Choosing a perfect WordPress theme for your blog or business website is not an easy task. There are countless themes out there, which may look good, but when you start using it, you realize it is not your cup of tea.
None the less, a lot of theme developers recommend their own theme framework, which is also not an idle choice, as after a year or two, the framework becomes outdated due to lack of regular update.
That is why, it is of utmost importance for you to be aware of those themes, and frameworks, which are going to exist for years. For a long period of time, Genesis used to be one such framework, and now I feel it is the era of Astra themes.
I recently used the Astra theme on one of my niche websites (I shifted from Genesis to Astra), and it turned out to be a great decision. I feel now if you have to pick a theme for your next project, Astra should be your choice.
Well, you will find it soon…
Today, I’m sharing a detailed review of the Astra WordPress theme, and I will help you decide whether Astra is that theme for your site.
The best part about Astra is, it is a free WordPress theme, and run by some of the smartest folks of WordPress industry. The team is based out of Pune, and I also happened to spend some time learning about their inspirational story.
I may share the story in the days to come, but for now, lets learn more about Astra WordPress Theme.
You’ll learn more about some of the biggest reasons why Astra is so popular. Then, I’ll take you hands-on and show you how it works, as well as help you decide between Astra free vs Pro.
Introducing the Astra Theme
Astra is one of the most popular free WordPress themes in existence. In fact, if you go to the WordPress.org theme directory, Astra is the highest-ranking third-party theme – the only themes in front of it are the default WordPress themes:
Astra is a multipurpose WordPress theme, which means that you use it for virtually any type of WordPress site. You can use it for a technology blog or a fashion store or a guitar class…it can do anything you need it to.
In my opinion, there are four factors that explain Astra’s success:
- Performance – Astra is one of the fastest WordPress themes out there. Having a fast-loading WordPress site is essential, so this alone is already a huge benefit.
- Starter sites – Astra comes with hundreds of importable demo sites that help you quickly get started. This is part of what makes Astra so flexible.
- Customization options – Astra lets you customize everything about your site using the real-time WordPress Customizer. This allows for easy, code-free customization.
- Integrations – Astra is built to pair well with WordPress page builders. It also includes detailed integrations with popular plugins like WooCommerce, Learndash, and Elementor.
Astra Theme Pricing
The Astra theme is available for free at WordPress.org.
If you want more features, you can purchase Astra Pro, which is an official plugin that extends the free theme with new tools, style options, and layouts.
Astra Pro costs $59, which lets you use it on unlimited websites.
Later in this Astra theme review, I’ll show you the new features that you get with Pro and help you decide between Astra free vs Pro.
Four Reasons to Love the Astra WordPress Theme
In this section, I will expand on the four features that I think make Astra so popular. Then, I’ll take you through how the Astra theme works in the next section.
As your site’s foundation, your theme plays a large role in how quickly (or slowly) your WordPress site loads.
Because of that, one of the first things that you should look at with any theme is its performance optimization.
And when it comes to performance optimization, Astra is one of the fastest WordPress themes that you’ll find.
Astra is under 50 KB, follows coding and performance best practices, and uses no jQuery. For reference, most “regular” WordPress themes are somewhere between 250-350 KB.
To assess Astra’s performance, I set up a test website and ran performance tests for two scenarios:
- The out-of-the-box theme after first installing it on a fresh WordPress site.
- One of Astra’s free importable demo sites.
For each test scenario, I ran six separate tests with WebPageTest and took the median page load time.
With its out-of-the-box settings, Astra loaded in just 0.769 seconds and came in at 52 KB (for the entire site):
These page load times are impressive. However, it’s not a very realistic test scenario because Astra’s initial settings are quite basic. On a real website, you would have a lot more content.
To better assess Astra’s performance in a “real-world” scenario, I imported the Travel Blog demo site built with the native WordPress block editor.
With the full demo site, my test site still loaded in just 1.377 seconds with a page size of 1.720 MB and 50 HTTP requests.
All in all, Astra is one of the fastest WordPress themes out there.
I have tested some themes that are a little bit faster than Astra. However, when you combine Astra’s flexibility with its performance, I think you’ll struggle to find another theme that offers a better combination.
2. Starter Sites
Most people don’t have the time or knowledge to design their websites from scratch.
To help you quickly launch a great-looking website, Astra includes hundreds of pre-built demo sites that you can import with just a few clicks.
The unique thing about Astra’s starter templates is that they’re built using either a page builder or the native WordPress block editor.
This means that you can easily customize all of the demo content using a visual, drag-and-drop editor – no code required.
Most of Astra’s starter sites use the Elementor page builder. However, there’s also a good selection of starter sites powered by:
- The native WordPress block editor (AKA Gutenberg)
- Beaver Builder
In total, the Astra theme gives you access to 280+ importable demo sites (though some of these demo sites are duplicated across the different tools).
You can find demo sites for all types of niches and use cases. For example:
- Travel blog
- Digital agency
- WooCommerce store
- …many more
If you want to see what your options are, you can explore all of the demo sites here.
3. Customization Options
What’s more, you can adapt it to different niches – Astra can work just as well for a fashion and lifestyle blog as it can for a technology blog.
So how can Astra be so versatile?
You already learned one part of the puzzle – the hundreds of importable starter sites. But the other thing that makes Astra so flexible is its detailed options in the native WordPress theme customizer.
In the Customizer, you’ll get a ton of options for controlling your site’s:
- Blog posts (and blog list)
- Content width
Because all of these settings are available in the real-time WordPress Customizer, you’ll be able to see how each choice that you make affects your site using a live preview:
4. Page Builder Integration
Astra is built to pair well with WordPress page builder plugins, which gives you the option to design your content using drag-and-drop.
Whenever you create a new post or page, Astra gives you detailed options that let you control the canvas for your page builder.
First, you can choose between different layouts. For example, you can disable your sidebar and use a full-width canvas so that you can take over everything with your favorite page builder.
Second, you can disable specific parts of your post, like the post title or your site’s header.
All in all, if you want to use a page builder plugin such as Elementor, Beaver Builder, Brizy, etc., then Astra’s page-level controls help you get the most from your chosen plugin.
How Astra Works – Hands-On With the Theme
Now that you know some of the standout features of the Astra theme, let’s make this Astra theme review a little more hands-on.
In this section, I will show you how the Astra theme works on a real WordPress site.
Importing a Starter Site
After installing Astra, one of the first things that you’ll want to do is import one of the hundreds of starter sites.
The interface for importing demo sites is user-friendly and gives you some convenient options for choosing what to import. For example, you can:
- Choose specific pages to import. E.g. you could import the homepage and about page, but not the contact page.
- Only import the Customizer settings. This would let you make your theme’s header, footer, and general layout/style options look like the demo site. However, it wouldn’t import the demo content itself.
To access the starter sites, you’ll need to install the separate Starter Templates plugin from WordPress.org.
From there, you can go to Appearance → Starter Templates.
First, you’ll be asked to choose your preferred content editor. If you decide to import the demo content for your site, it will be built with the editor that you select:
The list of starter sites is not the same for each tool – Elementor has the largest collection of starter sites by a good margin. If you want to, say, use the native WordPress block editor, you won’t have quite as many choices.
Once you select your content editor, you’ll see a list of all the starter sites that are available for that tool.
You can use the filter and search box at the top to help narrow down the starter sites
Once you find a design that you like, you can click on it to open a larger preview and view the import options.
As I mentioned earlier, you can either:
- Import the full demo site by clicking the Import Complete Site button.
- Choose a specific design from the Page Templates list and just import that Elementor template.
If you choose to import the complete site, you’ll further get some options to choose exactly what to import:
Using the WordPress Customizer
Once you’ve imported a demo site (or decided you want to design your site from scratch), you can manage all of Astra’s other settings from the real-time WordPress Customizer:
This lets you easily change up your site’s design without needing to know any code. As you make changes, you’ll instantly see those changes appear on the live preview of your site.
For example, if you open the settings for your header, you can choose from a few different layout options:
There are a lot of options here, so you’ll want to fully explore this area.
This is also one of the parts of Astra that can feel a little overwhelming because there are so many options.
Rather than trying to configure everything from scratch, I would recommend finding a pre-made starter site where you like the basic design. Then, you can import just the WordPress Customizer settings for that demo site.
Once you have those Customizer settings as your foundation, you can just go in and make small changes as needed.
Exploring the Premium Features
If you upgrade to Astra Pro, you’ll get access to a number of new features. All of these features are modular, which means that you can enable/disable each feature.
This modular approach helps keep the Astra theme lightweight, by letting you disable features that you aren’t using.
To control which features to enable, you can go to Appearance → Astra Options:
For example, if you enable the Blog Pro module, you’ll get new layouts and options to control how your blog archive page looks.
You get three different layouts, along with options to enable certain metadata, control featured image sizes, and more:
Other Pro modules offer a similar level of customization options for:
- Navigation menus
Astra Free vs Pro: Which One Do You Need?
As I mentioned earlier, the Astra theme is available for free at WordPress.org.
Then, you also have the option of purchasing Astro Pro, which is a plugin that extends the theme with new features and options.
So…which should you use when it comes to Astra free vs Pro?
Well, you can certainly use the free version to create a great-looking website. The free version is still performance-friendly and gives you access to a huge number of starter sites.
If you, for example, find a free blogging starter site that you love, there’s no reason that you need to upgrade to Astra Pro.
So what are some reasons that you might want to upgrade to Astra Pro, then?
First, if you want to build your own design from scratch, or you want to heavily modify one of the starter sites, then Astra Pro just generally gives you a lot more flexibility when it comes to:
- Other style options
- Layouts (for blog posts, header, footer, etc.)
For example, the Pro version comes with lots of new blog layouts, which gives you more control over what your individual blog posts and blog list looks like.
Overall, if you want to customize your site beyond what’s available in the free starter sites, you’ll be a lot happier with the Pro version.
The second big reason to upgrade to Astra Pro is for the integrations.
You will absolutely want to upgrade to Astra Pro if you’re building a site based on:
While the free version gives you limited integrations for all of those plugins, the extra features and integration capabilities in Astra Pro are definitely worth the price.
Finally, if you’re a developer, Astra Pro gives you some other useful options, like the ability to inject code into Astra’s many hooks.
You can view a detailed comparison of all the features in free vs Pro on this page.
Astra Theme Review Final Thoughts
Overall, there’s a reason why the Astra theme has grown so quickly to become active on over 800,000 sites while maintaining a perfect 5-star rating on almost 4,000 reviews at WordPress.org.
It’s multipurpose, fast, flexible, and integrates with popular page builders and plugins.
One thing to consider is that, if you don’t see a demo site that you love, it can feel a little overwhelming to try to set up all of Astra’s customization options by yourself.
When you first install the Astra theme, it looks very basic, which can confuse some people. You won’t have a beautiful theme right out of the box with Astra.
If you’re not going to use a demo site, that means you’ll need to invest some time into exploring all of the options in the WordPress Customizer.
However, that fact is also a big part of what makes Astra so popular:
You can use it to create any type of website because it’s so flexible.
If you feel overwhelmed by Astra’s many customization options, you can import one of the hundreds of pre-built demo sites to simplify the setup process. With just a few clicks, you will have that beautiful website that you imagined.
Or, if you want full control, you can control every bit of your theme using the real-time WordPress Customizer. It takes some time to explore all of the options that Astra gives you, but you’ll be able to customize virtually everything about your site without writing a line of code (especially with Astra Pro).
All in all, if you’re looking for a quality WordPress theme, you won’t go wrong with Astra.
Have you used Astra theme? Share your review of Astra theme in the comment section below.
Here are a few more WordPress themes that I have reviewed recently:
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