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, however premium plugin extensions are available that expand functionality.
The question is: How do these popular WordPress themes compare against each other?
In this article I would like to look at the strengths and weaknesses of Astra and OceanWP and see where each theme excels.
Professional Pre-Built Designs
One of the most notable features of Astra and OceanWP is the inclusion of high-quality pre-made designs.
In total there are over 70 designs available for Astra. 35 of these designs can be downloaded free of charge.
73 pre-made designs are available in OceanWP, however only 13 designs are available to free users.
Design is subjective, however my personal opinion is that the quality of designs available in Astra are a little better than those in OceanWP. There is a better variety of designs on offer too.
Astra is also recognised by Google as being an AMP-ready WordPress theme. Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is an open-source HTML framework that helps you create user-friendly fast-loading web pages. It is a testament to the high quality of coding in the Astra theme that Google promotes the design on their official AMP WordPress website.
The quality of designs is obviously important to website owners, but being able to customise the design you select is equally as important.
Both Astra and OceanWP support the WordPress theme customiser so that 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 is difficult to pick a clear winner between Astra and OceanWP when it comes to design.
- The quality of designs on offer in Astra are slightly better
- Over 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, what you want to do is 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 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 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 pop up 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 is 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 am a big fan of the WordPress theme customiser as it allows you to make changes and see how they effect your website in real-time; though as I noted in the last section, OceanWP has many more customisation options in this area.
This should not be misintepreted as if Astra does not 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 in 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 have created. This is a feature that I believe most website owners will find useful.
What it allows you to do is 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 build websites. There’s fantastic support for third-party plugins; be it WooCommerce or drag and drop page builders such as Divi.
When it comes to building a modern WordPress website, you cannot 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 in order to add additional functionality to your website.
There are nine free extensions that are actively supported in Astra. This is down from the 12 plugins which 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. It is something which I think most Astra users will find useful.
Whilst 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 are not specifically for Astra. They are designed by Brainstorm Force, who are the developers of Astra, but the plugins have only been listed to help them promote their products.
Astra Widgets is a free plugin which adds widgets to add 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 is not a recommended plugin, it is required. If Ocean Extra is not activated, you will not 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 is a little bizarre that they have 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 are left with six additional free plugin extensions.
Like Astra, I believe that 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 or 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 other plugins they have developed that were not specifically designed for their theme.
How Do the Free Versions Compare?
The free versions of Astra and OceanWP have to be installed by everyone; including those that purchase premium extensions. This is why the free versions available on WordPress.org are sometimes referred to as the “Core Version”.
For many WordPress users, the core version is all they will use as they do not have the budget, or desire, to purchase premium extension upgrades. So how do the free versions of Astra and OceanWP compare?
As we have 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 to the 13 free theme demos that are 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 does not install the plugin, they cannot 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 that OceanWP theme demos are set up. As I have noted, OceanWP offers 13 free theme demos, whereas Astra offers 35 free designs.
The problem with OceanWP is that all of their free themes require the use of at least one premium extension in order 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, however the implementation of their 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.
Due to these issues, I believe that Astra is a better choice for free users.
Premium Plugin Modules & Extensions
Up until now we have been focusing on what is 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 in order 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 is 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 additional 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 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 adjust your website layout. This includes Sticky Footer, Footer Callout, Side Panel, and Sticky Header. Like Astra, there is an extension for white labelling.
There is also a portfolio extension that is 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 are not too specific to the theme itself. For example, the cookie notice and Instagram WordPress plugins. They work well, however there are many alternatives to them on WordPress.org.
One of the best extensions integrates dozens of additional Elementor widgets. These widgets can help you improve the look and feel of your content. OceanWP does work well with other drag and drop page builders, though it is 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 that Astra Pro offers more as the plugins are more specific to Astra.
In some ways it is 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 be both be used free of charge. If you opt for using the free versions of these themes, you will be not be able to access all theme demos. Many useful features and settings that are found in premium modules and extensions will be missing too.
Whilst I can understand why so many website owners stick with the free versions of Astra and OceanWP, I would 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 Astra Pro modules and premium support and updates for an unlimited number of websites for one year.
If you jump up to their mini agency bundle for $169 you will 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 per year, however I have no doubt that 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 is no restriction on usage.
I hope you have enjoyed this look at Astra and OceanWP.
Both themes have many great features and have affordable upgrade options.
Due to the issue with OceanWP free theme demos requiring 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 are not valid if you upgrade to the OceanWP Core Extensions Bundle as all premium plugins and designs are unlocked.
Similarly, the free version of OceanWP gives you many more customisation options than Astra. If theme customisation is important to you, OceanWP may be the better theme for you. Again, these criticisms are not as relevant if you are 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 firsthand what these themes offer.
Used/using either of these two themes? Which do you think is the best? And why?