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AMcDermott says

Yes, plugins can help a lot, but let’s not put it all back on the end users -

There is plenty of stuff that theme authors can do to ensure the theme is optimised for speed – minimising number of scripts used, using CSS sprites for icons, ensuring default background and texture images are optimised, etc, etc.

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pixelentity says

More than once, plugins like W3 Total Cache and their minifying features broke our code. We do provide options in all our themes to use uncompressed sources or single minified js/css, lately we also included lazy-loading.

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GravityDept says

Some authors have been building for performance (wink wink) for years. Buyers just need to take notice. Fat, slow frontend code in most themes these days is finally making them do that.

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rvision_ says

Some authors have been building for performance (wink wink) for years. Buyers just need to take notice. Fat, slow frontend code in most themes these days is finally making them do that.

+1

http://mir.aculo.us/dom-monster/

Just use the DOM monster bookmarklet and check out the demos of some themes. You’ll be surprised how badly coded they are and how many issues arise.

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Dream-Theme says

A minified CSS/JS file won’t be accepted, Google advice applies to many server settings.

Thing is, buyers should start seeing themes for what they’re meant to be: a framework. I’ve said it before, a template is not a full blown, optimized and performance tweaked site, ready to go live. It’s your/your developer’s job to handle that. In WordPress, a plugin handles that (caching, minification) with a single click.

This is not to say that many themes would do with some optimization, especially when it comes to scripts loading where they’re not needed. But at the end of the day, authors sell a framework, nothing else.
+1
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ChapterThemes says

I’ve seen people so over-configuring their W3C cache plugin that it made their site even run slower. I don’t like cache plugins, pain in the ass when needing to debug somewhere :) And sometimes it’s hardly really faster.

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digitalimpact says

I’ve seen people so over-configuring their W3C cache plugin that it made their site even run slower. I don’t like cache plugins, pain in the ass when needing to debug somewhere :) And sometimes it’s hardly really faster.

+1. Indeed, I’ve also seen this numerous times. And it will always be like that; people will prefer clicking a few options themselves (without any real idea of what they’re doing), instead of paying a professional for a well done job.

However, this over-configuring issue doesn’t change the fact that a template shouldn’t be responsible for optimizing your site. Of course, it should be properly coded, it should load scripts only when needed, it should try and use sprites where possible and so on and so forth.

Thing is, most of the real optimization takes place server side; THAT, is far beyond the reach and scope of a template.

Chris said it well earlier; you could minify your entire code – if the user has 5 plugins active that each add 2-3 js/css files, your hard work won’t make any difference.

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pixelentity says

It depends on how you split your js code, for instance we have a class based, modular js/css framework made by a lot of small files. We can reuse code by including the relevant class rather than copy/paste block all around, if we fix a bug in a file, then it’s fixed for all our items, it uses native wp script dependencies system and so on.

The only disadvantage is that themes/templates end up including 40+ js / 15+ css files so we also provide single minified css/js option.

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dnp_theme says

It’s not just about js and / or css compression. Think about you get a site with a homepage that’s full of sliders and features. Page load is incredibly slow!!

An author here would perhaps do that to increase his sales, but YOU, the front-end developed, YOU are the one to decide on the content and the features. YOU must adopt the design in such a way that on each page you have ONLY ONE big feature and not more.

Example: one page with slider and some other content, or some page with portfolio filter and content, you cannot make page with both slider and portfolio filter. It’s incredibly slow and completely NOT efficient because both the slider and the filterable portfolio are great ways to showcase your best content, you cannot create competition between them as hierarchical structure. Perhaps my EN is not perfect now, but you get the point.

Think about it.

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pixelentity says

The reality is that, as author here, you cannot ignore the fact majority of buyers are far more concerned about the page look rather than how it performs.

While mixing complex js components in the same page could potentially lead to bad performances on older hardware or mobile, you still provide the option to do that because most buyers simply don’t care about it.

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