Keeping your website interesting and appealing is a matter of displaying qualitative content, as much as it is a circumstance to employing proper themes. There is always a link between the two, since a great story does not catch the attention solely with its lines but more with representative photos. Likewise, images that lack the proper words have nothing to do with a successful and money-making blog. In website terms, a software which can do both is called a theme. Each one of the available themes is suitable for one or more CMS (Content Management Systems), aimed at beautifying and making the user-experience easier and friendlier than ever before. Coupled up with how to make a website, setting everything up is finished within minutes.
However, a theme can do more than just improving the total appearance of a website. One of the most suitable examples is Astra, worldwide renowned as a WordPress theme that combines image and functionality to obtain a skyrocketing outcome. Besides turning the site into a great-looking online piece, it also decreases the loading speed. Thus, your visitors will have to wait less for the requested pages.
Believe it or not, that’s one of the top priorities in 2021’s website trends. According to Neil Patel, only in 2019, 53% of the visitors increased the bounce rate by quitting the website if the loading time for a single page exceeded two seconds.
See, learning how to speed up WordPress is indeed a rather important aspect which Astra takes care of through its functionalities. This any many more features are presented within this article, so stay tuned for more!
Table of Contents
Who’s behind Astra
Created and fully developed by Brainstorm Force (worldwide renowned during the last 10 years as being a company for WordPress development), Astra is a WordPress theme specially designed to be employed in different website and niche types.
The Astra theme works smoothly with page builders. Due to the plugin extensions developed and recently launched by Brainstorm Force, known as Ultimate Addons for Beaver Builder and Ultimate Addons for Elementor, integrating with page builders works effortlessly. The same team came up with the Convert Pro, SchemaPro and WP Portfolio plugins, showing nothing but professionalism for every single product.
Making up a team of 60 individuals, the people behind Brainstorm Force always have a say within the WordPress community. With various participations to WordCamps, they are easily spotted and renowned for constantly updating their free WordPress plugins.
What are the main advantages provided by Astra
At a first glance, Astra is nothing more than another WordPress theme aimed at beautifying any website. The second part is also true, since Astra comes with exquisite features that makes it unique.
Starting with the most basic aspects, the theme is indeed both lightweight and developed with the sole purpose of improving the load speed. According to various developers, the characteristics within it should make a website (that features the Astra theme) to load any of its pages in less than half a second. This is due to disabling jQuery and maintaining all of the resources under 50kb.
There’s one aspect that puts Astra in bright light. Believe it or not, it supports various page builders compatible with WordPress, working flawlessly with WPBakery Page Builder, Thrive Architect, Beaver Builder, Gutenberg, Divi Builder and Birzy. If you decide to switch to Astra, the importing procedure needs certain technical aspects to be met. Right from the Astra starter site system, you are required to have either one from the following list: Brizy, Beaver Builder, Elementor or Gutenberg.
Apart from other modern and recently launched WordPress premium themes, the support for page builders provided by Astra has a powerful impact on user’s choice. No one aims for a stylish page to be broken (or filled with bugs) when being switched to the WordPress theme (that has just been activated).
As soon as you activate the theme, a settings box sticks with you while you are editing both your posts and pages. Due to its flexibility, you can adjust the page settings from here and even change the place where the sidebar is being displayed. In addition, you can opt for your content to be presented either boxed or in full width. In case you wish to get rid of headers, featured images, page titles and footers, you have come to the right place to completely disable them.
Customizing the appearance of your page-by-page basis is a real cakewalk from here.
Okay, until now everything looks good, but where is the catch?
Working on your website design could be a troublesome activity, especially for non tech savvy ones out there. However, the team behind Astra is made of people too, reason why they decided to develop the theme to be easily used regardless of the users’ technical experience. This is a substantial characteristic for a WordPress theme, which will be soon noticed whenever you wish to adjust the design. Coupled up with the Astra Starter Sites plugin (available for activation), you will be granted access to over 70 prebuilt website designs. As expected, each one of them suits different website types and niches, from blogs to portfolios, online shops, businesses and more.
Undeniably, this is a legitimate advantage to any website owner. With Astra, you get 35 prebuilt designs in the free version and more than 70 WordPress themes after choosing the paid package. In a short note, that’s a new theme every 6 days – so your visitors won’t have the time to get bored of what you offer them.
If you are looking for a WordPress theme that has support for WooCommerce, Astra ticks off this requirement too. It keeps an eye on the WCAG 2.0 standards and makes sure all the SEO practices are on place.
Starting a website with Astra is possible without touching a single line of code. All the changes can be made both by beginners and professionals, but it does not mean that the features are basic or plain. However, if you fancy code analysis and examination, feel free to throw a view on GitHub, since Astra can be found in there as open source. We are about to show you some of its best insights, to freely and independently help you choose the right WordPress theme.
Is Astra customizable?
Astra was designed to provide full experience to both a new and an advanced user. To download it, you can either access WordPress.org and search for it or look it up onto the themes area found within the WordPress admin area. There are no advantages of using one path instead of the other, so suit yourself.
In order to work properly, Astra requires you to install the Astra Starter Sites plugin developed for WordPress. Apart from that, you will need no additional widgets or plugins to make it work as expected. This one will help you import any new design into your website in a second.
Getting back to the main point, you can customize Astra without much of a hassle by accessing the ASTRA OPTIONS tab right under the APPEARANCE menu from WordPress. The strategy behind is quite impressive, since it has the appearance of a hub, where all the options are found within the WordPress theme customizer.
From here, you can adjust layout options, header options, footer settings, sidebar options (within the Link to Customizer Settings box), as well as colors & background, spacing, blog pro, header sections and nav menu (found within the More Options Available with Astra Pro! one).
Since all the customizations options are placed right into the WordPress theme customizer, every change you make within your website’s design can be seen in a blink, due to the preview mode. What’s more, you can actually see how your website looks like on a desktop, table or even mobile.
From layouts to buttons and finally, to additional CSS, you can find all the available options in eight sections on the left side of the screen. Thanks to the clean and neat display of the options, it is easy to spot the right settings without having to spend too much time. However, if these options don’t satisfy your needs completely, you can always add a search box through a plugin.
Most of the options found within the WordPress theme customizer are properly developed for certain pages and niches. For instance, blog posts can have a new structure, with or without metainformation. In addition, for the footer it is possible to add a different layout and even add custom text. Tackling about the same matter, both the colors and the typography can be changed with the ones that are more appealing to the human eye.
Enlarging the number of available options within the Astra menu is a nice way to beautify your website. To do so, choose either the Astra Pro version or go for various plugin extensions that can be downloaded for no fees.
Impressive features brought up by Astra
In order to understand why Astra is chosen and worldwide employed by so many users, both as the free and premium version, looking into its main characteristics is a serious must. Don’t worry if you don’t have the necessary time to find a review on that – we have managed to gather all the outstanding features in here, after trying Astra on our own:
1. Lightweight theme with quick load time
With below 50KB, Astra makes it in the top most lightweight WordPress themes. This aspect comes with numerous advantages, making it easy to use while adding up functionality to your website. Less about the tech stuff, let’s have a general overview on how fast Astra is to any website:
• According to our research, after switching to Astra the load time dropped to less than a second. That’s impressive, since we added no performance optimizations. We have used Pingdom to obtain our performance results.
This aspect reveals that Astra is actually a framework specially crafted to support you reducing the load time. However, to get there, you will need various other performance key factors to take into account and further adjust, like optimizing images and employing lightweight plugins.
Right after you manage to set them up, your website will be ready to work flawlessly with Astra.
2. Importing a massive number of different demo sites
Setting up your website on your own while using Astra is a matter of choice, not a requirement. This is another feature brought up with the theme activation, since it comes with a huge pre-built demo sites library which can be imported within a minute. You will need to do some clicks here and there through the free Astra Starter Sites plugin – and that’s pretty much it.
However, what’s so interesting about these Astra demo sites anyway?
Besides featuring drag-and-drop editors, you can decide upon your preferred one. This might not seem like a lot, still it’s important to remember that this option is not found among other WordPress themes. That’s rather a proprietary feature of Astra. The available editors from which you can choose are:
• Gutenberg (default WordPress editor)
• Beaver Builder
Starting from here, up to one hundred pre-built demo sites are ready to be surfed and chosen. However, it’s important to mention the fact that out of these 100, around 44 are free of charge. The rest of them require one of the premium versions to be unlocked.
Even if choosing a theme used to be a total burden before, due to the fact that it had to fit your website’s niche, Astra has special themes that are divided on niches. Basically, you will stumble upon the following:
• Travel blogs
• Portfolio sites
• Plastic surgeons
• eCommerce stores etc.
Thus, regardless of your website’s type, you can actually use one of the demo sites as the basis of your foundation.
If you click on a site, you’ll get a live preview. That’s a nice feature to let you know in just a few seconds whether or not the theme is right for you. Now, in order to import a site, click on the IMPORT SITE button to get it going and let Astra do its magic.
3. Customizing any website from the WordPress customizer
Making your website unique is a feature Astra takes good care of. Even though you are using its theme, you can put your imprint on your site and change it as you want to. Within the native WordPress customizer, you will find all the necessary options and settings to help you get going.
Astra comes with a real-time preview, letting you do the adjustment within the left-sidebar and a preview on how they beautify your website, which takes up two thirds of the right part of the desktop.
This feature is found among various available WordPress themes, which means that using WordPress Customizer is not Astra’s trademark. However, the number of customization options is quite high even within the free version. In short, it gives you lot of control over your website’s appearance and functionality.
4. Compatible with WordPress page builders
The mere switch from the classic editor to Gutenberg has been a total upgrade in most of WordPress users’ daily tasks. From then on, page builders have been repeatedly employed and further developed, to offer increasing control over the website.
By using them, you can either change the width per post and page, decide upon the number of sidebars or get rid of metadata for each one of them.
Additional plugins compatible with Astra
If you want to enlarge Astra’s functionalities, you can always go for additional plugins. Most of them are safe, sound and totally free of charge. From what we know, within the Astra Options page there are 12 available to be immediately used without stress. Since five out of the total twelve have been specially created for the Astra WordPress theme, it’s needless to say they are fully compatible. Let’s see what each one of them is good at:
Astra’s proprietary plugins:
2. Astra Theme Visual Hooks – provides the user with a presentation of all the hook locations;
3. Astra Bulk Edit – is ideal for making adjustments on a whim, without having to spend additional time to find the settings section for a specific page. This plugin helps you do more changes at the same time, on multiple pages;
4. Astra Customizer Reset – makes it possible to reset all settings while introducing a new option within the theme customizer;
5. Home Page Banner for Astra Theme – whenever being activated, it introduces a brand new option within the theme customizer that is related to adding a banner right on the home page. From here on, you can adjust the dimensions or different banners, images or texts;
Compatible plugins with more WordPress themes:
6. Custom Fonts – employed to install custom font files;
7. Custom Typekit Fonts – used to install Typekit fonts;
8. Ultimate Addons for Gutenberg – as the name reveals, this one is suitable only if you are using Gutenberg. As soon as you activate it, you can take advantage of up to 16 blocks found on the page builder, starting with info box, going towards post layouts and ending with price list. Available demos can be easily found online;
9. Sidebar Manager – can be used to make the process of both creating and managing new sidebars easier than ever before;
10. Unlist Posts & Pages – is one of the most notable plugin, developed by Nikhil Chavan. It is aimed at hiding specific pages within the website not to be seen or crawled by search engines;
11. Customizer Search – provides you with a useful search bar, used to obtain the desired options fast and easy;
12. Templator – coming with a rather innovative concept behind, this plugin lets you save both your pages and templates in the cloud. From here, you can export them everywhere and use them further. However, bear in mind that Elementor is the only builder it is compatible with. According to their public statements, both Beaver Builder and Divi Builder will be able to work with it pretty soon.
One of the main reasons why the developers from Brainstorm Force haven’t introduce the plugins within the default core (or pro) version is the desire for higher functionality. Without the extended side created with the plugins, the theme remains lightweight. That’s the main reason why by using it, your website will definitely load faster than before – and match the Google’s highest requirements.
Choosing the full experience: Astra Pro
The free version of Astra is being employed on over 200,000 websites, making one website more beautiful at a time. There’s no wonder why the number is that high, since you get plenty of web designs from which to choose – and switch in between, when needed. In addition, it comes with additional plugins which can be used to extend the theme’s functionality, by manually activating them.
Believe it or not, having all the plugins activated by default is actually a total burden. Not only will all of the WordPress newbies need to gather additional information (which they might not ever need), but some of the plugins might not be ever used. However, when activated, your website will have to load from head to toe while requiring a longer period of time. And that’s far from turning your website into a fast-speeding one.
The features that come with the Astra Pro are to be paid for. It is known as the premium version, with all of its proprietary feature, require to be unlocked upfront with a payment.
One thing the Astra Pro is worth to be acquired for is the priority support. Whenever needed, developers behind Brainforce Storm are available to help you solve even the hardest and trickiest technical problem. Moreover, you are granted access to 18 pro modules which come within the package.
The vast majority of the modules are employed to enlarge your website’s functionality. They can always be activated or deactivated, upon your own wishes.
More on modules is provided by Colors & Background. This one changes each design’s part color, helping you find a unique and impressive combo. Coupled up with that, you can diversify the appearance using the possibility of styling the fonts through Typography. And for the entire experience, take advantage of the Spacing module to increase the number of available options related to margins and padding.
Each one of your blog posts can give a hint over the person who has written the article. The Blog Pro feature introduces an author bio, while loading a previous blog post. This is a neat method of keeping your visitors longer engaged.
Within the pro version, you will stumble upon more layout options. Here’s what you need to know:
• Mobile Header – adds a custom header on various responsive devices (tablets, smartphones etc.);
• Header Sections – allows you to display two new sections, one above and one below the header;
• Sticky Header – is aimed at providing the website with a fixed header placed right at the top of the page;
• Page Headers – offers a wider flexibility, while setting up more advanced headers. With it, you can create a brand new appearance, by displaying the page title against a background image.
• Nav Menu – makes up the trendiest modules out there, turning the old and outdated navigation menus into more complex and up-to-date ones. The drop-down menus are displayed in columns, with colors and background images, as well as labels that are highlighted. All of these features beautify the visitor’s experience, while making it easier through having more links from which to choose right on the same menu;
• Custom Layouts – whenever you have spotted a useful layout, you can further use it on your header, 404 pages, footer and hook locations. Further, they can be employed into other pages and areas;
• Site Layouts – adds a bit more control on the design’s dimensions and container;
• Scroll To Top – introduces a button through which a user can scroll to top in a second. It will be located on the bottom-left or right of the page and can be easily customized. The icon size and appearance on other responsive devices (desktops, tablets and mobile devices) is totally under a user’s control;
• Footer Widgets – introduces 7 different new layouts for the footer area, together with the ability to adjust the padding and width of the widget area. You can also change the color and typography through its proprietary settings;
• WooCommerce, LearnDash, Easy Digital Downloads, LifterLMS – each one of them has available integration modules that, once activated, provide additional control over their integration with the website’s layout and styling;
• White Label – helps you rebrand Astra as your main product. As a design agency, that’s one of the greatest plugins you can take advantage of, since it hides the WordPress theme name from the clients’ knowledge.
Generally speaking, most of the users who have employed the core Astra theme have, sooner or later, switched to Astra Pro to unlock its additional modules and further, make available hundreds of brand new options.
Which one should you go for – free or pro version?
The basic Astra theme is an open source freely available at WordPress.org. The updated version is called Astra Pro and can be further used for $59. Deciding whether or not to jump from the free to the paid version is totally a matter of taste. And creating a website does not require you to have the pro version – employing the core theme is totally fine.
However, we have to admit that Astra Pro comes packed up with a bunch of exquisite features which makes web design easier and more enjoyable to all of us. Some of these are:
• Access to importable demo sites – with it, you are granted access also to the other developed plugins, such as Schema Pro (for amazing rich snippets) and WP Portfolio (used to introduce a portfolio);
• Custom headers – you can customize your headers by using the free Astra version. However, within the Astra Pro you are provided with more advanced options specially designed for customizing headers. Some of the advantages are:
◦ Mobile headers – helps you set up an impressive mobile experience;
◦ Sticky headers – makes sure your menu is all-time visible even when scrolling down the page;
◦ Mega menu – helps you obtain a mega menu used to navigate through the website better and faster.
• Additional style options – within the core Astra theme, you’ll find basic control over colors and typography. Astra Pro comes with additional customization for all the elements found on the website;
• Further layout options – the same applies to layouts, Astra Pro having a wider variety;
• In-depth plugin integrations – with the free version of Astra, you can integrate WooCommerce and Easy Digital. Astra Pro improves the website owner’s experience, with additional WooCommerce options (Ajax cart, easy checkout etc.), LearnDash and LifterLMS. The last ones are ideal for people looking forward to launch online courses on their websites.
The main difference between the core and the pro version of Astra is in terms of quantity and not quality. That’s because you can build up a website by using the mere core version (which is free of charge) and not necessarily the pro one. However, Astra Pro comes with a bunch of new and impressive features aimed at turning the time usually spent to do web design into a real experience.
And remember – nothing lasts as much as the first impression. That’s the main aspect your visitors will be reminded of, so investing into both your website’s appearance and functionality is a lightweight decision that requires quite a small price to be paid. At $59 per month, it’s time to seal the deal.
Last but not least, the pro version of Astra comes with specific modules which are prone to increase your visitors’ engagement. From colors & background to blog pro, spacing, mobile header and header sections to sticky menu and custom layers, you can either activate or deactivate them individually, or as a whole – with a single click on ACTIVATE ALL/DEACTIVATE ALL.
Pricing scheme of Astra Pro
People behind Brainstorm Force started to develop Astra with one important thought in mind – making it affordable for everyone. That’s why the pro version has three packages, at different prices. Each one of them has the Astra Pro modules (that we have previously mentioned) covered, so don’t worry about that. Here’s the pricing scheme of Astra Pro, in a nutshell:
• Astra Pro package – it’s the cheapest yet most common choice among individuals. It features all the modules, with over 20 starter sites which are free of charge. The price is $59 per year, throughout which you get one-on-one support from the theme’s developers;
• Astra Mini Agency Bundle – in addition to what the Astra Pro package has to offer, this one gives you access to all starter sites web design, as well as to the team’s WordPress Portfolio plugin. You can access all the features for as much as $169 per year;
• Astra Agency Bundle – grants access to additional useful plugins, like Ultimate Addons for Beaver Builder, Ultimate Addons for Elementor, Convert Pro and Schema Pro. With them, your website will simply bloom. You can get it for as much as $249.
Switching from the free (or smaller paid versions of Astra) to a premium theme seems to be a smooth way to obtain full access to the additional products crafted by the team behind it, also known as Brainstorm Force.
Being creative with a website is one of the most attractive hobbies held by the majority of website owners. Employing it as a canvas, adding up certain plugins to extend its functionality and even choosing the right mix of colors is no easy task.
However, all of these and many more are being covered by the Astra theme. Due to the high number of customization options, this choice turns out to own the perfect parameters to help even a newbie get going. The WordPress Customizer within Astra is neat, requires no technical background and it’s another benefit its users will take advantage of. Moreover, for those of you who are rather reluctant to the idea of creating a brand new website from scratch, you can choose to import a pre-built demo sites (out of the 100 available till date).
The massive advantage Astra comes with remains its lightweight feature. Your website is ought to load faster and in a flawless manner, in under a second.
These being said, whether going for the free or paid version of Astra, your website can be easily built with no hassle at all. Still, remember that the premium version provides hundreds more tools to help you get going.