed is a critical element of Google’s “mobile-friendliness score”. Speed of loading, especially on mobile devices, affects search engine rankings. According to Google,  53% of mobile site visitors leave pages that take longer than a measly three seconds to load. And if your mobile website takes more than ten seconds to load, you could be losing almost all of your potential customers and clients. Tough luck to many web businesses, as the average Speed Index values are 5 seconds on desktop and 12 seconds on mobile (
We provide a specific local benchmark useful for clients based around Cambridge, but lessons learned are universally applicable to any other UK location or globally. To develop our benchmark, we have restricted our data to the local web service providers around Cambridge, also covering Newmarket, Bury St Edmunds, Ely, St Ives, Huntington, Peterborough,  Bedford, Luton, Hitchin, Stevenage, Welwyn Garden City, Hatfield, Hertford, Harlow, Bishops Stratford, Braintree, Royston, Saffron Walden, and Haverhill.

Optimising page load speed in WordPress

WebWhim's first-hand experience

WebWhim provides web and graphic design services to SME companies located around Cambridge. We believe that your new website has to be both fast and beautiful. Every design decision might take few iterations, and they are typically discussed with a client by using a prototype of the website build with either Adobe XD or Figma. Keeping in mind that our clients understand what is beautiful and what is not, we have to be confident in reassuring them that we will also provide an impressive upload speed for their website.
For WebWhim, the game had changed after trying the Elementor Pro page builder developed by an Israeli startup in 2018. The Elementor had rapidly progressed into a powerful page builder that can provide a WordPress designer with more flexibility and convenience than the WIX development environment. Using a lightweight and nearly empty Hello Theme provided by the Elementor, WebWhim can implement any design and layout agreed with the client.
It is well known that flexibility comes at the cost of generating a lot of clutter via a massive number of JavaScript files on the final webpage. And indeed, all page builders do precisely the same.  Suppose the design is implemented in the Elementor Pro and Hello Theme, is hosted with a reasonable hosting provider, and is cached using standard tools to achieve the best upload speed. In that case, the Google page speed index will reach about 35 for the mobile and 80 for the desktop measurements. While this is not bad, as we will see below from our benchmark study, it is not well above what can be achieved by a Wix user. Why do people go through the hassle of using WordPress if Wix can do something similar? From our experience, it might be caused by almost zero technical support from Wix with that awful feeling of you been left on your own to solve any issues. And perhaps because the Wix backend tools are painfully slow to use for sophisticated design development?
The actual power of WordPress can be revealed if your designer is ready to research, investigate, struggle to implement, don’t hesitate to reach technical support, reiterate learning steps, and finally acquire multiple tricks of how to accelerate the WordPress website. Partially, it will require moving to the more appropriate web hosting and CDN provider (we discuss it in a separate post). Partly, it is about mastering several plugins. After all required steps are implemented, the typical Google page speed score values will increase to about 75 for mobile and above 95 fo the desktop, depending on exact JavaScript utilisation on the webpage.
Such page load speed results are much more impressive and are outside of the Wix users’ reach. The ultimate acceleration can be achieved for specific landing pages on the website, where the web designer can remove all JavaScript code automatically generated by WordPress and Elementor Pro. The Google page speed of such pages jumps above 96 for the mobile, and the desktop speed saturates at 100. The upload speed for such landing pages is on par with the best examples of the hand-coded pages. Ironically, a hand-coded JavaScript should be injected into such WordPress pages to support simple dynamic design effects. The minimum size of the JavaScript file automatically generated by WordPress and Elementor Pro is about 800kB (compressed size of about 200kB). It takes at least two seconds to parse it on a mobile device. There is no doubt that any page of the website which does not require sophisticated JavaScript functionality will benefit from similar excess fat trimming.
Page Speed
Google speed test for the homepage of our website
Many people notice that with each new release of Elementor Pro, the Google Mobile Page Speed Score for sites built with Elementor continues to decline. Elementor’s developers derailed the development of their new page builder by focusing on extra features over performance. Some web designers are now adopting a newer page building tool, based on the Kadence Theme and Kadence Blocks to recreate Elementor website designs. Kadence is a mobile-friendly WordPress page builder that does not require jQuery. It is essential that Kadence’s menu is built without the use of jQuery. So, if you don’t load carousels or galleries that support Masonry, your JavaScript will run without jQuery and your page should receive a perfect 100 score on the Google Mobile PageSpeed Insights test.
LiteSpeed Cache now has the ability to clean unused CSS and lazy load HTML below the fold, which should decrease the initial page DOM size. JavaScript remains the only bottleneck of website speed optimization. WebWhim has begun using Kadence Blocks page builder on new websites to minimize loading time and provide a better user experience.

WordPress dominance

So far, so good. The remarkable boost in the upload speed achievable with the key optimisation plugins makes WordPress a compelling and fast platform. The one which can be used by the designer with only partial knowledge of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. And the one in which content and images can be easily modified by the layperson from the client marketing team. Thus it is not unexpected to see the Figure below, which shows how rapidly WordPress is outplacing the hand-coded websites (data extracted from w3tech. The overall number of hosted websites remains at the same level for the last four years. Therefore, the market share plot provides clear evidence that not only most new websites are developed using WordPress, but WordPress is also widely used to redesign previously hand-coded websites.
WordPress Market Share Timeline
WordPress Market Share Timeline

So what is wrong with WordPress?

Actually, there is nothing wrong with WordPress as it is. If something is wrong – it is about a community that is using WordPress.
The optimisation of the upload speed of the WordPress website does not require professional coding skills. So, software developers are not interested in participating in such activities. If anything, they become quickly bored and give up to be involved.
Most web designers working with WordPress lack professional coding skill, but they also lack the technical research skills required to investigate the upload speed optimisation process. They quickly realise that it might take more than a week of self-learning and experimentation to understand the necessary steps and, therefore, will quit instead of trying to move forward. As a result, the market is full of web designers who master WordPress enough to design but not enough to optimise WordPress as a system. It results in two significant issues: widespread slow loading websites and their vulnerability to hacker attacks. It is horrifying to learn that more than 94% of all compromised websites are designed using WordPress.
Read our post “How to select a secure and fast eCommerce platform” to learn more about how the WooCommerce ecosystem fuels the WordPress websites’ security vulnerability.

Benchmark Study

How we found ~400 Web Design Agencies based around Cambridge

Below we tried to study the degree to which Cambridge based web design agencies have digested the black art of optimising the page load speed of WordPress websites.  To develop our benchmark, we have restricted our data to the local web service providers around Cambridge, also covering Newmarket, Bury St Edmunds, Ely, St Ives, Huntington, Peterborough,  Bedford, Luton, Hitchin, Stevenage, Welwyn Garden City, Hatfield, Hertford, Harlow, Bishops Stratford, Braintree, Royston, Saffron Walden, and Haverhill.  We have identified companies by searching in the Google Map for keywords such as SEO, marketing, digital agency, web design, design agency, graphic design.
We specifically zoom into a detailed view of the Google Map around cities listed above and have carried out multiple searches. We have collected a list of websites for the companies shown on Google Maps and later excluded those who had no specific offering for the web-design on their website. An additional search was performed in Google with the search string “web design Cambridge”. The top 30 pages of the Google search result were scrolled, and companies were added to the list under the condition that they are based in the UK.  We tried to exclude companies that are located outside of the Cambridge area – for instance, we have aimed to remove London based agencies. Again, we have tried to our best abilities to remove companies that were not offering web design services as a part of their explicit offering. We have accumulated about 400 companies in our master spreadsheet. The created list would represent a good snapshot of web design businesses around Cambridge, even if a few of them were still omitted by our rigorous approach.
After creating such a list of local businesses, we proceeded to analyse it. We don’t necessarily recommend our readers to go to the same extent when selecting their preferred web designer. The efforts required to populate and deduplicate our list have been time-consuming. However, we recommend that our readers select a range of agencies and then reduce such a list according to the page loading speed metrics. After that, you can start shortlisting the remaining agencies according to their fee and the “feel factor” of their design portfolio.
The quickest way of reducing your list is to follow our methodology using the online tools recommended below. You will be shocked to find out that most web design agencies have very slow websites. There are still some web design agencies that hand-code their websites while offering WordPress design for their clients. When dealing with such agencies, we recommend to select several WordPress websites from their design portfolio and measure the upload speed of such websites as a substitute proxy metric.

How to find out what CMS was used to develop the website

The first tool you have to use is a free tool It provides a detailed analysis of software tools used in the web site’s design and offers useful information regarding hosting provider, CDN, etc. You should be able to see the term WordPress in the results of the analysis of the selected website.
Example of output
Example of output.
Example of output white
If WordPress is not mentioned, there is a good chance that the website is hand-coded. In rare cases, you also will be able to see a clear reference to the alternative CMS.
As discussed above, when dealing with agencies who are not using WordPress for their own websites, you should benchmark their clients’ WordPress websites’ upload speed.

How we measure speed metrics

The Google page speed metric is measured using PageSpeed Insights. We recommend measuring upload speed about four times and select the best value separately for the mobile and the desktop devices (you should switch between them by using selector buttons on the bottom left corner of the blue ribbon). The metric measured by Google tools is not stable – please be aware that the difference between the maximum and minimum values for mobile speed performance can be as large as 20 points. The desktop score is usually more stable, with a typical difference between the maximum and minimum values of below 5 points. The major bug in the JavaScript evaluation path for the Google Page Speed metrics results in the Largest Contentful Paint time fluctuation by more than 1.5 seconds on the mobile device. How Google had managed to go away with such a noisy tool is beyond our understanding. In our study, we make six measurements and select the maximum values for our analysis.
Please also try to measure using the correct URL to receive reliable results. Follow any suggestions shown below Mobile/Desktop switching view buttons to use the right website address to avoid injecting extra redirections (please refer to the enclosed Figure).
Measure the correct URL to receive reliable results
Use the correct version of website address to avoid injecting extra redirections
We suggest recording measured values in the spreadsheet and calculating a separate column using the sum of both mobile and desktop metrics. For instance, a website with a mobile metric of 36 and a desktop metric of 87 will have a combined score of 123.  You can later sort the spreadsheet according to the Largest-to-Smallest order in such a column to obtain a unified speed ranking for the design agencies. After removing slow-performing agencies, you can progress in evaluating the portfolio of top-rated design agencies and receive estimated quotes to decide your final selection.

Results of the benchmark study

Surprisingly to us, about 40% of design agencies are still not using WordPress for their websites. We have randomly selected a dozen companies from such list and identified WordPress websites in their design portfolios. The upload speed of such clients WordPress websites was slow. Please be careful in progressing your discussions with the web design agencies, which do not use WordPress for their websites! You have been warned!
Page speed load for Agencies using WordPress
Page speed load for Agencies using WordPress
Page speed load for Agencies making hand-coded websites
Page speed load for Agencies making hand-coded websites
The striking outcome: only 2% of WordPress websites have a combined score above 180 (for instance, 86 for mobile and 95 for the desktop), while 20% of hand-coded websites will match a  similar combined speed metrics of above 180. This outcome illustrates a challenge for selecting the right web design agency.
A decade ago, most web design agencies provided hand-coded websites. Most of them were able to provide a fast page load speed. Therefore, their graphical design capabilities and fee were the main factors to consider. Nowadays, it would be best if you use a page load speed as a primary selection criterion. At least, this is how Google does it. Google knows that the world is full of slow websites that are very painful to use, especially by mobile users. Google uses the page load speed on mobile devices as one of the significant SEO metrics and provides a penalty to slow websites in its ranking algorithms. Google believes that such penalties will gradually modify the companies’ priorities, which will improve user experience. If you don’t want to implement a new website that both Google and your users will reject, try to make its page load speed as fast as you can!
Only an established business with an excellent reputation and an extensive client network can survive with a relatively slow website. Young companies have to hit a high mobile page speed mark to become visible in the organic Google searches.

Further analysis

In our introduction, we have explained that a straightforward combination of WordPress, Elementor Pro, Hello Theme, Caching plugins, and a reasonable hosting provider will allow achieving the combined speed score of just above 120. The extra efforts related to relocating to a better hosting provider, and implementing various options for optimising page speed in WordPress can lead to outstanding performance, exceeding speed metrics of about 165. From our benchmark study, it is clear that such performance improvement is a steep path for most web designers and only a small number of companies knows how to climb it.
Combined page speed score
Combined page speed score for design agencies around Cambridge
The web is full of statements that WordPress is a simple system that can be used by non-programmers but has a steep learning curve. Most users of WordPress underestimate this “steep learning curve” statement. They are just sitting at the foot of the mountain, not daring to look at its shining peaks.

WordPress page builders

If you need a new website, it should be developed using the WordPress platform. However, don’t try to build your website using the premium Theme for WordPress. New page builders have disrupted this established model and will put most Theme developers out of business in the next couple of years. Before page builders, there wasn’t a user-friendly way to customise WordPress sites. Most people were begging for help on theme support forums and suggested solutions sometimes worked but frequently broke their site after updates. The new generation of page builders gave their users seemingly limitless power to edit every web page element and freed them from Theme developers’ clutches.
The most prominent page builder, Elementor Pro, had taken WordPress web design by storm.  More than 30% of new WordPress websites are currently developed using Elementor Pro, and the number is rapidly growing. If your selected web design agency does not use Elementor Pro – they have been in lockdown for too long. Going alone their choice, you might end-up with outdated, unsupported Theme with security vulnerabilities that will never be fixed.  It is best to use Elementor Pro, and its lightweight, nearly empty Hello Theme, which your web design agency will style according to the design draft agreed with you. This approach will make your website easily maintained by different web designers. Unfortunately, the mobile Google page speed score for the websites built with Elementor Pro is continually falling with each next release of Elementor. The development team has derailed by focusing on extra functionality at the cost of slowing down websites built with Elementor Pro. All their recent efforts to bring new Experimental features to improve page loading speed had failed and made the mobile speed score much lower. Let us hope that Elementor will finally manage to hire professionals to manage their testing team so that we can start enjoying a reverse page load speed curve.
However, please be aware that our benchmark study has uncovered an uncomfortable truth about web design agencies around Cambridge: 75% of their own WordPress websites were made with a standard theme without using a page builder, only 10% of their WordPress websites were designed with Elementor, and remaining 15% of their WordPress websites were created using outdated page builders such as WPBakery and Divi. We are afraid that a similar embarrassing picture will emerge elsewhere.
Divi leaves the worst code ever! Most Divs, most bloat. Divi constantly breaks on every iteration, and I don’t have time for that. And no, working with Divi to achieve a good Google-defined page experience requires six times the effort as working with Elementor. I analyze, improve, and manage the technical side of hundreds of websites in my day job. We’ve found that Divi optimization is the worst, second only to WPBakery!
Of course, Elementor Pro is not the only tool left on the market. Some professional design agencies will suggest using alternative page builders, such as Beaver Builder and its own Beaver Builder Theme, which is more optimised for developers. However, you might get stuck with such a choice as it will be challenging to find an alternative web design agency that will be equally at ease with the Beaver Builder tools (as it is ten times less popular than Elementor Pro). Please be aware that you will fail to find such an alternative web design agency in the area around Cambridge.
A preferred page builder option for professional developers is Oxygen, and it is a far better option for coding the fastest loading website pages. It has a full theme builder and tight integration with Advanced Custom Fields (ACF). However, it is, in turn, a hundred times less popular than Elementor Pro. Oxygen Builder allows designing fast pages with complex functionalities to customise every portion of the website. It is achieved via direct coding using CSS, JavaScript, and PHP. The developers love the Dynamic Data option, which links design elements created in Oxygen to data from the WordPress database. But with the estimated number of users in the region of about 20,000 people, this community is struggling to set a benchmark for the rest of the WordPress ecosystem. Oxyelements , the company dedicated to providing design elements (sometimes almost mini plugins) to the less experienced users of the Oxygen Builder, was forced to close its business in December 2020, lacking the interest from non-coders.
Oxygen builder is usually referred to as the builder for developers because a bit of coding is required, but it’s clean and doesn’t come with any bloat. What hardcore Oxygen fans hate to admit is that the builder is very restrictive to its own ecosystem. Since it overlays most things in WordPress, it has a lot of compatibility issues. A tool that doesn’t do everything inline with the core WordPress structure is not a tool I would use, especially since things change so quickly with WordPress.
LiveCanvas page builder helps to deliver the fastest websites within the WordPress community. It is as close to the page load speed of hand-coded websites as possible, and it does not enforce jQuery loading on either mobile or desktop websites. LiveCanvas helps you build excellent web pages by visually combining HTML snippets called “blocks”. The LiveCanvas is based on Bootstrap 4, with Bootstrap 5 coming soon. It is the only page builder which outputs superclean, Bootstrap-compliant HTML5 code, which you can refine via a built-in live code editor. The LiveCanvas also provides the purposely designed Bootstrap 4 WordPress starter picostrap Theme.  The picostrap Theme is carefully designed to load a more lightweight version of the Bootstrap JavaScripts, BootstrapNative, written in vanilla JS, removing the requirement for jQuery. While LiveCanvas is a great development tool, it is less suited in its current form for agency work. It is not realistic to transfer the LiteCanvas website to the client, hoping that its marketing team takes over maintaining the website (unless the marketing team is familiar with HTML, CSS, and Bootstrap). Interestingly, LiteCanvas can export the website with a clean code as a static, stand-alone version to be hosted outside of the WordPress environment. We like using LiveCanvas, but it is a shame that it is about a thousand times less popular than Elementor Pro.
A comparison of Google mobile page speed score for various page builders is shown below. How ironic it is that the more popular tools are the ones, which deliver significantly slower pages. It is worth noting that WebWhim is capable of achieving a mobile Google page speed score similar to the one conducted by using LiveCanvas page builder. We have just disabled a jQuery loaded by WordPress (~100kb) and all bloated JavaScript loaded by Elementor, Elementor Pro, WordPress, and other plugins (~800kb). We have confirmed the main motto of LiveCanvas: “No jQuery, No FontAwesome, No JS jank = Superfast sites!”
A comparison of Google mobile page speed score for various page builders
A comparison of Google mobile page speed score
Soon, the WordPress team might manage to destroy and displace all page builders by evolving their page blocks editor Guttenberg.  Right now, Gutenberg is far better than Elementor for generating clean HTML code. But it might take several iterations for Gutenberg itself to reach the page builder level. The initial version of the full website editing with Guttenberg is about to be implemented in WordPress in its 5.8 release in July 2021. Gutenberg is built-in to WordPress itself and will become the go-to page builder for anyone once it matches the basic functionalities of Elemento Pro. But unless the WordPress team will decide to remove jQuery from the Guttenberg toolset, it will fail to get a mobile page speed score above 80 (a limit ceiling for the Oxygen Builder performance).
We can already see the appearance of new page-building tools based on Gutenberg blocks. Kadence Blocks – by Kadence Theme developer Ben Ritner – provides a set of tools to empower WordPress users to create meaningful content in the native WordPress editor. Gutenberg Blocks by KadenceBlocks plugin is a new page builder tool for WordPress, which might completely replace Elementor. This plugin adds new features to help you make more creative layouts. It’s a toolkit that enables you to create content that usually requires page builders, like Elementor. Some designers are already adopting both the Kadence Theme and Kadence Blocks to recreate Elementor website designs. Kadence is a well-designed platform that performs best on mobile devices because it loads the jQuery library only when needed. Kadence’s menu is built without the use of jQuery. So, unless you load carousels or galleries that support ‘Masonry’ style, then your JavaScript code will run without jQuery’ bloat. This is the main prerequisite to getting a perfect score in the Google Mobile PageSpeed Insights test. Only a small fraction of web designers currently utilise Kadence Blocks, but this number is increasing rapidly and is approaching Beaver Builder’s user base. Elementor and WordPress had missed their chance to buy Kadence from a lone developer. The company was sold by its founder, Ben Ritner, to Liquid Web to focus on product development.
Websites built with Elementor Pro have low mobile speed metrics, which has led to more attention being paid to new page builder tools like Bricks and Zion. These page builder tools are not yet ready to be used in agency production. Make sure there are at least 50,000 active WordPress installs before using these tools for agency work. For Zion, the current numbers are 400+.  Kadence Blocks, on the other hand, is loaded on more than 100,000 websites. Soon, Bricks will replace Oxygen and will attract a much wider audience of web developers.  In the long run, Kadence Blocks seems to be a reasonable alternative for current users of Elementor Pro.
Bricks is kind of a mix of Oxygen and Elementor functions. It’s much faster than Elementor due to code quality and technology used, and quite powerful like Oxygen for advanced stuff. Still, it is usable by non-developers as well. In my opinion, after Elementor’s price change, Bricks can fill the gap for all non-technical developers who can’t afford the new Elementor prices and aren’t “techie” enough to use Oxygen. For me, it’s becoming more and more my builder of choice every day.
I have Bricks, and after a few more refinements, it will be my builder of choice. The code is clean and the backend is faster, smoother and more logical than Oxygen. Every version of Bricks is wowing me. I think Thomas is building a quality product, and I support him. In three or four more iterations, it will be a major player. It’s lean, excellent for achieving great loading scores, and the backend is fast. The UI is good once you get used to it. I think Bricks has the most promise to become the first choice for me and many other users and developers.
If you want to simplify your website’s maintenance, for now you have to use an Elementor plugin. But it will not be there forever. Kadence and Bricks will overtake it in the next few years. Eventually, the WordPress team will “break” all page builders and take over this space.
Azur Avdic commented in The Web Design and Branding Community Facebook group:
Bricks is the new kid on the block. Thomas, the founder, is a great guy and his Facebook community is very active. The 1.0 version was very impressive. Thomas says that the builder will be ready for production use when it reaches 2.0, and that’s when they raise the prices and the introductory offer goes away. The amount of feedback people are giving Thomas and the crazy pace of development he’s doing is just incredible. The builder itself isn’t ready for some complex use cases yet, but they’ve introduced WooCommerce tools, dynamic content, and more coming soon, so it’s a tool to keep an eye out for, especially since it’s blowing Core Web Vitals out of the water. Bricks has some cool logic from Oxygen and more beginner-friendly features for those who like Elementor type of page builders, but most importantly, it doesn’t pull over the Core WordPress structure. So most plugins are compatible with it. If development continues as it is now, I imagine it will trump all other page builders in no time. Generous LTD offer and serious commitment from the team –  I think they have a bright future.
Now here we come to a crossroads. Many people hate WordPress’ native Gutenberg editor. But Gutenberg is a reality and the future of WordPress. It’s had a very slow development, but we need to recognize that WordPress has passed the point where it powers 40% of all websites on the web. When you power so much web, you can’t change things that easily. Backwards compatibility plays a big role.
There is one Gutenberg theme that beats them all: the Kadence theme and its Kadence blocks. This theme is super fast and has super clean code. Kadence has an external company that audits the code and suggests changes to the code to adhere to best practices and maintain top scores for Core Web Vitals. It has no bloat. Their blocks and theme don’t load resources that aren’t being used, have some awesome options like loading fonts locally and preloading CSS natively in the theme. Kadence brings a lot of cool options as a theme. That said, it mainly uses the Gutenberg block editor. The Kadence blocks extend Gutenberg to turn it into a page builder by simply offering blocks that resemble the regular page builder page structure.
Then they introduced Kadence Cloud so you can create a library of layouts and sections and store them in the cloud to reuse on all your sites or even sell access to your customers. You can even create a huge general library of section blocks and layouts and then offer them as the ultimate add-on to your starter templates that you sell.
On the other hand, yes, Kadence uses Gutenberg, which isn’t exactly designer-friendly right now. So for designers, it can get ugly, but if you get past that struggle and deal with it, any design is possible. For me, it’s enough, and that’s why it’s my own theme of choice. You can’t beat this theme in Core Web Vitals; it’s impossible to beat. Nothing in WordPress is that fast out of the box.
I do plan to use Bricks as well, just for the sake of being updated and keep it close.

NitroPack - Black Hat SEO speed optimisation

Johnny Nguyen
Thank you for this finding! I appreciate your write-up and due diligence in getting to the bottom of it.
Adam WPCrafter
Very interesting,
and I just shared this in my Facebook group.
Gijo Varghese
I’ve been discussing your article with my team. It’s really well written! We’ve felt the same.
It is clear that speeding up WordPress websites can be a difficult task for most web design agencies. Current study shows their low-speed score, which reflects this complexity. However, what can they do now when Google updates its algorithms to include Page Experience metrics? A new solution has emerged in the middle of 2020: NitroPack plugin from Bulgaria startup company aspires to solve all these problems by boosting mobile page load speeds measured by PageSpeed Insights and GTMetrix. The developers of this clever plugin implement software optimization steps for their caching algorithms leading to impressive speed improvements. But is it real? After all, any person who had ever received a solid computer science education would be familiar with one of its primary axioms: “Garbage in, garbage out.” This axiom is as fundamental as the energy conservation law in physics.
Our separate study had established that NitroPack developers are cheating the Page Metric Tools. They found a way not to include the entire process of evaluating and parsing CSS and JavaScript files when the Google Tools are measuring web page performance. This way, websites delivered by the NitroPack plugin can get better rankings than other websites that do follow guidelines.
We are not alone to find the dodgy tricks of the NitroPack. In his review WP Johnny writes: “I think NitroPack cheats the page scores. For example, when I tested a client site, it wouldn’t show the proper number of requests. My browser network tab showed 152 requests (5.3Mb), but GTmetrix only showed 19 requests (246kb). Congrats. They found a way to cheat the page score…but you can’t cheat the user experience.”
Please read our detailed research paper explaining how NitroPack’s plugin excludes the time for processing CSS and JS from measurements undertaken by Google Page Speed Insights or GT Metrics. It improves NitroPack customers’ page speed metrics with zero efforts to clean their bloated JavaScript code! Technically speaking, because all interactivity on a WordPress-powered site comes through JavaScript execution – NitroPack trick the Google PageSpeed Insights and GTMetrix into thinking that your site is already interactive even if it is really not.
It’s hard to agree that the NitroPack plugin manages to deliver a page loading speed improvement. In some cases, it will result in a degradation of optimised performance solely to trick Google PageSpeed algorithms.
Whilst, according to their website, the NitroPack team takes pride in their integrity, they seem to be lacking it when hiding important information from those who use and pay for their tools. NitroPack is surely not afraid to try new approaches – and they accidentally discovered that you could hack all existing Page Metric Test Tools. But hiding crucial information from your paid users looks troublesome under European consumer legislation… but maybe it’s worth a shot? After all, NitroPack team have honestly labelled the dubious mode as “Ludicrous optimisation”. NitroPack’s users are the only ones who can decide whether to use such an option.
Our study indicates something fishy on a par with the Dieselgate scandal. It might take time for Google to retaliate with the sanctions against domains served by NitroPack, and, in theory, this could lead to potential downgrades of your website’s ranking. So what should one do? Well, there is an easy option available; check whether or not your short-listed web design agency is involved in dishonest schemes like these! You should enter their website’s URL into GTMetrix, run the test,  and open the Waterfall tab. If your agency is involved in this unethical story, all files except for one HTML file will load from
How to identify that website is using NitroPack - a Black Hat SEO speed optimisation plugin

How to deal with your new web design agency

To assess a web design agency’s ability to craft an impressive website, take note of their page load time on their own site or any one of their clients’ sites if the company does not use WordPress for itself. Too many web design agencies struggle to get the load time of their WordPress site under control and are not using Elementor Pro. Few agencies will know about Kadence Blocks page builder. You should seriously question your decision to go ahead if the combined speed is lower than 150 for your agencies websites. The desktop score should be at least 85 while the mobile score should be above 65. If the agency using Black Hat SEO speed optimisation techniques like the NitroPack Cache plugin, they know very little about speed optimisation and cannot optimise your new website.
Aim to tune the Google mobile page speed values above 90 for specific landing pages for your website. Use such landing pages to optimise your organic Google traffic and Pay-Per-Click conversion rate. If possible, consider a similar increase in the mobile page load speed score for your homepage.
A strategy is what creates faster websites. Elementor is seductive to WordPress novices; they forget about reducing speed overhead and are adding features they don’t need. Mobile speed should be a key target in your design. If you can’t get past this hurdle, most users won’t hang around even to see your great content. Mobile speed affects UX, which in turn affects bounce rate and return visits.
Aim to recommend the general design layout of some Themes to your web design agency to guide them about your design preferences. Please feel free to pick up your preferred examples from templates designed for Squarespace, Weebly, Wix, Shopify, and of course, the one designed for WordPress itself. Don’t forget to consider using a Mega Menu to improve your website’s User Interface (UI) experience. Check some recent examples for Mega Menu implementations. Any preferred example will be creatively modified and developed further by your selected web design agency. If anything, you should aim to have a unique design for your website rather than another clone. It is best to implement your ideal design layout in WordPress using Kadence Blocks and Kadence Theme.
Please be aware of the requirement to provide about 700 words of meaningful content per page ( and about 2,000 words for the blog) as the Google ranking algorithm issues a penalty for the artsy websites, which are very light on content. Please check your text using freemium tools like TextOptimizer to confirm that your text looks meaningful and focused for the semantic algorithms based on machine learning. Please be aware that your content is a part of the website design – the designer needs to establish a balance between the text, images, and white space to make your web pages look clean and modern. If you hesitate to develop content on your own, please ask your web design agency to introduce you to their preferred freelance website copywriter.
Nowadays, it would be best if you considered using an Artificial Intelligence Copywrite assistant to develop good quality copy for your website. This way, you will receive a high-quality targeted website copy developed with your business and marketing message in mind. It would help if you considered carrying out keyword research to identify words frequently searched on the web but underutilised in the content of the actual websites. AI Copywriter is a powerful tool that can reword your text while inserting specific keywords identified in your research.
The loading page speed is the most technically challenging Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) aspect of your new website. Don’t forget to discuss other technical SEO aspects with your selected web design agency. However, such a topic is outside of the scope of this post.

Good luck with your project!

WebWhim is a design agency based in Cambridge, UK, that provides website design services to global clients. We are experts in graphic design and web development, with over 15 years of experience in the field. Our unique service means you only have to deal with one company from start to finish; we take care of everything for you. You can reach us at if you need help finding a solution for your project. To provide our clients with a comprehensive web development process, we have created an affordable web design package. Please click our “website design” link to see more about what we offer and how it can benefit you.
We deliver a wide range of design services, including website design and graphic design. Whether you need a logo for your company or an eCommerce store to sell products online, we can help! We also offer advice about web hosting solutions as well as technical search engine optimization (SEO). Our small but highly skilled team is always available to answer any questions.
Continue reading articles in our WordPress research portal. We have put a lot of time and effort into the technical study to provide you with the best information possible. When you’re looking for an insightful, unbiased source of information on any topic, from fast web hosting to secure eCommerce setup, our team is always up-to-date with their posts.
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