The power and flexibility of Oxygen allows us to build highly custom WordPress websites, without the use of multiple plugins -- Nate Fineberg
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One of our new year’s resolution was to put our website on a diet and with Oxygen we’ve been able to shed a few kilobytes

When you're starting up you're wise to choose the path of least resistance to get stuff done, including getting a website ASAP. That was a couple of years ago and since going live we've been guilty of not practicing what we have been preaching to our customers: to limit the number of plugins and third party scripts installed and run a lean WordPress stack.

We were running 32 plugins, which isn’t a crazy-high number but high nevertheless. Did we need them all? Nope.

Here’s a couple that we deleted as part of the first phase of our diet: Pixel Cat Lite (replaced by Google Tag Manager), Slider Revolution (as we didn’t have any sliders on our site) and Head, Footer and Post Injections (which became redundant once were-built pages using Oxygen).

I’m not naming and shaming here. These are good plugins that have proved their worth many times over. They’re not just not must-have plugins for us anymore.

If you want to go on a diet best not to hang out at a WP Bakery

Gotta cut the carbs out, right?

WPBakery hasn’t got the best reputation but is still used and liked by many.

It’s one of the older page builders and often bundled in themes you can get via marketplaces such as Theme Forest and Template Monster. I built my first WordPress website with it and it allowed me, a non-programmer, to have control over layout, design and quickly put together a decent website. It wouldn’t be my choice of page builder today because I perceive it as a car manufacturer that has decided to stick to the combustion engine for the long term.

The case for switching to a new page builder

I'll explain why Oxygen in a sec. First, let me point out why it made sense from a practical and business perspective.

  • We wanted to ditch Nitro Pack and a number of other performance-related plugin. Nitro offers incredible performance we experienced too many conflicts with other plugins
  • We wanted to either develop our own Theme or use a page builder to do so (generating some lean and mean code in the process)
  • Having used Elementor extensively we wanted a more visual tool to seed up our workflow significantly, but that was also dev-friendly
  • Flexibility - you can easily create completely different designs in the same instance of WordPress. Which is what we did with our blog.
  • Performance because milliseconds matter.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lawrence Ladomery
My first job in digital was back in 1998 and have worked for all kinds of organizations, from startups to Government, agencies and businesses of all shapes and sizes. I've been using WordPress 12 years but fell in love with it in 2017 when I started working in the web hosting space and getting to know the community. I am also a big fan of Elementor and run the Elementor Melbourne Meetup.
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Why we chose Oxygen

There’s a lot of chatter about Oxygen on the socials and for good reason. But we did our homework and researched options and asked around for advice too

Gutenberg - The Block Editor isn’t quite there yet, IMHO. More people are starting to rave about it but there always seems to be a major limitation stopping users from embracing it in full. The 2 / 5 rating on WordPress.org doesn’t instil confidence either. I’ve tried it out a couple of times but I never make it past the 5 minute mark before installing Elementor.

Divi - No one in our team is a fan, to be honest. I’ve used it recently on a project and didn’t find it particularly intuitive. That said, they have a significant user base and it’s a tried and tested product. Without an ‘internal champion’ it had no chance.

Elementor - This was my #1 choice and it’s hard to make a case against it. Some like to point out it’s Inception-style div nesting, but in my experience that has little impact on performance. I didn’t push hard for it for a non-technical reason: Elementor is used by 5 million people and has a ton of cash in the bank. I thought it would be good to work with and promote a page builder that, like us, is still relatively new in the market.

So why Oxygen? With three solid options off the table, here’s the reason why we chose Oxygen: Nate Fineberg of Group6 Interactive suggested take a close look at it.

Nate is an agency partner / speed demon. I featured him in my Page Speed: What We Learned By Analyzing 1,500 Agency Websites piece last year and he's been using and advocating Oxygen for a while now.

Here’s what we said that convinced us to go with it.

Our agency moved exclusively to Oxygen Builder in the beginning of 2020, it first caught our attention with its impressive performance, speed and unique themeless building system. Unlike other page builders, Oxygen is optimized out of box and only loads assets as needed, reducing page requests and bloat. The power and flexibility of Oxygen allows us to build highly custom WordPress websites, without the use of multiple plugins. With Oxygen, anything is possible.

Yep, he’s definitely a fan.

Oxygen’s own waxing lyrical - their Here's why Oxygen websites load so quickly post - makes a compelling case too.

Also, the UX is not too dissimilar from Elementor, which helps.

Before and after the Oxygen diet

We did make some minor changes during the re-build, admittedly. Removing unnecessary plugins, rationalizing our fonts and making a better use of Google Tag Manager for third party scripts. So we’re comparing apples with… lighter apples.

I should also mention that we disabled caching and optimization plugins to be able to measure performance of code freshly generated from the page builder.

On this note, we used NitroPack very effectively on our old site. Nitro is very fast. A word of warning, though: it’s brutally effective. We’ve seen it break styles and layouts on some customer websites. It’s not exactly cheap either.

Now that I’ve set the context let’s look at some GTMetrix data. If you’re not familiar with GTMetrix best if you jump on our Understanding the New GTmetrix Report post first to learn about their grading system.

Here are they KPIs of our WPBakery-powered website:

And here’s the same for our new, Oxygen-built version.

Now, let’s look at a breakdown of the homepage’s various components and see how they compare.

 WP BakeryOxygen
Total Page Size3.08 MB2.03 MB
Total Page Requests237152
Javascript1.97 MB
(32.9% of total page requests)
1.14 MB
(28.2% of total page requests)
Images360 KB
(26.2% of total page requests)
417 KB
(38.5% of total page requests)
CSS311 KB
(13.9% of total page requests)
186 KB
(13.5% of total page requests)
Fonts289 KB
(7.2% of total page requests)
206 KB
(6.4% of total page requests)
HTML128 KB
(4.1% of total page requests)
67 KB
(3.2% of total page requests)
Videos24.4 KB
(0.8% of total page requests)
24.4 KB
(1.2% of total page requests)
Other21.8 KB
(0.9% of total page requests)
15.9 KB
(0.8% of total page requests)

The story here is that Oxygen produces a page that is 30% lighter, with lighter Javascript and CSS code and significantly less requests.

Looking at Browser Timings you get a sense how much quicker assets render too:

 WP BakeryOxygen
Time to First Byte384 ms114 ms
First Contentful Paint

1,000 ms655 ms
DOM Interactive Time1,900 ms987 ms
Onload Time4,800 ms2,100 ms

Oxygen’s performance gain here is more evident, starting with a much faster TTFB and getting to the Onload Time goalpost in half the time.

Our blog performs even better

Another reason we chose Oxygen is that it makes it easy to design and manage templates, which is why our blog looks different from the rest of the site.

Let’s have a quick look at how the Blog’s homepage performs:

That’s marginally better. The page is less heavy and has fewer external requests too, which explains the slightly better performance.

The big win wasn’t the faster page load speed but the quick turnaround in getting it built.

Is Oxygen the right page builder for you?

As I mentioned earlier, I would have built it in Elementor. Primarily because I would have been able to rebuild the site myself.

If you’re looking for a page builder for a personal project have a look at the new kids on the block: Bricks and Live Canvas. They both perform very well but I feel they aren't mature enough to underpin a website like ours.

Workflow matters too, so try them out to get a sense of how easy they are to use. Including WP Bakery -- we might have moved away but it remains a solid product used by millions of people.

Coming soon: the Page Builder Summit

It's going to be held between 10th - 14th May 2021 and a good opportunity to learn more about the major page builders. Oxygen are one of the sponsors so they'll be around if you have any questions. Sign up for it here.

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