Astra is a popular WordPress theme that can be used for portfolios, forums, companies, online stores and more.
The free version is used on over 200,000 websites and has amazing support for WordPress plugins page builder — allowing you to customize the entire website through the WordPress theme customizer.
Giving you the ability to import hundreds of high – quality website designs, Astra allows you to click one button to transform your website.
You can extend the function by subscribing to the theme ‘s pro version but there are also a number of free extensions.
I’ll show you in this article why Astra is so popular, walk through the free version of the plugin and explain the benefits of upgrading to Astra Pro.
The Team Behind Astra
Astra is developed by Brainstorm Force — a WordPress development company with more than 10 years of operation and over 60 employees.
As Brainstorm Force introduced the Ultimate Addons for Beaver Builder and Ultimate Addons for Elementor plugin extensions, it’s no surprise that Astra integrates so well with page builders, so have an advanced understanding of how popular WordPress page builders are running.
We ‘re also behind the Convert Pro email opt-in and lead generation plugin, the Schema markup plugin Schema Pro and the WP Portfolio portfolio plugin.
Brainstorm Force is an extremely active group within WordPress. They every attend WordCamps around the globe, and regularly update their free WordPress plugins.
What Does Astra Offer?
Astra is a WordPress theme that is highly customisable and has many amazing features.
It’s super lightweight, and the developers say a website using Astra will load in less than half a second, with default WordPress info. To do this, they have taken a range of measures like disabling the jQuery and keeping resources below 50 kb.
One thing that sets Astra apart from many other designs is its native support for popular WordPress page constructors. Page builders such as WPBakery Page Builder (formerly Visual Composer), Beaver Builder, Thrive Architect, Elementor, Divi Builder, Brizy and Gutenberg are beautifully integrated.
As you will see later, you will need to use Elementor, Beaver Creator, Gutenberg, or Brizy on the start site system. However, if you are importing a website design you only need to use one of these four page builders.
Astra ‘s support for page builders is a major selling point, as there are many WordPress themes that have not been built with modern page builders in mind. This can result in circumstances where a trendy template created by a page builder does not fit well with the WordPress theme that is being triggered.
When activating Astra, a new settings box will become available when editing posts, pages, and other types of custom posts. Here, you can adjust several typical page settings, such as where to show the sidebar and whether the content is boxed or full width. Features like the header, the page title, the image featured and the footer bar can be disabled from here.
The great thing about this setup is that you can customize on a page-by-page basis how everything looks.
Astra has you covered when it comes to design. Anyone can customize their website design through the WordPress theme customiser regardless of their technical experience.
One issue several WordPress users — including me — often face is that changing the design of a theme to match your taste can be difficult. With Astra, that is not something to think about.
When you trigger the plugin Astra Starter Sites, you can import a range of website designs that have been designed in advance. There are more than 70 templates available, and you can find pre – constructed options for blogs, businesses, online shops, portfolios and more.
This is one of the best reasons for using Astra for me, because it essentially makes it 70 WordPress themes in one (or 35 in one if you are using the free version). Astra was developed so that novices could build professional websites without having to touch any code.
The theme was developed with developers also in mind, however. It’s ready for custom styles of posts and has great WooCommerce support. The style meets principles of WCAG 2.0 and follows best practice of SEO.
The template is also ready for encoding, and for RTL. Hooks and filters make it easy for developers to insert content into websites, while non-developers can use the free Astra Hooks plugin which makes it a breeze to insert unique content and code into your website.
Astra is 100 percent open source, so you can do that on Github if you want to explore the code for the theme.
How fast is Astra?
It makes sense for me to compare Astra ‘s speed with its GeneratePress competitor, and also as I used it before it’s easy for me too.
This is the page-speed test done on this very site with both Astra and GeneratePress installed.
The first screenshot is from Astra Pro and GeneratePress is the second one. The page speed differential between GeneratePress and Astra is negligible.
I tested on my site’s blog page, because I was using Thrive Architect on the homepage.
I’ve hosted my site with MaxCDN on WPX hosting. I had plugins such as Thrive Architect, Thrive Leads and others installed on my website. While testing both the theme velocities, the plugins were the same and in the middle of the testing I made no changes to the site.
Both themes are super quick to load. But it’s commendable that Astra pro compete effectively with GeneratePress even with tons of features.
You can download Astra from WordPress.org, or directly from within your WordPress admin area of themes.
The theme doesn’t require you to install any WordPress plugins to function, but if you want to import a template into your website (more on this later) you will need to install the WordPress plugin Astra Starter Sites.
Under WordPress appearance menu, you will find the ‘ Astra Choices ‘ page.
This page is more of a portal than a settings page, since the WordPress theme customiser contains all the choices for the theme.
You will find links to key options, as well as links to free and premium plugins that extend Astra, whilst this page also links to the Astra documentation area, Facebook group and contact page.
The WordPress theme customiser can find all customization options, which means you can preview any changes you make in real time. The preview mode can also be moved from desktop to tablet or smartphone.
The options are distributed over eight sections of the top level and many sub – sections. This uncluttered interface makes it easy to find the settings that you want to modify, although you have the option to add a search box via a plugin to the theme customiser.
Inside the WordPress theme customiser there are many useful options.
You may change the structure for blog posts, and allow and disable meta information. You can easily change the layout in the footer, and add custom text.
You can easily modify colors and typography too, and there are quick links to your WordPress menus and widgets.
Please be aware that the above screenshots show what choices Astra core version has to offer. When you upgrade to the pro version, or add one of the many free plugin extensions available, the WordPress theme customiser can give you a lot more options.
Astra Starter Sites
The WordPress plugin Astra Starter Sites is listed on the right – hand side of the main Astra Options page. You can download this plugin at no charge.
When enabled, you will see a new page in the ‘ Astra Sites ‘ appearance tab.
Your preferred page creator will be asked to choose: Elementor, Beaver Creator, Gutenberg or Brizy.
When you pick an user using, say, Gutenberg, you’ll have to enable the Gutenberg page builder for it to work properly. This is because each template was built from a different page builder plugin, using page builder elements.
After choosing a page builder, the website launch designs will be shown with a notice about how many designs are available for it.
It states that 70 projects work with Elementor and Beaver Builder, 10 work with Gutenberg and 20 work with Brizy. Such designs can be filtered further by design type: Everything, Blog, Enterprise, E – Commerce, Free and Other.
Premium designs are marked with an ‘ Agency ‘ label which refers to packages from the Astra Pro agency.
There were 35 freestyles and 35 premium versions at the time of writing.
It’s very high standard for all projects, free and premium.
Brainstorm Force has done a splendid job with the entire system.
You’re shown a complete preview if choosing an interface, and you can get a feel for what the interface can do by browsing different pages.
On the left side of the page is a list of the plugins required to get the design to work properly.
I was required to install Contact Form 7, Elementor and Ultimate Addons for Gutenberg for the Yoga Instructor design that you can see in the screenshot below.
All required plugins are installed by the ‘ Install Plugins ‘ buttons at the top and bottom of the page.
At this stage I was running into a slight problem as Elementor was already installed on my WordPress test website. So when the installer tried to install the plugin, the destination folder said it already existed. I had to uninstall Elementor to solve the problem, so I could install the plugin from this page again. Clearly this is a bug that they need to address in future updates.
The ‘ Install Plugins ‘ buttons will move to ‘ Download This Place ‘ once all plugins are installed.
If you want to download a website design a warning appears. This is a reminder that you shouldn’t import to a live website and it won’t import copyrighted images.
Once you have imported the website design, the button switches to ‘ Done. See Site! ‘. You will load your website by clicking on this and let you see what the design looks like.
Aside from a few copyrighted icons and images, my website looked exactly the same as the one shown in the preview area.
Check out the Astra Starter Sites page on Astra’s official website to see a list of all the available designs.
Is Astra SEO-friendly?
Quick all the WordPress themes claim to be SEO friendly. But just a few of them do have the features that make them SEO-friendly to modern SEO standards.
The first thing is that the Astra theme flashes quickly. As you may already know page speed is one of the top factors in the ranking.
The Astra theme also applies by default a schema markup to each and every page on your site. Using their plugin Schema Pro you will take this to the next level.
Implementing schema markup in your web pages is, as you may know, very critical for Google because it shows rich snippets and also features your site in knowledge graph.
Extending Astra with Free Plugins
You’ll see a box on the Astra Options page which says you can expand Astra with free plugins. This list contains a total of 12 plugins.
The plugin Unlist Posts & Pages was created by Nikhil Chavan but Brainstorm Force created all the other free plugins mentioned.
Five of the free plugins were specifically designed to address the Astra WordPress theme.
There is a good argument for incorporating this additional functionality into the main theme but I understand that keeping this feature separate keeps Astra ‘s core version lightweight.
Astra Theme Visual Hooks shows all of Astra’s hook positions. Those hooks can also be seen on the official website of Astra.
You might remember that earlier in this article I discussed how you can customize meta settings for each page on your website, such as the page title and the sidebar location. The Astra Bulk Edit plugin helps reduce the time it takes for several pages to make changes to those settings. For hundreds of pages you can make changes at a time, if you wish.
The plugin Astra Customizer Reset adds an option to reset all settings in the customiser theme. It is a useful feature, although I am disappointed that this was not built directly into the customiser theme.
Home Page Banner for Astra Theme is another cool Astra-only WordPress plugin. As the plugin name suggests, this will add an option to add a banner to your home page in the WordPress theme customiser.
It lets you change banner style, image , text, padding, and more.
The other free plugins work great with Astra, but with other WordPress themes too.
You can use custom Fonts and Custom Typekit Fonts to install custom font files and Typekit fonts.
If you use Gutenberg, you might want to give Gutenberg Ultimate Addons a try. It adds 16 more blocks to your page builder, such as an info box, layout posts and price list. Check out their official website to see block demos.
Sidebar Manager is likewise a valuable plugin. It is a lightweight solution, which simplifies the process of creating and managing new sidebars.
The plugin Unlist Posts & Pages can be used to mask those pages from search engines on your website. Customizer Search is likewise a useful plugin. The WordPress theme customiser will get a search bar once activated to help you find options faster.
Templator is the last free plugin that’s recommended. This is an interesting new plugin that lets you save your cloud pages and templates. Then, you can export them to any site.
It actually only operates with Elementor. However in the future they will add support for Beaver Builder and Divi Builder. The service remains free till the end of 2019.
More on this plugin can be found on the official Templator website.
It’s very clear to see why Astra ‘s free version is available on over 200,000 websites. It is easy to use and has a wide selection of website designs, and additional plugins are available to further extend the functionality.
You need to upgrade to the premium version if you want to unlock the full potential of the Astra WordPress theme.
Astra Pro offers many new features through modules in addition to receiving priority support from developers. Those who buy one of the service packages will also gain access to the full library preparing the starting spot.
Included with Astra Pro are a total of 18 pro modules.
Several modules extend and improve the functionality available in the WordPress theme customizer, and as you see fit, you can allow and disable modules.
The Colors & Background module can be used to change the color of just about any part of your design, while the Typography module offers a lot more flexibility and style choices for your font. The Spacing module adds more space and padding options.
You can allow Blog Pro if you want to change your blog or archive pages further. It allows you to display a bio author below blog posts, load a previous blog post below the current one, and delete padding from the picture featured.
Astra Pro also offers many more layout options.
Mobile Header allows a custom header to be displayed on mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones.
Header Sections add a new section above and below the header to add banners and other content. The Sticky Header module may also be used to display a fixed header at the top of the page.
The module Page Headers lets you build more advanced headers. You can show the title of the page against a large background image and view links to the breadcrumb navigation.
Nav Menu is one of the best modules, enabling you to transform your boring old navigation menus into complex mega menus.
In columns, you can display menu items, use colours, use background images, highlight labels and more.
These additional features can greatly enhance navigation, as many more links can be accessed within the same menu.
The module Custom Configurations helps you to save custom layouts for your header , footer, 404 pages, and hook positions. You can save the sketches and easily add them to other sections of your website.
In comparison, the Site Layouts module improves the personalization of the WordPress theme in giving you more power over the width and container of the site.
Scroll To Top lets you add to the bottom-left or bottom-right of the pages a scroll to the top button. You have full control over its style and the sizes of the icons, as well as whether they are displayed on desktops, mobile devices or both.
Footer Widgets gives you seven different layouts for your area of foot.
You will be given control over widget area padding and width. Available both color and typography settings.
Simple Digital Downloads, WooCommerce, LearnDash and LifterLMS are available with the application modules. Activating these modules will give you more control over how these plugins fit in with the layout and design of your website.
The last module is White Label which can be used as your own product to rebrand Astra. This is something design agencies will find beneficial as it keeps clients from learning what the agency uses to build their website on WordPress theme.
I expect most website owners who use Astra will upgrade at one point as the additional modules unlock hundreds of new options — particularly since Astra Pro is available at just $59 a year.
Astra Pro Pricing
Astro Pro is an inexpensive theme on WordPress. Those who want to upgrade can choose one of three bundles, including all the Astra Pro modules I discussed in the last portion.
The package costs $59 per year for the Astra Pack, $169 per year for the Mini Agency Pack and $249 per year for the Agency Pack. Such packages can be bought on a lifetime basis, at a rate of $249, $499 and $699, respectively, without annual fees.
All packages come with a money – back guarantee of 14 days no hassle 100 percent and there is no limit on how many websites you can install the theme on.
The Astra Pro package provides you with all the Astra Pro modules, as well as access to premium theme developer support.
Upgrading to the Mini Agency Bundle provides access to all website designs for the startup and the WP Portfolio plugin for Brainstorm Power.
You can also choose either Ultimate Beaver Builder Addons or Ultimate Elementor Addons. These two plugins work smoothly with Astra Pro so they’re a good addition.
In addition to all of the above, upgrading to the full Agency Bundle with Convert Pro and Schema Pro gives you both of these builder plugins.
In other words, you’ll gain access to Astra Pro and all other Brainstorm Force goods when you upgrade to the full Agency Bundle.
Astra Free vs PRO
Astra is totally free-now and forever. That said, if you want to tap into exclusive additional features, the theme comes with an affordable premium version that comes with items like:
- Additional import-ready demo sites
- Access to all developer plugins – Schema Pro, Convert Pro, and WP Portfolio
- Extra header customization such as mobile, sticky, and mega menu headers
- Increased typography and color control for the footer, sidebar button, blog, and content sections
- More layout options like masonry, excerpt content, post pagination, and infinite loading
- WooCommerce specific functionality like 2-step checkouts, Ajax carts, quick view, infinite scroll, and more
- Integration with powerful plugins like LearnDash, LifterLMS, and easy Digital Downloads
- One to one email support
So, if you need a little extra, investing in Astra Pro might be the right choice for you.
Astra’s free theme is – free, but what are the major benefits of getting the Astra Pro version?
“The Astra theme is a free WordPress theme with all the necessary features you need to build a website. Whereas, the Astra Pro addon adds more advanced features and functionalities to save you time. With Astra Pro, you will get a variety of site layouts to choose from. You also get better typography, multiple colors & background options, sticky header, multiple blog layouts, unique features in WooCommerce integrations, custom layouts, and much more.”
Which Astra Pro Package Should You Choose?
What Astra Pro package is right for you will depend on your needs and your budget, too.
The entry – level kit is ideal if you don’t need access to additional designs for the start site and don’t want to use any of the other Brainstorm Force plugins to sell.
WP Portfolio retails on their own from $49 a year, Ultimate Addons for Beaver Builder from $69 a year, Ultimate Addons for Elementor from $49 a year, Convert Pro from $99 a year and Schema Pro from $79 a year.
If you are already planning to buy some of those plugins, switching to one of the service packages makes sense. I would recommend saving money if not, and sticking to the entry – level pack.
Without a question Astra is one of the best free WordPress themes today.
The theme allows you to easily import dozens of website designs with a professional look, and there’s a good selection of free plugins that extend functionality.
I ‘m sure that most users would appreciate that the WordPress theme customizer contains all choices as it makes customization easier.
I believe most WordPress users who use Astra on a live website will eventually upgrade to Astra Pro, despite the free version being good.
It offers you premium support from just $59 per year, and hundreds of new styling and layout options. Those who choose an agency kit will also be able to use website designs marked as ‘ Agency ‘ starting sites and access other premium Brainstorm Force plugins.
Note: If you’re interested in looking through some examples of sites that currently use Astra, this is a great showcase here.
Used/using Astra? Thoughts?