I get asked about these 3 popular free WordPress themes just about every week. They are pretty solid options. They’re basically really clean, lightweight, and the free version is functional enough for most folks. Pay a little more and you get access to all their functionality.
Let’s go over my quick comparison between Astra, OceanWP, and GeneratePress.
GeneratePress is the best coded of these 3, most mature and full-functioned from my point of view. It’s also used by not only newbies but also seasoned developers. For this reason, it is easily my favorite out of the 3. The main developer (Tom/CANADA) is a one-man show who does everything and anything for his theme. You can tell he’s really passionate about it and has done well to make this one of the most complete WordPress theme/frameworks out there.
If you ever want a theme that you can grow into forever, and has a knowledgeable community to draw advice from, you can stop looking at everything else and get GeneratePress. The free version works great and the premium version is so reasonably-priced (something like $40 for unlimited websites).
I started out really liking Astra because they had the most lightweight theme out of anybody there. They also seemed like a credible bunch of developers with a friendly community vibe. Unfortunately that’s where the positives end.
Over the past year of following them and even using their theme for one of my sites, I noticed the following issues:
- Really buggy – tons of complaints from many users. With that said, I didn’t have any problems on MY site but did see many friends with broken sites on each update. My recommendation is to avoid them if you’re using WooCommerce or really busy sites. It will work fine for smaller blogs or minimalist sites.
- Overly-ambitious development – this is an unfortunate problem with many extensions that try to be everything for every user. And it annoys me to death that the Astra userbase is full of noobs that don’t know a damn thing about professional web design. They just want the latest shiny feature and have dragged the Astra team all across to keep up with their requests. What this means for you are a bunch of new half-baked features and most likely causing the bug issues I mentioned above.
- Slow support – the heavier your newbie user-base, the longer your support response times. I never need support since I know my way around things and have our in-house developers to assist. But if you’re a total noob always trying to be ambitious, just know that Astra is not always there for you 24/7.
- Annoying to code – anybody deciding to hand-code should go with GeneratePress.
- Autoloads – if you’re trying to avoid autoloads for performance reasons, you might want to skip out on Astra and its entire plugin ecosystem. I tried to ask about it on their Facebook group once and my post was immediately deleted.
Astra is great if what matters most to you is minimalism and lightweight. But if you want a full-functioned site with many features, you need to go to GeneratePress or Genesis.
OceanWP is also popular and works well, but turned me off with their pricing model. I thought the OceanWP designs looked nice and gave it a try but then noticed that every little thing you want to add costs $ as a separate extension. Feels like an annoying bait-and-switch if you ask me and it’s no surprise that Astra is so much more popular. I also felt the UI was maybe cluttery and not as native to WordPress and that their theme relied heavily on pagebuilders (which I hate).
With that said, OceanWP is still a good functioning theme and can still be a good choice if you like their stock design templates.
THE BEST WORDPRESS THEME/FRAMEWORK?
Genesis Framework (costs $$$ – just $60)
The absolute best WordPress framework (used by respected developers). Best-coded, fast and easy-to-use with many great themes. When I need to do professional work, I use Genesis.