Today, we all are very excited to announce the launch of our most ambitious update.
Yes, folks – Astra 2.0 is here!!!
Let’s take an in-depth look at all the enhancements we have made to Astra 2.0 – so you can build WordPress websites faster than ever before.
Before I show you a peek under the hood of the new release – I wanted to share why we are doing this, and how we got here.
Some of you have been with us throughout this exciting journey or perhaps you are brand new to Astra. Some of you have been beta-testers of Astra 2.0 (thanks for your feedback so far).
Regardless of who you are – I thought you might really be curious to know how we got here… because you are an integral part of our journey so far.
Another WordPress Theme… Why??
Aren’t there plenty of WordPress themes already?
That’s a question probably that pops into your mind, right?
See – for the first 5 years of our existence as Brainstorm Force, we were helping build websites for users and businesses like you.
At that time, our clients had many options (Themes, Builders,etc.) in the market to build sites from scratch. And our team helped them choose themes or builders that made the most sense for them.
In this process, we realized something..
There weren’t many themes on the market that were lightweight and also offered a lot of customizations.
Each of our clients were unique – so this made the development process long and cumbersome. We were spending many hours, lots of money & resources to customize each and every client’s website.
I am pretty sure you have been there (and some of you still are).
So, we did what many agencies or development shops would NOT do…
We decided to build our own theme..from scratch.
That was the beginning of the Astra!
We created Astra to solve our own problems…and our business has never been the same since then.
We were determined to create a theme that was lightweight without losing the ability to customize, and also one that could be easily used with popular page builders (Elementor, Beaver Builder, etc.).
So you can imagine that was not an easy feat. You guessed right.
It didn’t happen right away.. It took us many months of research, discussions, client feedback and development time..
An then finally in 2017, we launched it – that’s when Astra was born!
Success Beyond Our Wildest Dreams!
As we had hoped for – our wonderful team created a WordPress Theme that was not only lighting-fast (faster), but also made websites much lighter.
We were blown away with the early adoption and success of Astra from the WordPress community. Here are just a few raving reviews:
Vito Peleg – Founder of WP Feedback surveyed 600 WordPress professionals. See what he found:
How Chris Lema (Vice President @ Liquid Web) found the fastest theme for their managed WooCommerce Platform:
From new WordPress users to advanced developers – they started installing and loving what Astra could provide them.
Astra addressed all the things that bothered them about the typical challenges with WordPress development – speed, customizations, etc.
See what Adam (from WPCrafter) says:
To say, it was a hit would be an understatement. In less than 3 years – over 400,000+ websites are built using Astra. That number is growing at 1000+ new websites a day! Wow!!!
Hey, don’t take my word for it! Here are just a few of our happy customers who use Astra:
John from Income Mesh loves Astra’s page speed, which helps with client conversion rates:
As a company, we are always fighting the status quo.
The web is evolving.. which means the needs of running an online business or any website will also evolve..
Your needs change.. So does the needs of your clients.
So..we had to do the same. We need to make sure that your website must improve with time.
That’s a core part of our cultural DNA — continuous and never-ending improvement.
Always questioning the status quo and keep evolving. You can notice this with all the constant improvements we make at Brainstorm Force every single year.
So here’s what we did for Astra.
Our design team created a library of optimized, responsive and of course professional looking starter templates.
All you need to do is a few clicks and minor tweaks..and voila, your website is ready to be shown to the world.
Our team has definitely been busy- to say the least! In the past 2 years alone – we have made around 117 updates.
Here are just a few milestones we are really proud of:
- The Blog Pro Module in Astra Pro
- WooCommerce Integration
- Learning Management System (LMS) Integrations
- White-label functionality
- And many others…
Our Customers Wanted More…
Having a community of 400,000+ websites using Astra – puts us in a unique situation.
We have the advantage of learning from and gaining feedback from our users and customers. Thanks to this amazing community – we have received tons of ideas on how we can enhance your experience using Astra.
Guess what the most common or top requests are for?
In almost all cases – WordPress users asked for:
- Faster Load times (Website Speed)
- Faster Deployment time
- Ability to make customizations fast
Astra is already in a coveted position of being one of the most popular WordPress themes in the market.
However, we agree that there were some things that could have been better.
Compared to the other page builders in the market – our users struggled with our customizer.
They had to jump between multiple tabs to customize just one thing. For example – users had to jump between layout, colors, and typography spaces to make just one change.
We wanted to make Astra simpler…
We wanted to make it easier…
We wanted to make it faster…
But it came with many challenges. Merging the 3 things we mentioned above isn’t easy.
- The native customizer in WordPress doesn’t allow the use of a single tab. You have to use multiple tabs to make any meaningful changes.
- Modifying any/ all of the options could make the customizer slow.
- The load time will be affected because of additional PHP requests.
Impossible is Nothing
Staying true to our vision – we were committed to providing the best theme in the market for our customers. That’s who we are here at Brainstorm Force. We don’t let challenges stop us. We always strive to be better each and every day so our customers can have the best each and every day.
Long story short – we figured out how to do it.
We developed an advanced logic (after numerous failed attempts).
The advanced logic reduced the number of options into a single tab, and also reduced the load time by over 81.87%.
YES – we reduced the customizer load time from 3.83 seconds to 694 milliseconds… Over an 81.87% improvement.
We combined options in the customizer, so our users can choose all the additional options they wanted to use in one place and make changes.
In addition to reducing the load time – the initial PHP requests were also cut down because of combined options in the customizer.
Our team now has created the most powerful and fastest WordPress customizer ever.
A feat we are all very proud of.. and I am sure our customers will be excited to see this as well.
A Peek Under the Hood
I know most of you are really eager to know the details of what has changed and what has been updated.
We will break down all the structural changes we have made to the customizer in Astra 2.0.
1. New Global Tab
As the name suggests, it’s geared to help make you “global” changes.
You are able to make changes that can affect the entire website here.
Global options for changes such as layout, color, typography will all be available in one place.
Let’s say you wanted to change the font text color of your entire website to grey – you can do it here, and it will be updated throughout the website immediately.
2. Simpler Layout tab
As covered before, making updates to your website is time-consuming, especially when you have to switch from one tab to another.
This usually happens when you have to switch between the color and typography tab.
You no longer have to do that with Astra 2.0.
You can customize the entire section in one place
3. Combined Options to Reduce PHP Requests
The common challenge with opening multiple tabs to make any customizations was the number of PHP calls that is required to be made.
This usually slowed down the customizer.
We have made changes on how customizer options load with the help of combined options.
This not only makes for great user experience but also reduces the number of PHP calls – which means improved user experience.
See how Astra 2.0 customizer reduces the number of clicks to design any theme section. Let’s see the number of clicks to add site title – tagline and style it with color and typography.
4. Customizer Loading Speed
I saved the best for the last.
We all want speed, right?
Your customers and visitors definitely want speed – faster load times, faster navigation, etc.
You should definitely be able to provide them that… and Astra 2.0 can help.
We did some tests to show you the improvements in speed.
Here are all the steps we took to help us get there:
i) We initially introduced group settings control.
Load Time was now 3.83 seconds.
ii) Next… we worked on typography param which started loading faster
Load Time was now 1.31 seconds.
iii) Next… we removed most unwanted requests in there customizer screen.
Load Time now was only 1 second.
iv) And finally… loading single combined JS and CSS for all controls reduced the number of HTTP requests and help us to achieve a record-breaking load time.
It was 694 milliseconds.
After combining all these step-by-step actions – we were really surprised with the results we got.
Overcoming all these challenges – we succeeded in creating a customizer faster than ever before!
Ok, This Is Really Exciting.. Where Can I Get This?
We can imagine your excitement with Astra 2.0.
So are we!!
Now you can design a website with minimum effort and in the least amount of time. You are now able to build faster websites that are lighter than ever before.
To help build your higher performing website using Astra 2.0 – start here.
In addition, if you have any questions on installation, account settings, customization, etc. – we have also refined our knowledge base to help you. Our talented and professional support team is all ready to assist with everything you need.
We Are Not Done Yet… There’s More!
Before we wrap up here – I also wanted to let you to be the first to know that we are not completely done with Astra.
This is just the beginning of the next phase of your journey with us.
As continuous and never-ending improvement is a core part of our cultural DNA – we will continue to innovate and make further enhancements to the Astra 2.0 suite.
In the next few months, here’s what you can expect:
1. Improvement to other elements to your WordPress site
- Customizing blog posts
- Enhancing the comments sections
- Improving archive pages
- Updating other structural elements – headers, menus, etc.
- And many more…
2. Speed. Did I say speed again? Ok, I will say it again. We are working on optimizing CSS delivery to make Astra 2.0 even faster!
3. More customizations to expand on the Astra 2.0 framework.
4. New versions of the Starter Templates Template kit. (All I can say about that this is completely going to change how websites are developed. And that’s for another day…)
Once again.. here’s how to get started with your Astra 2.0 journey.
We hope to grow with you and we always welcome your feedback.
? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below!