Astra for WordPress Review: A Candid Take from a Web Design Veteran

Wordpress Astra

As a seasoned professional in the web design industry, I’ve encountered my fair share of themes and templates. They promise efficiency and ease but often fall short in practice. This brings me to my experience with Astra for WordPress, a theme and framework that I approached with high hopes, only to be met with a series of letdowns.

Here’s an unvarnished account of my journey with Astra for wordpress, which may serve as a cautionary tale for others in the field.

The Alluring Promise of Astra

Two+ months ago, I stumbled upon Astra while searching for a new, versatile WordPress theme. On paper, Astra seemed like a godsend—a single platform offering a plethora of built-in designs accessible with just one click including tools for management and additional features for agencies. The prospect of learning one tool to unlock a variety of themes was enticing, especially when considering the time and expense typically involved in mastering a new theme.

A note on themes – most (even developers) often don’t realize how time consuming and cumbersome additional themes are. Sure, they can help save time if it’s exactly what a client wants, but even then one must install, configure, and support it. It’s in these 3 steps generally that the reality of the situation is revealed. I’d say themes DO help save time on things but it’s often far less than most development shops realize (when factoring in these three steps). Why? It’s simple:

Time must be spent finding, vetting, and selecting themes. – One example of this I prefer to work with Elementor over DIVI or the other WYSIWYG editors out there today (it’s lighter weight and easier to use), you MUST first select themes that work for you and your client, and searching alone takes a long time.

Time spent setting it up and configuring it. – This is perhaps the biggest drain (as we’ll see in the rest of this post below… I spent close to 40 hours working with Astra and their support team before I made the decision to move on. This is the case for every single new theme out there. Their options are in different places, they set everything up differently. It’s always quite a long time figuring out new themes.

Finally – and something that gets looked over too often by developers – support. You must support the website for your clients, and the theme developer must support the theme/framework for you. If this doesn’t happen – it could break, cause problems, cause security issues, etc. This is one reason yearly subscriptions have become common place in the wordpress world (and I have mixed feelings about this) – as literally every theme, every plugin, etc. is now moving to this model – basically making the build your own website industry obsolete (as if I’m going to effectively pay $500/month for a website, might as well use one of the all in one out of the box tools like squarespace.

So let’s get back to WordPress Astra:

WP (WordPress) Astra The Harsh Reality

However, the experience was far from the seamless integration touted by Astra’s marketing. Despite claims of powering over 2.4 million websites and boasting thousands of five-star reviews, the reality was starkly different. The integration with popular plugins like Elementor, Beaver Builder, and WooCommerce was not as smooth as advertised, leading to a disconnect between expectation and reality.

A Rocky Start

The installation process was straightforward, and the interface appeared user-friendly. Yet, the transition to a functional website was fraught with obstacles. I encountered issues with licensing and default tools, requiring intervention from the Astra support team, which turned out to be a time-consuming and frustrating process.

Support Struggles

The support experience was another pain point. Despite their responsiveness, the lag in communication and apparent language barriers added layers of complexity to an already challenging situation. For a tool that markets itself as a boon for web design agencies, the lack of timely and effective support was a significant drawback.

Premium Problems

The premium templates, which were part of my purchase, were inaccessible, and the non-premium options, while visually appealing, failed to apply correctly to the site I was building. This was particularly problematic as it contradicted Astra’s value proposition of being a comprehensive solution for web developers and agencies.

Design Dilemmas

The design inconsistencies and configuration issues with Astra’s menu system were baffling. The default blog setup was practically invisible, with white text on a white background, and the absence of blog templates across all themes was a glaring omission for a tool that claims to cater to millions of users.

The Bottom Line

After an exhaustive 40-50 hours spent wrestling with Astra, my verdict is unequivocal: Astra is not the panacea it claims to be for web design. The inefficiencies and lack of ready-to-use features for something as fundamental as a blog make it an impractical choice for serious web design work.

My Advice

For those considering Astra for their next project, I urge caution. The time and financial investment required to make Astra work may not be justifiable, especially when there are other, more reliable options available.

In conclusion, while Astra may have the potential for some, for me, it was a resounding disappointment. It’s a stark reminder that not all that glitters is gold in the realm of web design tools. Choose wisely, and perhaps, look beyond Astra for a theme that truly delivers on its promises.

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