astra theme review astra pro theme review

Astra Theme Review: Is it the Best WordPress Theme?

Astra WordPress theme has made so much noise in recent years that it now enlists itself in must-consider WordPress themes for anyone who wishes to start with a WordPress site or plan to upgrade the existing one.

Whether you want to make a blog, an agency website, an e-commerce store, or a news site, the Astra theme can serve as an al-rounder.

You get so much under one roof that it becomes hard to look away without testing it.

So does it really mean you shouldn’t look elsewhere and Astra theme is the one-stop place?

IsIs Astra a good theme after all, and whether the Astra theme or one of its pre-built Astra website templates is the right choice for your site? 

My Astra theme review will explain everything about this WordPress theme.

Let’s dive deep and explore the following areas:

What is an Astra theme and who developed it?

Astra is one of the fastest-growing and lightweight themes in the WordPress repository, where more than 1 million installs show a solid trust the WordPress community has demonstrated on this piece of code. It looks clean and versatile.

On wordpress.org, it stands next to default WordPress theme 2021 and another popular theme, Hello Elemento – all of them sharing the million+ download club.

Popular WordPress themes

Well, 2021 is the mandatory theme with every WordPress install, so its popularity is no surprise, but Astra getting there and touching the mark is undoubtedly a tremendous accomplishment for its developers.

What’s unique about Astra among the three free WordPress themes is the 5-star rating from over 4000 users, which also shows why it could rank high in the list of best WordPress themes of 2021.

Astra theme rating

Besides, Astra’s popularity lies in its being lightweight. As its maker claims, the theme merely puts less than 50KB load on the frontend. And interestingly, this fully customizable free theme provides native support for the following:

  • schema.org
  • AMP
  • All popular page builders, including Elementor, Beaver Builder, Visual Composer, Divi, etc.
  • It is woocommerce ready.

Developed by Brainstorm Force, who has been building WordPress themes and plugins for over a decade, it gives us confidence that they are no new to the business.

Brainstorm Force says they have been developing websites for clients well before launching Astra. However, it always challenged them to find a flexible theme that served every niche. 

Their hunt for the best became a reason to design the best customizable WordPress theme.

Why consider the Astra theme? Is Astra a good theme?

Successful themes always get the love of developers and this is why it has made its way to the list of best customizable WordPress themes.

But on top of everything Astra boasts, four of its features impressed me the most.

  1. It’s incredibly lightweight, and you don’t need to worry about the precious loading time, which is one of the top-ranking factors for Google. Astra doesn’t run JQuery, and coupled with clean coding techniques; the entire theme size is just under 50KB.
  2. Although it apparently lacks those flashy features that usually entice viewers, still, you can customize it in every way possible.
  3. A theme can also succeed when it can work with almost every plugin. Astra doesn’t usually clash with any popular plugin, creating wider acceptability.
  4. You can create professional-looking websites in just a few minutes instead of wasting day customizing themes.

They have built a robust ecosystem of self-developed free WordPress plugins around their theme. 

For example, Ultimate Addons for Beaver Builder and Ultimately Addons for Elementor are a few of their popular plugins, hinting us why Astra integrates so well with popular page builders.  

As WordPress users, we know how hard it is to avoid a clash between our themes and plugins. Any conflict after a random update could cease functionality on the website, and it can become a nightmare for webmasters, beginners, or seasoned.

The bottom line is the loss of traffic and revenue.

To cope with this, Brainstorm Force has developed over a dozen free plugins that blend nicely with their theme and let it run smoothly without compromising the website speed and overall performance.

Here is a list of plugins they have put for free on wordpress.org.

  1. Starter Templates — Elementor, WordPress & Beaver Builder Templates
  2. Elementor Header & Footer Builder
  3. Gutenberg Blocks – Ultimate Addons for Gutenberg
  4. Astra Widgets
  5. Astra Hooks
  6. Astra Bulk Edit
  7. Astra Customizer Reset
  8. Astra Theme Visual Hooks
  9. Astra Security Suite – Firewall & Malware Scan
  10. Import / Export Customizer Settings
  11. Home Page Banner for Astra Theme
  12. Custom Fonts
  13. Custom Adobe Fonts (Typekit)
  14. Custom Template for LearnDash
  15. Header Footer for Beaver Builder

Astra theme features

Astra theme after the release of the 3.0 version is much improved. It has been reorganized with everything stacked up at relevant places.

If you want to start a blog and don’t want to spend a dime on a premium theme, you can stay happy with the free version of Astra, which offers a fascinating set of tools to design your website.

Astra has everything locked under the customization menu of WordPress. It is a much better approach than designing a bloated feature page that some themes like Newspaper offer.

astra theme custom options

On Newspaper, it only adds too much load to the backend area; no need to say it is cumbersome to handle on the low-powered budget hosting plans.

To keep things lighter and easily loadable, you can land on the Astra theme customization menu under the Appearance > Customize page.

So what do you get on a basic theme?

astra theme customization menu
Astra theme customization menu (free version)

Global Settings

The global settings menu helps to change typography text/background colors and alter the width of your site.

Header Builder

You can control the size and style of the header area through a drag and drop menu which is even easy enough for novice users. You can put a logo, menus, tagline, social icons, etc., in any of the three available bars above header, primary header, and below the header.

Moreover, each position has additional compartments for housing elements in the left, right, or center pocket.

In addition to placing header items, the place also allows altering the header area’s typography, colors, and background.

If you love to put transparent headers on top of your site, this is the place to tweak things.

Breadcrumb

Not everyone likes to put breadcrumbs on top of our post, but still, they have SEO value for certain site types. Here, you can control your breadcrumbs’ positioning, placement, formatting, and style.

You can even choose to disable them on specific page types.

Blog

The blog is where you can control the structure and look of content, meta info, and related posts inside individual posts. It also allows doing a little formatting on archive pages.

I think the free version can give you several features to change the looks of your posts.

Sidebar

Here you can choose between left, right, or no sidebar at all. You can enable or disable it on certain positions such as archive pages, blog posts, etc.

It even allows to increase or decrease the sidebar width.

Footer Builder

Like the header, you can place content/widgets in the footer area, change copyright info, and format the entire place.

Performance

Google fonts can put some extra load and affect your site’s loading time, although we prefer to choose them for their beauty. But every millisecond of load time is precious. Astra theme has this native solution to minimize the negative impact of loading Google fonts.

You can load Google fonts locally or preload them, which is really helpful to attain a good loading speed.

Plugins bundled with the free theme

The Astra theme-free version is bundled with 9 extra plugins for extending its functionality manifolds. After installing the theme, you can see them lying “inactive” on the Astra Options page like this.

astra theme free plugins
Set of free plugins bundled with Astra theme (free version)

This is what each plugin gives you when activated.

  • Ultimate Addons for Gutenberg boost Gutenberg’s default power by adding several preformatted blocks, including star rating, review schema, table of contents, price list, post grid, advanced heading, and a lot more stuff that you can enjoy.
  • Sidebar Manager allows replacing the default sidebar and its content with the one you want to place on a specific position. For example, your clothing store might need to display the latest deals besides a single post instead of the latest content or the latest post that you might display on the main sidebar on the home page.
  • Custom Fonts and Custom Typekit Fonts give you the power to upload your own font family instead of relying on the ones coming with the theme. Similarly, you can add the Adobe fonts if that looks good on your site. So lots of font options here.
  • As the name says, Astra Bulk Edit lets you edit your posts in bulk in the dashboard area. You can change sidebars on them, change post layouts, add/remove feature images and header/footers for multiple posts at once.

Starter Templates

Astra theme is friendlier with three popular page builders – Elementor, Beaver Builder, and Gutenberg blocks.

You can still enjoy Astra’s free templates if you don’t have the pro version of Elementor and Beaver Builder.

Their free template library is available to all the users who can choose from among several free templates that seem enough for most of us.

How to import templates?

Astra provides a “Starter Templates” free WordPress plugin (Importer Plugin) on the Astra Options page. It provides access to the template library. If you are too cautious about the loading speed of your site and only want to sick with Gutenberg block instead of Elementor or Beaver, you can still select a free template from a huge repository.

Importer plugin for starter templates
Install importer plugin

Does a free template slow down your site?

Yes, but only fractionally. Sometimes you cannot feel the change. You can see the table in the performance section below to find out the difference in loading time after importing the Astra theme template.

Astra theme pro version

Although the free version of the Astra theme is enough for most situations, the Astra Pro can unleash an entire range of features giving you nearly complete control over the website’s design, layout, and formatting.

To give you an example, let me share what the typography module unfolds within the Astra Pro.

astra theme blog setting
Blog/Archive setting free version (left), Pro version (right)

Inside customization, the “design” tab in the blog/archive page can show edit options for taking control over the design and formatting of Archive Title Font, Post Title Font, Meta Font, and even Pagination Font.

Whereas, in the case of the free version, it is only limited to editing the font size of the Archive title and Post title.

Similarly, in the Single Post setting area, the Astra Pro can let you fully play with the Post title, meta info, and related posts’ title and meta info. Whereas I could only alter the Post Title in the free version.

I can describe in this review what each of the modules does extra in the Pro version, but it might bore you. Astra theme makers have taken care of it already.

You can get a complete overview of each module by clicking the module name. Brainstorm Force has given us much detailed documentation.

Still, I have used every module in my video review to show their impact on a live site.

How to activate Astra Pro?

Astra Pro is the plugin you can download from the Astra dashboard soon after purchasing Astra Pro. This add-on plugin reveals the true theme power.

download astra pro
Astra Pro dashboard
astra pro plugin

Astra theme performance

With so many overwhelming features, free plugins, and flexible design, is it also a fast theme for WordPress?

Everyone, including Google, loves the sites that are blazing fast, especially on mobile devices.

Although there are tons of factors behind a quick load time, such as the hosting server, its location, content type, one of the significant elements is the quality of coding and the size of the theme, at least this stands true in the case of WordPress-based sites.

I installed the Astra free version on our test site that only carries some basic content with no extra plugin to influence the loading time.

The default 2021 theme gave me the following stats on the Pingdom testing tool.

2021 theme Pingdom test

With my site hosted in Singapore on a basic shared server of Hostinger, I selected to test it from multiple locations to mimic someone accessing it from across the world.

Page SizeLoad TimeRequestGrade
Sydney74.1720ms991
London74.11.62s991
San Francisco74.11.41s991
Pingdom speed test 2021 default theme

Under similar circumstances, the Astra theme produced the following results.

astra theme pingdom sydney
Page SizeLoad TimeRequestGrade
Sydney72.3604ms892
London72.31.45s892
San Francisco72.31.20s892
Pingdom speed test Astra free theme

As you can see, there is a marginal difference in load time and the number of requests is also lesser in the case of the Astra theme.

I couldn’t get to witness a 50KB page size as claimed by Brainstorm Force; still, 72KB on Pingdom is admirable.

On the Yellowlab tool, the Astra theme gave a remarkable performance too.

astra theme yellowlab test

Astra theme price

Astra theme is free, but Astra Pro carries the price tag of $59 per annum. You can save $10 if you buy it today.

They also run a lifetime package for $249, also available at a discounted price of $239.

At this price, you get everything I have discussed above, along with responsive customer support during the license period.

You can ask them as many questions, and they will surely respond to you. At least, this is what I experienced in recent months.

Of course, the support does help within the limits of their theme. They will excuse for anything that involves customization of the theme.

You can see the screenshot below showing a couple of queries and the responding threads.

astra theme cutsomer support

Should you buy Astra Pro?

Well, my straight answer is, Yes, why not?

  • You will get your professional-looking website up and running in a few minutes.
  • It’s a super easy customizable WordPress theme.
  • It does not rely on JQuery, so there is no extra loading time to ruin visitors’ experience. You can call it a fast theme for WordPress.
  • Without adding an extra cache plugin, your site can load really fast.
  • You will get access to tons of features Astra theme-free version does not offer.
  • Additionally, you get customer support backing that can be a real time saver.
  • Even if the license expires after a year, you can still keep running the latest version you downloaded before the license expiry for as long as you want.

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