If you’re looking for a professional WordPress theme for your website, you may want to consider Astra and OceanWP — two of the most popular WordPress themes available, and actively used by millions of website owners.
It’s easy to understand why Astra and OceanWP are so popular: both are free to download, easy to use and include many fast-loading pre-made website designs that allow you to change the look of your website at the click of a button. Astra and OceanWP support all major WordPress page builders too, and work well with WordPress plugins, such as WooCommerce.
While Astra and OceanWP are free to download, you can unlock many additional features by upgrading to the pro versions. This will give you greater control over your website design.
Let’s take a closer look at these versatile WordPress themes and see how they compare.
Professional Features for Modern Websites
Before I start talking about the pros and cons of using Astra and OceanWP, I’d like to talk about the many professional features these WordPress themes have.
One standout point is they’re both free to download, which means you can install and test what they have to offer before using them on a live website. Many website owners do stick with the free version of Astra and OceanWP, but those who want the full version can test the themes thoroughly before upgrading.
Astra and OceanWP both come packaged with beautiful pre-made website templates. It only takes a few seconds to import a design onto your website, and, as all designs are responsive, they look good on any device.
Astra and OceanWP both support the WordPress Theme Customizer, which is more practical than a dedicated theme options page, as it allows you to see the changes you make in real-time.
Both themes have been optimised for search engines, are translation-ready and have native support for WooCommerce. Hooks and filters are also available to help you to insert code directly into your website with ease.
Both designs have also been created to work with all major WordPress page builders. I like this approach from developers as it gives website owners the freedom to use whatever page builder they wish.
Every WordPress theme has its strengths and weaknesses, but if you select Astra or OceanWP you’ll be choosing a modern WordPress theme that integrates well with other products and services.
Pre-Made Website Designs
In the early years of WordPress, if you wanted a different design for your website, you had to change your WordPress theme. Pre-made website template designs changed that.
Today, popular WordPress themes, such as Astra and OceanWP, come packaged with dozens of pre-made website designs so you can switch to a new design in seconds.
To change designs in Astra, you need to install the WordPress plugin Astra Starter Templates. This includes around a hundred free high-quality designs that have been created using Elementor, Beaver Builder, Brizy and the WordPress block editor.
The designs are split between page builders. As you’d expect, if you select a design based on Elementor, Beaver Builder or Brizy, you’ll also have to install that page builder for the design to work correctly.
150+ additional designs (Starter Templates) are available to those who upgrade to one of Astra’s ‘Essential’ and ‘Growth’ bundles, but you can filter these designs out and only show free designs.
The whole process of selecting designs and importing them into your website using Starter Templates is straightforward.
When you select a design, you’ll see all of the templates that are available for it, together with an option to preview the design in a new tab. All designs can be imported, but, if you prefer, you can import individual page templates such as the home page or about page.
During the import process, you’ll be asked whether you want to delete the previously imported website and import customizer settings, widgets and content. Starter templates will also activate required plugins such as Ultimate Addons for Gutenberg and WPForms.
OceanWP’s demo import system works in a similar way.
Once you’ve activated OceanWP on your website, you’ll be asked to activate three WordPress plugins: Elementor, WPForms and Ocean Extra.
I find it baffling that the functionality of Ocean Extra isn’t incorporated into the core theme, as OceanWP can’t be used without it. If you don’t activate Ocean Extra, you won’t see the OceanWP theme panel, settings pages and theme demos.
The process of importing ‘Demo’ designs is similar to Astra’s Starter Templates, but it’s important to note that all OceanWP demos were created using Elementor. So, while OceanWP does work well with other page builders, you’ll need to activate Elementor if you want to use one of their designs.
A total of 13 theme demos are available free of charge, while 60 additional designs are available to those who purchase the OceanWP Core Extensions Bundle.
Once Ocean Extra has been activated, a setup wizard is presented that allows you to select the demo you want for your website. While this feature is appreciated, OceanWP’s theme demo system is deeply flawed.
When you select a design, OceanWP asks if you want to import customizer settings, widgets, a contact form, and content such as posts and pages to help you to display your website correctly. Unfortunately, there’s no way to delete previously imported website content.
The big problem, though, is that all free demo designs use premium plugin extensions. Therefore, for the designs to work correctly, you’d need to buy the full version of OceanWP.
If you upgrade to the full version of OceanWP, the requirement of premium plugin extensions is a non-issue, but it’s disappointed that all 13 free demo designs won’t function correctly unless you upgrade.
The quality of designs is high for both themes, but Astra is the clear winner here. Its Starter Templates WordPress plugin offers around a hundred free designs for four different page builders, and if you switch to another WordPress theme you can continue using the plugin.
In contrast, OceanWP has a smaller library of designs and you need to use Elementor to use them. There’s no way to delete imported content either, and free users can’t use the 13 available designs correctly without paying to upgrade.
Customizing Your Website
Beautiful designs may be what attracts you to a WordPress theme, but a theme’s customization options are arguably more important.
The Astra Options page can be found in the WordPress appearance area. The top of the page displays links to key areas in the WordPress Theme Customizer, while the right column displays support links.
Your Astra Pro license and Astra Pro modules can be activated on this page too. When you activate a particular Astra Pro module, its functionality will be added to the WordPress Theme Customizer.
The core version of Astra offers dozens of useful configuration options in the WordPress customizer. These allow you to modify your header, blog, sidebar, footer and more.
Customization options are expanded significantly if you activate Astra Pro modules. Astra Pro adds additional options for colors, styling, typography, navigation, layouts, widgets and more.
Astra places all major theme options within the WordPress Customizer, but you can override some of these settings on posts, pages and custom post types.
For any page, you can change the sidebar, layout and header. You can also disable key areas such as the title, featured image and footer bar.
OceanWP gives you some additional customization options.
The OceanWP theme panel will be displayed in your admin area once you activate Ocean Extra on your website.
From the main theme panel page, you can open support tickets and see links to the OceanWP Facebook page, video tutorials and documentation area.
Underneath, you can disable sections from the WordPress Customizer that aren’t important to you, and there are links to key areas in the customizer here too. The theme panel also has an integrations tab that allows you to connect to third-party services using API keys.
OceanWP also has an importer and exporter for backing up important website settings.
Like Astra, OceanWP supports the WordPress Theme Customizer. The free version of OceanWP offers an extensive list of typography options, together with options for your top bar, header, blog and footer.
Premium OceanWP extensions, such as Sticky Footer, can also be configured via the customizer.
What I really love about OceanWP is how much control it gives you over how specific posts and pages are structured and styled. You can do so much more than disable the header, sidebar and footer.
Through the OceanWP Settings box, you can change the logo, header, menus, title and more. This can be used to greatly change how every page on your website looks.
Whether you choose Astra or OceanWP, you’ll find it simple to make styling customizations to your website. OceanWP does, however, give you a little more control.
Astra is a highly customizable WordPress theme that offers dozens of configuration options within the WordPress Theme Customizer. However, OceanWP gives you more flexibility as it lets you disable specific customizer sections, scripts and styles.
Astra Pro does give you more options in the theme customizer than the full version of OceanWP, but OceanWP’s additional control over how you style individual pages gives it a slight edge.
Creating Content With Page Builders
Page builders have changed how website owners build websites with WordPress. As a result, many features and functionality that were previously found in WordPress themes can now be found in WordPress page builder plugins.
Astra and OceanWP have both been designed from the ground up with WordPress page builders in mind. They both support full-page layouts and the developers have ensured that native theme features and customization options work with any page builder you use.
The good news is that if you have a preferred WordPress page builder, Astra and OceanWP will both work in harmony with it.
Be aware, though, that the pre-made website designs that come packaged with Astra and OceanWP were all created using a specific page builder.
Astra’s designs were created using the WordPress blog editor, Elementor, Beaver Builder and Brizy. In contrast, all OceanWP designs were created using Elementor, so you’ll need to activate the page builder if you’re using the design.
Astra and OceanWP both have great support for WordPress page builders, but be sure to pay attention to which page builder was used to create any pre-made website designs you choose.
Expanding Functionality With Plugins & Modules
Up until this point, I’ve focused on the core versions of Astra and OceanWP, but a number of free and premium plugin extensions are available for both WordPress themes that extend functionality further.
Four of these WordPress plugins were created to enhance Astra, but I’d like to see this functionality integrated into the core Astra theme to reduce the number of active WordPress plugins.
- Import/Export Customizer Settings — lets you back up your customizer settings.
- Astra Customizer Reset — allows you to reset the customizer.
- Astra Bulk Edit — helps you to make bulk modifications to Astra meta settings.
- Astra Widgets — adds widgets for address, list icons and social profiles.
The other plugins listed on the Astra Options page are Customizer Search, Custom Fonts, Custom Typekit Fonts, HubSpot, Sidebar Manager and Ultimate Addons for Gutenberg. They’re all good WordPress plugins and are worth checking out, but they were designed to work with all WordPress themes and weren’t created specifically for Astra.
The free version of Astra gives you many great customization options in the WordPress Theme Customizer, but the full version is a more advanced solution.
Astra Pro unlocks 18 premium modules, each of which can be enabled and disabled from the main Astra Options page. I really like the way the developers have set this up as, instead of activating many additional WordPress plugins, you just need to activate the Astra Pro plugin, and then select what modules you want.
If you activate all Astra Pro options, the WordPress Theme Customizer will have additional options for colors and background, typography, spacing, blogging, mobile header, header sections, navigation menu, sticky header, site layouts, footer widgets and scroll to top.
Astra Pro also gives you white labeling options so you can brand your website, and there’s enhanced integration for WooCommerce, Easy Digital Downloads, LearnDash and LifterLMS.
Astra Pro also offers an advanced custom layouts feature where you can specify what pages a layout is used on and which user roles it applies to. Hooks can also be inserted into the layout.
Another cool feature is page headers, which you can use to create custom page headers and define where on your website the header is displayed.
Like Astra, OceanWP can have its functionality extended.
Six free WordPress plugins are available for OceanWP, all of which were developed specifically for use with the OceanWP WordPress theme.
- Ocean Social Sharing — adds social media sharing buttons to blog posts.
- Ocean Product Sharing — adds social media sharing buttons to product pages in WooCommerce and Easy Digital Downloads.
- Ocean Custom Sidebar — lets you create an unlimited number of custom sidebars.
- Ocean Posts Slider — a simple blog post slider for your website.
- Ocean Modal Window — lets you insert content into modal windows.
- Ocean Stick Anything — stick specific elements to your pages.
While all of these plugins were designed with OceanWP in mind, I believe there are better alternatives for all of these plugins in the official WordPress plugin directory.
A total of Twelve premium plugin extensions are available for OceanWP.
Only a few of these plugins add additional styling options to your website. Sticky Footer can be used to display your footer at all times, while Ocean Footer Callout can be used to display a prominent bar in your footer to highlight important information.
The other OceanWP’s premium plugin extensions are Cookie Notice, Instagram, Popup Login, Portfolio, Woo Popup and Elementor Widgets. All of these WordPress plugins are useful, but you can find many free alternatives in the official WordPress plugin directory.
All of the free plugins and pro modules that were created for Astra add additional styling options to the WordPress Customizer, add more layout options or add support for third-party products. OceanWP’s plugin extensions are useful, but they don’t really enhance the core theme.
Astra’s module system also means you can increase website functionality without drastically increasing the number of activated WordPress plugins on your website.
One factor that may influence your decision on which WordPress theme to use is cost.
If you’re not looking to spend any money on a WordPress theme, the decision is a little easier. Simply download and test the free version of Astra and OceanWP and see which theme suits your needs better.
Those of you who are looking to unlock the full potential of Astra and OceanWP will need to compare the cost of Astra Pro and OceanWP Pro.
Astra Pro is available in one of three plans: Astra Pro, Essential Bundle and Growth Bundle. All plans give you support and updates for an unlimited number of websites, and all purchases come with a 100% 14-day money-back guarantee.
The prices shown in the screenshot below highlight the yearly cost of using Astra Pro. As you can see, at the time of writing, prices had been reduced by 25% because Astra had reached a million users.
The usual price is $59 for Astra Pro, $276 for the Essential Bundle and $523 for the Growth Bundle. These prices jump to $523, $996 and $1893, respectively, if you want to pay for a lifetime license.
Unfortunately, the 150+ additional starter template designs are only available when you upgrade to one of the agency themes. However, if you upgrade to the Essential Bundle, you do receive Brainstorm Force’s portfolio plugin WP Portfolio and the pro version of either Ultimate Addons for Elementor or Ultimate Addons for Beaver Builder. The Growth Bundle includes all of these plugins and adds Convert Pro, Schema Pro and a SkillJet Academy membership.
While these are all good plugins, there’s no need to upgrade to these higher-priced agency plans if you’re not planning on using any of these agency designs or bonus WordPress plugins.
OceanWP has a different pricing scheme.
The main pricing page of OceanWP notes that its Core Extension Bundle costs $59 for a one-website license, $79 for three websites and $129 for up to 25 websites. For a lifetime license, these prices increase to $159, $319 and $519, respectively.
This sounds like a straightforward pricing policy, but, as I noted in my Avada vs OceanWP article, it’s a little more complicated than that.
OceanWP allows you to purchase premium extensions individually.
Each premium extension is listed in the WordPress admin area as $29.99 a year for a one-website license, $69.99 a year for three websites and $119.99 a year for up to 25 websites.
Yet if you try to purchase an individual extension, you’ll be encouraged to save $4.01 and purchase the Core Extension Bundle for $34.99. This is confusing, as the Core Extension Bundle sales page states that a single license costs $59, not $39.
Long story short: To purchase a single license for OceanWP at the best price, you need to to add a premium extension to your shopping cart and then take advantage of the Core Extension Bundle offer that’s presented to you.
As the developers of Astra and OceanWP have adopted different pricing policies, the cost of using the themes depends on how you’re using them.
Despite its confusing sales policy, OceanWP has the cheapest single website plan. Astra’s entry-level plan is not only more expensive, but it doesn’t include any additional premium website templates.
OceanWP does charge more for using its theme on multiple websites, though, so, if you have multiple websites and like the additional plugins and designs on offer by Astra, it may be the better option.
Astra and OceanWP are both free to download and come packaged with beautiful pre-made designs. However, it can be difficult for website owners to effectively compare their premium options, as the developers have set them up so differently.
From a design point of view, I believe Astra is doing things better. There’s a larger selection of designs to choose from and these designs can be used with four different WordPress page builders, not just one. OceanWP only offers 13 Elementor-based designs to free users, and these designs won’t work correctly unless you upgrade to the OceanWP Core Extensions Bundle.
Of course, this isn’t a problem for those who upgrade to the full version of OceanWP, and all OceanWP users do have the option of using Astra’s Starter Templates plugin and importing the same pre-made website designs as Astra users. So, don’t let OceanWP’s flawed demo system put you off, as the theme has many useful features and settings that are not found in Astra.
The cost of using Astra and OceanWP will depend on what features and functionality you need, what designs you like and how many websites you plan to use them on.
For single-license website owners, it’s cheaper to upgrade to the full version of OceanWP, and doing so gives you access to 60 premium designs and a dozen premium plugins.
Astra Pro is a little more expensive for single-license website owners, but could prove to be cheaper for those of you who own many websites, as usage isn’t restricted. Its module system also saves you from having to install many WordPress plugins, and I believe these modules enhance the core theme more than OceanWP’s premium extensions do.
The main downside to Astra Pro’s pricing policy is that you need to purchase one of the agency plans to gain access to the 55 additional pre-made designs that are available. However, these agency plans also include other high-quality WordPress plugins from the developers, so the overall package is better.
My recommendation is to install Astra and OceanWP on a test WordPress website to try them out extensively, which will help you to see which solution suits you better. Be sure to also check out our Avada vs Astra and Avada vs OceanWP comparison articles to see how these themes compare with the best-selling WordPress theme on ThemeForest.
Used/using either Astra or OceanWP? Thoughts?