Skin: The Best Free WordPress Theme Under 250ms

I am not usually a big fan of free WordPress themes as a lot of them aren’t that great or the developer stops supporting them after a short period of time. I love MyThemeShop and use the schema theme on this site. But there is a new free open source WordPress theme in the WP community called Skin, and after trying it out I have to say I was very impressed! It is definitely the best free WordPress theme out there for bloggers.

Skin: Best Free WordPress Theme

Mohammed Kaludi & Ahmed Kaludi, two brothers, started the Skin project out of a humble need to give back to the WordPress community. They also run Magazine3, a premium WordPress shop for magazine themes. These guys aren’t new to the WordPress theme development game and have been doing it for a long time. The great thing about Skin is that it is completely open source, built with bootstrap, and free. They aren’t charging for this theme and it is available via Github and soon will be on the WordPress repository.

“So, What’s the Catch?… None, this is how we give back to WP community!” – Ahmed

Skin Features

  • Four different header designs
  • 3 different content layouts
  • 2 featured sliders
  • It is fast folks!
  • No bloatware
  • 100% Responsive
  • WooCommerce Supported
  • Menu menu
  • SEO Friendly (Review and rating with Schema support)
  • Google Fonts
  • WordPress Customizer
  • Retina Ready
  • Font Awesome
  • Multisite Support
  • Related posts

Header Designs

Skin has a lot of different styles out of the box. Make sure to check out their 10 demos. They have four different header styles to choose from within the WordPress customizer.

skin header one

skin header two

skin header three

skin header four

Content Layouts

Skin has three different content layouts you can choose from. I prefer layout two, but I am glad they included other options as well.

skin wordpress theme content layout 1

skin wordpress theme content layout 2

skin wordpress theme content layout 3

Testing the Skin Theme

You can grab the latest version of the Skin theme from theskin.io. When you first install the Skin theme you will see a recommendation to also install the Skin Toolkit.

wordpress theme skin toolkit

I recommend installing this as it will give you the options to enable mega menu and also review. Kudos to them for adding review schema! I love a good developer thinking of SERPs. This will add stars to your SERP listings. This helps so much with CTR on your reviews, most people don’t realize.

best wordpress theme skin toolkit

I am running the Skin theme on my test domain, growthminer.io. It is pretty basic right now, but feel free to check it out! Below is what it looks like on my desktop.

review skin wordpress theme

And here is how it looks on mobile.

skin wordpress theme mobile

The theme was pretty fast right off the bat! I added some content and tweaked it a little bit so you could see how it would look like. The real thing I wanted to test was how fast I could get the theme to run, after customizing it. As many of you know I am obsessed with how to speed up WordPress themes. And this is what I came up with.

growthminer skin wordpress theme

Src: Pingdom Test Skin WordPress Theme

Not too shabby! I’ll take 202ms.

skin theme gtmetrix

Src: GTmetrix Test Skin WordPress Theme

And I also managed to score 100/100 on Google PageSpeed Insights. Mobile is not quite 100 yet, but if I spend some more time on it I could get it there.

pagespeed insights skin theme

Src: PageSpeed Insights Test Skin WordPress Theme

Very impressive for a free WordPress theme! In fact probably the best I have ever seen. Now the following above didn’t happen out of the box, but what matters to me is being easily able to tweak a new theme to achieve this. A lot of bloated themes will never see these speeds as you would have to gut pretty much the entire theme. Thankfully the Skin theme is very lightweight already and just needs a little optimization. I got the scores above within 15 minutes of setting up the theme. And here is how I did it.

Disable Those Stupid Emojis

Someone in the WordPress community thought it would be cool to add emoji support in WP 4.2, grrrr. What this does is it generates an additional HTTP request to wp-emoji-release.min.js?ver=4.3.1. So first things first, you will want to disable that. Check out my post on how to disable emojis in WordPress.

Enable CDN

keycdn

Using a content delivery network (CDN) is one of the easiest ways to speed up your site around the globe. Check out my post on why everyone should be using a content delivery network. I use KeyCDN on all of my sites. It is by far the most affordable and high-performance WordPress CDN on the market. I deploy KeyCDN with the free CDN Enabler plugin.

Optimize Images

You have to optimize your images folks! Over 60% of a page’s content is made up of images. I use the Optimus WordPress plugin to achieve on average a 39% additional lossless compression on my entire WordPress media library. This plugin also lets you convert your images to Google’s WebP format which results in much smaller file sizes when compared to JPG or PNG.

Install Cache Enabler + Autoptimize

Now it is time to minify that CSS and Javascript and cache it. I use a combination of the free WordPress Cache Enabler plugin and the free Autoptimize plugin.

Cache Enabler Settings

In the Cache Enabler plugin I have pre-compression check and also the serving up of WebP images. Also under Cache Minification I have HTML & Inline JS selected.

cache enabler plugin

Autoptimize Settings

Under Autoptimize settings I have HTML, Javascript, and CSS checked and make sure to enter in your CDN base URL.

autoptimize settings

Under the advanced settings uncheck the “Force Javascript in <head>?” This will load the javascript in the footer.

force javascript footer

Then check “Inline all CSS.”

inline css

Tweak Font Awesome Delivery

font awesome

By default, the developers include Font Awesome in the theme which is awesome for most people. But I guess I am not most people. I want it loading from a CDN to be super fast for everyone. KeyCDN sponsors a free Font Awesome CDN which you can use instead. Since the developers include it we need to rip it out and replace it. So under your functions.php file remove the following line of code.

wp_enqueue_style( 'font-awesome', get_template_directory_uri() . '/assets/css/font-awesome.min.css', array() );

Then in your footer.php file add the following line of code right before the </body> tag.

<link href="https://opensource.keycdn.com/fontawesome/4.5.0/font-awesome.min.css" rel="stylesheet">

Tweak Google Fonts Delivery

Next the Google fonts are render-blocking when enqueued by the WordPress function. So we need rip this out and replace it. So under your functions.php file remove the following line of code.

wp_enqueue_style( 'skin-google-fonts', '//fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Roboto:400,300,500,700', false );

I then place the Google font that I am using in the footer. Note, by doing this it will result in FOUT (flash of unstyled text). In your footer.php file add the following line of code right before the </body> tag. Noticed I also take out some of the font weights that I don’t use for faster download times.

<link href='https://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Roboto:400,700' rel='stylesheet' type='text/css'>

Use Google Analytics Lite Script

By default Google Analytics has a 2-hour cache life and this will prevent you from scoring 100/100 with Google PageSpeed Insights. So I use the ga-lite script instead. I place the following code right before my </body> tag.

<script src="https://cdn.jsdelivr.net/ga-lite/latest/ga-lite.min.js" async></script>
<script>
var galite = galite || {};
galite.UA = 'UA-XXXXXX'; // Insert your tracking code here
</script>

Note: this script has some issues, but works fine for pageviews. Test it yourself before using in production.

Remove Author Gravatar Request in Theme

Now this is one modification which I think the Skin developers should change. By default it pulls the gravatar of the author and places it above each post. This results in an extra HTTP request to gravatar.com which in my opinion is unnecessary.

gravatar

To get rid of this take out the following line of code from your layout-x.php file. This will vary based on which layout you are using. And you will have to connect via FTP to edit this file. For example, mine is here: \Skin-WordPress-Theme-master\elements\home-layout\layout-2.php

<?php echo get_avatar( get_the_author_meta( 'ID' ), 30 ); ?>

Last Tweaks with Gonzales Plugin

The last tweaks I made was excluding a few additional scripts from loading by using the amazing Gonzales WordPress plugin. Here are my settings below. I disabled the following everywhere.

gonzales skin wordpress theme

This is probably another thing that should be fixed with the theme. If I am not using the slider it shouldn’t be loading the scripts for the sliders.

And that’s it! Of course I always recommend a speedy webhost as well. Kinsta and InMotion Hosting are my personal favorites.

Summary

Overall I was very impressed with Skin and can honestly say it is the best free WordPress theme I have used to date. Also there is a community starting to build around it and being open source we can all help make this theme better! I highly recommend giving the Skin theme a try.

Download Skin

If this review was helpful, please let me know below! Also would love to hear what you think of the theme after you try it.

Skin WordPress Theme
  • Features
  • Speed
  • Pricing
  • Coding
4.8

Summary

Skin is by far the best free WordPress theme I have used to date. It loads super fast, is very lightweight and includes everything you need for SERPs such as review schema. It comes with quite a few different layouts and header styles you can choose from. I definitely recommend trying it out on your next project.

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10 Comments

  1. Ragul February 1, 2016
    • Brian Jackson February 1, 2016
      • Ragul February 1, 2016
  2. Pankaj C. February 2, 2016
  3. Lorenz Crood February 5, 2016
    • Brian Jackson February 5, 2016
      • Lorenz Crood February 5, 2016
  4. abcya February 27, 2016
  5. Kasia @Leadpaginas.nl July 25, 2016

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