When you are first starting out blogging (or have even been blogging for a while), it’s hard to figure out the best theme for your blog. Plus, many bloggers are on a budget and themes can be incredibly expensive! So how do you balance wanting a beautiful, responsive website or blog with saving money?
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Enter Astra – a fully responsive theme that is light weight and comes with tons of starter sites…for FREE!
Please note that I have a step-by-step video on installing the Astra theme with a starter site later in this article.
What Should I Consider When Choosing A Theme?
If you have a hosted site, there are millions of themes out there to choose from. But, not all themes are created equal.
Here are some things to consider when you are choosing a theme:
- Is the theme responsive (alters for smaller screens)? This should be one of your top considerations – I personally get 80% or more visitors who are on mobile! This is a key factor in SEO!
- How “heavy” is the theme (you want lightweight so it doesn’t slow down your site)?
- What is the cost of the theme?
- How popular is the theme? The more popular the theme the more likely you will have solutions to common problems (and many YouTube tutorials to choose from!)
- Does the theme creator provide support? If something goes wrong or you need help, can someone actually help you?
- How customizable is the theme?
- How easy is the theme to update and customize?
You will also want to see what kind of plugins are required to run a specific theme. I’ve personally purchased a theme I didn’t thoroughly investigate – while the theme itself was “lightweight”, the plugins used weren’t (and were NOT user friendly).
See this article about Astra and Woocommerce integration if you are interested in creating an online storefront.
What’s So Great About The Astra Theme For WordPress?
This theme is made by Brainstorm Force based in India, and they offer more than just the Astra Theme (they also have plugins – a couple I personally use).
The Astra Theme is said to load in less than a second and integrates nicely with some great page builders (namely Elementor and Beaver Builder with native WordPress Gutenberg for the less tech savvy!). The themes are all responsive and display amazingly on mobile devices.
Personally, I use Astra and Elementor on ALL of my sites and blogs. No joke.
I have used many themes and page builders in my many years of blogging – I wish I had known about this combination when I first started blogging!
What Kind of Starter Sites Does Astra Offer For Free?
At the time of writing this post, there are 45 FREE starter sites to choose from!
This is an unbelievable offering from a single theme and makes it the perfect solution for most bloggers.
There are Premium and Agency level themes you can purchase as well. I use free starter sites (with free Elementor) and paid Astra sites (with paid Elementor Pro).
Most bloggers will easily have a beautiful site with a combination of one of the free starter sites using free Elementor!
(yes, you can also use Beaver Builder on many of these starter sites – 35 free starter sites).
See my article on how to choose an Astra Starter Template!
Do I Have To Use A Page Builder To Use Astra?
They do offer some starter sites that rely merely on Gutenberg (the block editor in WordPress). If you are using the “classic” WordPress editor, your site will change over to Gutenberg.
They currently have 20 free starter sites using only Gutenberg.
They also offer integration with Brizy, but I have never personally used it.
Do I Need To Install All The Plugins And Page Builder With A Free Astra Theme?
When you import the starter site it will automatically import all the necessary plugins and page builder (unless you already have it on your site).
I’ll show this in the video later.
Do I Need To Create A Child Theme To Use Astra?
The short answer is no.
The long answer is that it depends on how you plan to customize your site.
For those that don’t know, there’s a way to add more security to your site by creating a “child theme” that segments out your customizations so that if you update the theme you won’t lose the work you have done.
Where this gets complicated is that if you are merely modifying through the theme customizer, there should be no change to your work when you update the theme.
However, if you make any deeper changes using CSS stylesheets, edit your theme’s functions.php file, or any sort of underlying code, then you will definitely want to create a child theme.
There are tons of tutorials out there on how to create a child theme if you are at all worried about it.
For the sake of brevity in this post, I will assume you are not creating a child theme.
How Do I Get Started Installing Astra And A Starter Site?
I have a video for that!
Here are the basic steps to follow:
Go to your wp-admin and login.
Add The Theme
Go to Appearance > Themes, then click on “Add New”. Search for “Astra” and Install then Activate.
Add The Starter Site Plugin
Go to Plugins > Add New, then search for “Astra Starter Site”. Download and Activate.
Select Your Starter Site
Go to Appearance > Starter Templates. Choose your starter site based on the page builder you want to use in the dropdown in the upper right hand corner. You can also select to only show “Free” themes in the dropdown that says “All” at the top.
Import Your Starter Site
Now that you have found the site you want, click on the image of the starter site, then on the button near the bottom-right that says “Import Complete Site”. It will then begin the import, including the page builder and plugins needed for the starter site you selected.
The best thing is that it takes mere minutes to have a fully functioning site!
You’ll have to play around with where everything is located and where you customize the theme – much of it will be under Appearance > Customize to change fonts (typography), colors, etc.
Run into any issues? There are hundreds of thousands of people using Astra and the page builder you chose – check YouTube, and I’m 99% sure you will find answers to all of your questions!
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