When searching for a good theme for our site there are two themes stand out from the crowd mainly from performance perspective. GeneratePress and Astra are those themes that offer similar performance features. In our earlier article, we have reviewed GeneratePress theme that we are planning to use on this site soon. In this article, we will review Astra WordPress theme that we are using on some of our other sites.
WP Astra WordPress Theme
Astra is the theme developed by Brainstorm Force, a company behind some popular WordPress products. Their product portfolio includes Convert Pro, Schema Pro and Ultimate Addons for page builders like Gutenberg, Elementor and Beaver.
- You can download and install the free theme from WordPress repository. It is one of the popular themes in WordPress repository with almost 5K, 5 star rating and 1+ million active installs.
- Actively supported in free WordPress support forum as well on the developer’s site.
- Free version has restrictions on customizing theme settings and has limited features.
- The premium version comes as an Astra Pro plugin that will allow you to customize the free theme further.
In this article, we will primarily focus on the premium Astro version for the review.
As mentioned, you need to look for Astra only when the speed is a primary factor for your site. With Google forcing speed and planning to include Core Web Vitals as a ranking factor, business site owners and bloggers have no other option than looking for lightweight themes. Astra theme adds less than 50KB to the website that can easily help you to get 100/100 Google PageSpeed score.
- The theme is also optimized for WooCommerce, so you can have fast loading product pages that can help you to convert better.
- Integrates Schema.org setup to stand out in the search results.
- Supports AMP natively so that the layout will not break.
You can purchase Astra either annually or with one lifetime payment. Astra Pro is the basic plan you can get for $59, the Essential Bundle is available for $276 and the Growth Bundle for $523. The Essential Bundle plan offers additional plugins like WP Portfolio and one add-on bundle for page builders. You can get all the plugins from the developer with Growth Bundle that includes Schema Pro and Convert Pro.
All plans offer one year support and updates with unlimited website usage. As you can see the above pricing screen, there will be always some discounts and you can get the Pro theme for as low as $41. We recommend you to first purchase Astra Pro annual plan, if you are happy with the theme you can upgrade to lifetime plan anytime later.
After installing and activating Astra theme, go to “Appearance > Astra Options” menu. From here, you have the following options:
- Customize the settings by navigating “Customize” section.
- Activate the Astra Pro modules you need on your site.
- Install additional plugins from Brainstorm Force.
- Install importer plugin and import one of the starter templates.
- Go to documentation or submit a ticket.
The customizer section allows you to setup logo, site layout, header/footer, breadcrumb, sidebar, blog and other settings. You can navigate and customize the options similar to any other theme.
Astro Pro Add On
As mentioned, you have to purchase an Astra Pro plugin for getting premium features. After activating the premium plugin, go to “Appearance > Astra Options” and enable the module you like to use on your site.
Here are some of the notable features with the Pro addon:
- Adjust the content margin/padding to change the site layout as per your wish.
- Customize colors, typography and layouts.
- Import free starter templates to start your site from a pre-defined template.
- Customizable header and footer design.
- Sticky header, WooCommerce optimized and scroll to top link.
- Integration with popular page builder plugins.
- Hooks and filters to insert code.
One of the prominent feature with Astra is the ability to insert code on your page layout. For example, with other themes you may need an additional plugin to insert Google Analytics tracking code. With Astra Pro, you can go to “Appearance > Astra Options > Custom Layouts” section to create hooks and filter for your site.
- Create hooks and insert with the predefined position on your layout.
- Use custom code editor or use editor with page builder.
- Select display rule and user role to for each hook you create.
Using this option, you can insert Analytics code, advertisement and display banners without additional plugin. Alternatively, you can install Astra Hooks plugin and use the limited hooks available in customizer settings.
Another good feature is that you do not need to start building your site from scratch. There are 20+ free starter templates you get with the Pro theme. You can install the demo importer plugin and install one of the starter templates. In this way, you can quickly get the beautiful layout and start focusing on your content.
You can also choose the templates for Gutenberg, Elementor, Beaver and Brizy to continue creating site with your favorite page builder plugin.
Astra theme offers extensive documentation and you can get answers to almost all your queries there. For free theme support, you can post your query in WordPress forum and for premium theme, you can use their support forum or raise a ticket to get response.
Are There any Issues With Astra Theme?
Well, Astra theme adds less than 50KB size to the frontend with no jQuery. In addition, you can customize each portion of the theme as per your need. However, there is one big problem we felt when using Astra and GeneratePress themes. These two themes look like duplication of each other in terms of selling model (free theme and pro version through plugin) and theme options. Both themes have similar options – using system font, module activation, offer hooks, similar layout settings, template library and focusing on speed optimization to mention a few. When you look at the development history, GeneratePress was released much earlier than Astra while the later became popular primarily due to marketing efforts. Though there are many other themes (example – Kadence WP) also come with similar feature, we felt Astra theme is like a forked version of GeneratePress.
If you do not worry about this similarity, then Astra is the best option for building a website with blazing speed. Below are the pros and cons of Astra theme we found after using the theme.
- Blazing speed with no jQuery.
- Typography and layout options.
- Module based activation.
- Similar to GeneratePress theme.
- Limited starter templates for Pro plan.
- Many additional plugins needed.