Introducing Astra 2.0 - Speedy Customizer with Enhanced User Experience
Sujay Pawar

June 24, 2019

Introducing Astra 2.0 – Speedy Customizer with Enhanced User Experience

astra-version-2.0

There is always some scope for improvement!

We say this always and believe in it from day one! Astra too was built to be the best WordPress theme and we are overwhelmed by the love we received for it. ๐Ÿ™‚

But, our work hasn’t stopped! Through a number of updates, we’ve proved that we are continuously working to make it even faster. Along with the website loading time, we now wish to reduce your website design time too!

Today we are here with our next ambitious update – Astra 2.0, with a faster customizer and clean user interface.

Just to give you a quick idea, this is how your layout structure like Primary Header, from Astra 2.0 customizer will look –

Did you notice that all styling options are put together? Interesting, right? Let’s dig in to this new version of customizer –

Why we did this?

We planned to simplify the customizer editing experience and make things faster. Here are a few thoughts that compelled us to bring up this improvement –

  • Boost up the customizer performance
  • Minimize the clicks to reach setting within the customizer
  • Ease down the process of website designing
  • Make everything available under a single tab
  • Reduce to and fro steps in the customizer
  • Provide a clean settings-window that categorizes options easily

While designing a particular section user used to spend time searching for corresponding color and typography settings. This also included the time required for a customizer to load a number of tabs. We don’t want our users to experience this anymore.

What did we do?

We summed up all requirements in two parts and decided to work on

  • Presenting theme with better-customized user experience and
  • Decreasing the customizer operation time

To achieve this we made some UI and performance modifications in the customizer –

Merged all customization options under one hood

Color and Typography settings for various theme sections are moved under respective layouts. That means you can customize the entire section along with colors and typography from one place.

For example – Consider you are designing primary header.

Previously:

  • Layout settings were available under Layout > Header > Primary Header
  • Color options under Colors & Background > Layout > Header
  • Typography options under Typography > Layout > Header

Now:

  • All options i.e. Layout, Colors & Background, Typography will be available under Layout > Header > Primary Header. Like shown below –

Reduced PHP Calls to boost customizer performance

Previously PHP calls were sent as soon as you hit to open a customizer. This made the customizer loading process a little bulky and time-consuming.

With advanced Astra version, the customizer option will load only when a user clicks to edit them.

For example – Previously color options for primary header are loaded along with the customizer. But now they will load only when you visit colors and background setting under Primary header tab and click on the edit icon, as shown below –

Combined Google font loading requests

Google fonts are available in the font-family list. These are loaded separately for every sections’ typography settings. That means while loading customizer different calls were sent to render google fonts list in typography options.

Now all these calls are combined and Google Fonts list will be loaded in a single call.

Made Live preview faster

Till now, changes made in the customizer needed quick reloading of the page. But new customizer will reflect changes in the live preview without reloading the page.

For example – Font family selected will be applied to content WITHOUT refreshing the page.

Results we obtained

After combining all the efforts, the results we got are stunning! We found that the latest version works much faster. Here are some statistics –

See how Astra 2.0 reduced customizer loading time by 60.71%

1. DevTools – Network Activity Compared

1.1 Astra Customizer Version 1.0 ( with all modules activated ): Load time – 19.6 seconds | Resources – 7.7 MB

1.2 Astra Customizer Version 2.0 ( with all modules activated ): Load time – 7.7 seconds | Resources – 6 MB

2. Blackfire Profiling Compared

2.1 Astra Customizer Version 1.0: Time – 3.83 seconds | Peak Memory – 16.9 MB | More details on the link here

2.2 Astra Customizer Version 2.0: Time – 1 second | Peak Memory – 13.6 MB | More details on the link here

Quick designing with Astra 2.0 customizer

As mentioned earlier, Astra 2.0 customizer reduces the number of clicks to design any theme section. Let’s compare the number of clicks to add site title – tagline and style it with color and typography.

With Astra 1.0

With Astra 2.0

See Customizer in Action!

Excited to see how the new customizer works? Well we’ll not keep you waiting!

We are releasing the first beta for Astra 2.0. Beta version will be available for both, Astra Theme and Astra Pro.

Warning! We strongly recommend you to use the beta version of the theme and plugin in a test environment only. DO NOT use it on a live site. This will let you try new features without worrying about what breaks.

Not sure how to install the beta version?

  1. Install the Easy Theme and Plugin Upgrades plugin.
  2. Download the latest beta version of the Astra theme from here.
  3. If you are Astra Pro user, download the beta of Astra Pro Plugin from your account on our store.
  4. Install the zip files you just downloaded just like any WordPress theme/plugin.

Help us to hit the mark!

Your suggestions and feedbacks are important for putting things in place! So, go ahead, check this beta and see how it is impacting your workflow. Experience how easy and quick it is to design your website. If you have something to share; please write to our support center.

Happy with the new customizer’s glittering performance? Don’t forget to invite us to the party ๐Ÿ˜‰ Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Cheers!

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About the Author

Sujay is CEO and Co-Founder of Brainstorm Force, the company behind Astra. He is a diehard entrepreneur, growth hacker, and YouTube addict. Get in touch with him on Twitter @sujaypawar.

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38 comments

    1. This option is not included in this update as this focused mainly on optimizing the customizer load time and it’s UX, Although we have this in our list and will get it updated in a future update.

  1. With the continuous focus on speed improvements, both in front and back is why I choose Astra for all my projects. The Astra customizer also has the perfect amount of options you need to setup a WordPress site compared to other themes that often have too many. Seems like a smart move to reorganize these to make the WordPress setup even faster.

  2. David Waumsley

    Excellent work Sujay. Thank you for this informative and fascinating post. Looking forward to this improvement.

    1. Hello Dan!

      Yes! This update is available for both – the free Astra theme as well as the Astra Pro addon.

      We’ve already shared the beta version of the theme in the post above and the Astra Pro users can access the beta version of Astra Pro through their account on our store. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. How long approx until I can update to 2.0 the normal way (not beta)? Would it change my Learndash site (using your Learndash theme) in a significant way when I update? wonder if I should wait or keep working on it

    1. Hello,

      The stable version will be released anywhere around the coming week. However, this update only affects the customizer and user experience. ๐Ÿ™‚

      It won’t affect your website in anyway! You can start working on your website.

      1. Nice to have the customiser working really well and faster. Helps the novice and expert easily setup styles etc.

        What improvements, if any, have been made to the front-end speed/performance wise?

        Any idea when the final stable release will be made available?

    1. You’re welcome Craig! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Please go ahead and give it a try! We’d love to get some feedback from you.

  4. Steven Denger

    I have been trying Astra theme and what I did not like about it is the limited header customizations. This is typical with a lot of themes – where one just has to deal with what the theme developer gives you. Also I have a good clean accordian code that worked well with another theme but the Astra messes it up with the default settings it has. This accordian code dictates the color and size as well as the font awsome pointer – the Astra messes it all up. I could not – for the life of me – put a search bar in the header where I wanted it – even though I tried for hours and days doing so. My other theme took a lot of work but I was able to accomplish it. There shoud be numerous header widget areas to put siteorigin page builder widgets in to arrange a header the way one wants to. The header shoud be no different than a page area – where it can easily be redesigned with page builders. I also had a hard time trying to make the sidebar narrower – this shoud be easily customized as well. I wish you spent more time making more customized features instead of optimizing the existing customizations.

    1. Hello, Can you open up a support ticket with these questions so that we can discuss these case-by-case and find a correct solution for all these questions?

  5. Mehmet Kocali

    I’m not sure if it’s me, but I updated the Astra theme to the beta first from the link that came with the email. I didn’t see any changes as shown in this article to my customizer. Then I downloaded the beta from the account downloads section, the name is different this time, link from the mail pointed to beta2 and downloads section to beta1.1. After updating to this beta version also didn’t change my customizer section. What might be the problem?

    Also, I should add that I’m grateful for all your superb work, thanks.

    1. Can you open up a support quick ticket so that we can check what is happening?

      Also, 2.0.0-beta.2 was released few hours ago so if you check the downloads section you will see the new ZIP files. and also, you can simply enable beta updates and the updates will be delivered as an automatic update directly in your WordPress dashboard.

    1. Hello Chris,

      Starter sites are a part of the Astra Starter Sites or the Astra Premium Sites plugin. This update is with respect to the Astra theme and the Astra Pro addon. You will see the changes in the theme’s customizer and therefore it will be seen on all current and future starter sites.

      If you wish to see the newly added starter sites, you can take a look at the most recent ones that get added to the website demo list.

  6. Could you please add a ‘Widget’ before header menu?
    So that we can finally add a WooCommerce search widget Ajax in the middle of the header.

    I’m missing this so much. That the only reason I dont buy Astra is because its missing this.
    Tried 20 hours to fix this. But you guys need to just add that feature.

  7. Gordon Wridgway

    Great work Sujay and team! I can’t wait to upgrade when 2.0 comes out. Always impressed with your commitment to improve. Well done!

  8. Athlone Harris-Compton

    Excellent work Sujay and team. I’m looking forward to this as the customizer was very sluggish at times.

    1. Hello Ida,

      We are the makers of the Astra theme and therefore this update focuses on the improvements within the Astra customizer itself. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Yes finally it will be faster than before, i have to wait a long time when open customizer to edit astra setting. Thank you for listening

  10. I am trying the beta 2.0.0 , when will your team publish the official 2.0 version? I am worrying about that if there are some bugs in beta version.

    thanks,

  11. Nice to have the customiser working really well and faster. Helps the novice and expert easily setup styles etc.

    What improvements, if any, have been made to the front-end speed/performance wise?

    Any idea when the final stable release will be made available?

  12. I see that Astra Pro 2.0 has been released. How long should it be before I get a notice in WPAdmin that there is a 2.0 update?

    1. Hello Myron,

      Astra 2.0 is uploaded on the store. You should be able to see the notification early this coming week. ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Is there an easy way to select a different menu for mobile?
    I know one can combine menus but sometimes using the mega menu option doesnโ€™t translate that well for a good mobile experience and a dedicated mobile menu is cleaner and faster.
    Love ๐Ÿ’– Astra btw.

    1. In case you are using free starter site, you can edit menu style from customizer under Header > Primary Menu. ๏ปฟIn case of further help kindly open up a support ticket and submit more information.

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