Astra vs OceanWP WordPress Themes Compared: Which Is Best?
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Both Astra and OceanWP offer professional designs, many customisation options and support for third-party WordPress plugins. The themes can be downloaded free of charge via the official WordPress themes directory (use the search feature to find them), but premium plugin extensions that expand functionality are available.
The question is: How do these popular WordPress themes compare with each other?
In this article, I’ll look at the strengths and weaknesses of Astra and OceanWP, and see where each theme excels.
Professional Prebuilt Designs
One of the most notable features of Astra and OceanWP is the inclusion of high-quality pre-made designs.
In total there are more than 70 designs available for Astra — 35 of which can be downloaded for free.
OceanWP offers 73 pre-made designs, but only 13 are available to free users.
Design may be subjective to an extent, but, in my opinion, the quality of designs available with Astra is a bit better than those of OceanWP, and there’s a wider variety of designs on offer too.
Astra is also recognised by Google as being an AMP-ready WordPress theme. An open-source HTML framework, AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) helps you to create user-friendly fast-loading web pages. The fact that Google promotes the design on its official AMP WordPress website is a testament to Astra’s quality of coding.
Design quality obviously matters to website owners, but being able to customise the design is equally important.
Both Astra and OceanWP support the WordPress theme customiser, so you can make changes to your website design and preview them in real time.
Without doubt, this is an area where OceanWP excels.
OceanWP lets you customise more areas of your design and gives you a higher number of settings to change. Astra falls short in comparison.
It’s difficult to pick a clear winner between Astra and OceanWP when it comes to design.
- The quality of designs on offer with Astra is slightly better.
- More than 70 pre-made designs are available in both themes. However, OceanWP only offers 13 to free users.
- OceanWP gives you more options for customising your website design.
Ideally, you should check the designs available for Astra and OceanWP and make a shortlist of the ones you like. You can then install them on a test website and spend time customising them to see if they meet your requirements.
Essential WordPress Features & Settings
Astra and OceanWP come with many built-in features to help you to build a modern website.
Both themes have native support for WooCommerce, optimisation for fast-loading websites, SEO-friendly markup code and great support for drag-and-drop page builders.
The themes are also ready for translation, and have support for right-to-left languages such as Arabic, Hebrew and Persian.
As you can see, when it comes to essential WordPress features, Astra and OceanWP have a lot in common.
On their websites, however, the developers highlight different features.
Astra, for example, highlights that the theme was created with hooks and filters in its code to help developers to create websites. They also stress that no jQuery was used in the theme, and it only requires 50KB of resources to load.
The developers of OceanWP focus on their ‘Market-Leading WooCommerce Integration’. This includes a native popup for your shopping cart, a floating add-to-cart bar and a quick view option for products.
When it comes to essential WordPress features, there’s little to divide Astra and OceanWP. However, OceanWP gives you more control over your website and your website design.
The main Astra theme options page is really just a landing page that directs you to the WordPress theme customiser, the plugin extensions that can be downloaded, and useful website links such as the Astra documentation area and Astra Facebook group.
Everything on this page is a link to somewhere else, as all theme options are handled through the WordPress theme customiser.
I’m a big fan of the WordPress theme customiser because it allows you to make changes and see how they effect your website in real-time (although, as I noted in the last section, OceanWP has many more customisation options in this area).
Astra does let you customise your website — OceanWP just does it better.
Unlike Astra, OceanWP has a dedicated theme settings area in addition to the options within the WordPress theme customiser (Ocean Extra needs to be activated for these to display, but more on this later).
At the top of the main theme panel you can enable and disable the sections that are available in the customiser. Underneath are links to common website settings in the customiser, such as uploading your logo and modifying your header.
An integrations section is available in this area too. API and list ID fields are available for MailChimp when you activate the theme — however, other settings appear as and when you integrate OceanWP plugin extensions.
OceanWP has a library page for templates you’ve created. This is a feature that I believe most website owners will find useful.
What it allows you to do is to create content and save it as a template. You can then call the template in posts and pages using a shortcode. For example, you could create a template for your newsletter and insert it into blog posts, or you could create a template that displays contact information.
A theme settings importer and exporter is available in OceanWP. This functionality is also available in Astra via a free plugin extension.
Astra and OceanWP both have features that will help WordPress users to build websites. There’s fantastic support for third-party plugins — from WooCommerce to drag-and-drop page builders such as Divi.
When it comes to building a modern WordPress website, you can’t go wrong with either WordPress theme. However, OceanWP offers considerably more customisation options for your website.
Free Plugin Extensions
Plugin extensions can be installed for Astra and OceanWP to add functionality to your website.
There are nine free extensions that are actively supported in Astra, down from the 12 plugins that were officially supported when I published my review of Astra earlier this year.
Four of the suggested free plugin extensions were designed specifically for Astra, and three of these, Import/Export Customizer Settings, Astra Customizer Reset and Customizer Search enhance the theme customiser.
Astra Bulk Edit can be used to modify the meta information of many posts and pages at once, and is something I think most Astra users will find useful.
While I understand the need to keep the core version of Astra lightweight, since these plugins add functionality to the back end of your website, I believe it would be better to integrate them directly into the theme instead of requiring additional plugins to be activated.
The remaining five free plugin extensions aren’t specifically for Astra. They’re designed by Brainstorm Force, the developers of Astra, but the plugins have only been listed to help them to promote their products.
Astra Widgets is a free plugin that adds widgets for lists, addresses and social media profiles. Despite its name, it can be used with any WordPress theme — as can Custom Fonts, Custom Typekit Fonts, Sidebar Manager and Ultimate Addons for Gutenberg.
Be aware that Ocean Extra isn’t just a recommended plugin — it’s required. If Ocean Extra isn’t activated, you won’t be able to run the OceanWP setup wizard or access the main theme control panel. The plugin also adds meta boxes, an importer and exporter, and other options.
It’s a little bizarre that they’ve set it up like this. All of this functionality should be integrated into the core theme.
The official extensions page for OceanWP lists 21 plugins. Eight of these are marked as free, but, since the functionality of Ocean Demo Import is now in OceanWP Extra, and since that plugin is required, we’re left with six additional free plugin extensions.
As with Astra, I believe most of the functionality in these free plugin extensions could be integrated into the main theme, and enabled and disabled from the main theme options panel.
When it comes to free plugin extensions, neither Astra nor OceanWP come out ahead as winners.
Both themes promote plugins that add useful functionality that should probably be integrated into the core theme instead. Astra also promotes plugins it’s developed that haven’t been specifically designed for the theme.
How Do the Free Versions Compare?
The free versions of Astra and OceanWP have to be installed by everyone — including those who purchase premium extensions. This is why the free versions available on WordPress.org are sometimes referred to as the ‘core’ versions.
For many WordPress users the core version is all they’ll use, as they don’t have the budget or desire to purchase premium extension upgrades. So, how do the free versions of Astra and OceanWP compare?
As we’ve already seen, both WordPress themes share a lot of the same features, such as fast-loading pages, WooCommerce support and support for the WordPress theme customiser.
Both themes also come with a selection of free pre-made designs.
I believe the quality of pre-made designs available for both themes is excellent — although Astra slightly edges it for me.
From a variety point of view, Astra is undoubtedly ahead as it offers 35 free theme demos compared with the 13 free theme demos available with OceanWP. However, OceanWP gives you many more options within the WordPress theme customiser.
OceanWP falls behind Astra in a few areas, though.
The installation process of OceanWP, for example, has to be revisited by the developers. At the moment, a message is displayed after activating OceanWP that states that Ocean Extra is a recommended plugin.
This suggests the plugin is optional, but if a user doesn’t install the plugin they can’t go through the setup wizard, import theme demos or access the theme options panel. All of which are essential to using the theme.
A bigger problem is the way OceanWP theme demos are set up. As I’ve noted, OceanWP offers 13 free theme demos, whereas Astra offers 35 free designs.
The problem with OceanWP is that all of its free themes require the use of at least one premium extension to function correctly. Without them, key aspects of the designs are missing.
The number of options available within the WordPress theme customiser area of OceanWP is impressive, but the implementation of the theme demo system is fundamentally flawed. If you want to use an OceanWP free design, you need to either purchase the required premium extensions for it or be content with using the design with features missing.
Because of these issues, I believe Astra is a better choice for free users.
Premium Plugin Modules & Extensions
Up until now, we’ve been focusing on what’s available in the core versions of Astra and OceanWP. These versions are free to download and are, therefore, more likely to be used by more WordPress users.
It is, however, important to remember that both Astra and OceanWP are freemium products, and the developers rely on selling premium plugin extensions to stay in business.
Let’s take a closer look at the premium extensions available for Astra and OceanWP.
18 modules are available in Astra Pro. There’s no option to purchase these separately. Instead, all modules are unlocked when you purchase a license for Astra Pro.
The modules available in Astra Pro are Colors & Background, Typography, Spacing, Blog Pro, Mobile Header, Header Sections, Nav Menu, Sticky Header, Page Headers, Custom Layouts, Site Layouts, Footer Widgets, Scroll To Top, WooCommerce, Easy Digital Downloads, LearnDash, LifterLMS and White Label.
As you can see, Astra Pro greatly enhances the theme by adding many more design options and customisation settings to the WordPress theme customiser — settings that are sorely missed in the free version of Astra.
The pro version of Astra has some useful modules for agencies and web design companies too. White labelling can be used to rebrand Astra as your own creation, and modules such as WooCommerce, Easy Digital Downloads, LearnDash and LifterLMS help to integrate Astra with third-party plugins and services.
The premium extensions are Full Screen, Cookie Notice, Popup Login, Instagram, White Label, Portfolio, Woo Popup, Sticky Footer, Ocean Hooks, Elementor Widgets, Side Panel, Sticky Header and Footer Callout.
A number of OceanWP premium extensions help you to adjust your website layout. This includes Sticky Footer, Footer Callout, Side Panel, and Sticky Header. As with Astra, there’s an extension for white labelling.
There’s also a portfolio extension that’s highly customisable. You can add created portfolios using shortcodes and adjust the design in the WordPress theme customiser.
Some OceanWP premium extensions are useful, but aren’t too specific to the theme itself. For example, the cookie notice and Instagram WordPress plugins. They work well, but there are many alternatives on WordPress.org.
One of the best extensions integrates dozens of additional Elementor widgets that can help you to improve the look and feel of your content. OceanWP does work well with other drag-and-drop page builders, but it’s no surprise that an Elementor plugin extension is included given that the developers recommend Elementor during the installation process.
If you compare the premium modules and extensions available for Astra and OceanWP on a like-for-like basis, I believe Astra Pro offers more as the plugins are more specific to Astra.
In some ways, it’s unfair to say Astra Pro is better, as the modules in Astra Pro are addressing the lack of customisation options in the free version. However, if OceanWP wins the battle of best features and settings, we need to give Astra Pro the lead for premium plugin extensions.
The Cost of Using Astra & OceanWP
Astra and OceanWP can both be used for free, but, if you opt for the free versions of these themes, you won’t be able to access all of the theme demos. Many useful features and settings that are found in premium modules and extensions will be missing too.
While I can understand why so many website owners stick with the free versions of Astra and OceanWP, I’d encourage everyone to give the premium versions some consideration as they are both fairly priced.
Astra Pro retails from only $59. This grants you access to all of the Astra Pro modules, and premium support and updates for an unlimited number of websites for a year.
If you jump to their mini agency bundle for $169, you’ll be granted access to all 70 starter site theme demos, their portfolio plugin and your choice of either Ultimate Addons for Beaver Builder or Ultimate Addons for Elementor. An agency bundle is also available at $249 that gives you access to more premium plugins from Brainstorm Force.
All plans come with a 14-day money-back guarantee.
Unlike Astra, the developers of OceanWP give users the option of purchasing premium extensions individually. All premium OceanWP extensions are sensibly priced at $9.99 a year, but I have no doubt most people will opt for the OceanWP Core Extensions Bundle instead, as it offers better value for money.
All bundle plans offer the same features: You get 12 months of support and updates, access to all premium plugin extensions, and access to their premium theme demos.
A single license retails at only $39, a three-website license costs $79, and an unlimited license retails at $129.
A 14-day money-back guarantee is provided with all plans.
The premium plans for Astra and OceanWP both offer great value.
When you purchase an Astra Pro license, you get support and updates for an unlimited number of websites. However, you need to upgrade to the higher-priced plans to gain access to all theme demos and bonus plugins from Brainstorm Force.
In contrast, purchasing an OceanWP plan gives you access to all premium theme designs and plugin extensions — although you do need to spend more money to get support and updates for additional websites.
At $39 for a single license, OceanWP has the lower price point, and this plan unlocks all theme features. However, agencies and web design companies may lean towards Astra Pro since there’s no restriction on usage.
Both themes have many great features and have affordable upgrade options.
Because OceanWP’s free theme demos require premium plugin extensions to work correctly, I believe Astra is the better free option. More theme demos are made available to you too. These criticisms aren’t valid if you upgrade to the OceanWP Core Extensions Bundle, though, as all premium plugins and designs are unlocked.
Similarly, the free version of OceanWP gives you many more customisation options than Astra, so, if theme customisation is important to you, OceanWP may be the best choice for you. Again, these criticisms aren’t as relevant if you’re planning to upgrade to Astra Pro, as that adds hundreds of additional design and layout options.
My recommendation is to install and test both themes thoroughly to see first-hand what these themes offer.
Used/using either of these two themes? Which do you think is the best and why?