Astra and GeneratePress have been two of the most popular WordPress themes for a long time. We run GeneratePress here at BTW and I’ve used Astra on several projects as well.
Now there’s a new kid on the block(sy).
Blocksy launched with a bang in 2019 and has converted thousands of fans (and at least one copycat). But how d Astra and GeneratePress compare to Blocksy, and would I ever consider switching?
This article is an in-depth theme comparison of Astra vs Blocksy vs Generatepress. Let’s see who comes out on top!
Spoiler: Blocksy is awesome and I’m already building a new WordPress site with it.
Here’s a quick overview of the licensing and pricing for each theme. All of these themes use a freemium model where the base theme is completely free and a pro addon plugin is sold separately.
They all offer a lifetime plan, which is a big plus in my book. I personally bought lifetime licences for Astra and GeneratePress already.
|Astra Pro||$59 (unlimited sites)||$249 (unlimited)|
|Blocksy Pro||$49 – 1 site|
$69 – 5 sites
$99 – unlimited
|$149 – 1 site|
$199 – 5 sites
$299 – Unlimited
|GeneratePress Premium||$59 (500 sites)||$249 (500 sites)|
Which theme wins on pricing?
All three themes have similar pricing, but Blocksy Pro is the least generous. When comparing Astra vs GeneratePress, it’s essentially a tie (unless you realistically plan to build more than 500 sites).
Blocksy, Astra & GeneratePress: Similarities
Before we deep-dive into the differences between these themes, lets look at what’s the same. I strongly believe in the ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ maxim, and all three of these themes take a similar approach to some core features.
The result is a more intuitive experience and easier learning curve when switching between themes or learning new features.
These are the shared features offered by all three themes:
Importable starter templates are a great way to get your hands dirty and start building. You can bypass the tedious process of designing from scratch and instead customize a professionally designed layout.
Blocksy, Astra and GeneratePress all have pre-built sites with multiple page builders. One caveat is the Generatepress limits demo sites to the premium version. Astra offers more than 60 free starter sites and all of Blocksy’s templates are available free by installing the Blocksy companion plugin.
Love it or hate it, the WordPress customizer is the design hub for most hybrid WordPress themes that blend in some site builder features. All of these themes use the Customizer for controlling color, typography, spacing, and layout.
There’s a bit of a learning curve to memorize where some settings are located, but the real-time preview as you customize your design is worth the crapped interface.
Header & Footer Builder
Astra, Blocksy and GeneratePress all let you visually customize your theme header, hero sections and footer. You can create completely custom layouts without touching a line of code. The exact UI is a bit different for each as we’ll discuss shortly.
The Astra and GeneratePress themes were built around a hook system, that lets you add, remove & reorder theme components. Hooks were first popularized by the Genesis framework and are now widely used in ultra-flexible themes like these.
Blocksy has adopted a similar system, with multiple well-documented hook locations for every page and post template.
Most theme hooks are handled seamlessly behind the scenes but you can also tap into the various hook locations to inject your own content such as CTAs and hero sections.
In the premium version of each theme, you get a visual hook builder that lets you easily add conditional hooks to your site (e.g. display a banner on a specific category). Free users still can access hooks, but need to use PHP to access them or a theme builder like Elementor Pro.
Installation & Setup
The install process for all three of these WordPress themes is very similar. First, you download the base theme from the WordPress theme repository.
Next, you install any companion plugins (such as the pro-addon) for your theme to enable additional functionality.
Pro Addons Plugins:
There are also free helper plugins available for each of these themes, which enable more functionality in the base theme. Here’s an overview:
Astra: Use the starter sites plugin to import premade demos, or the Lightweight Sidebar Manager plugin to create multiple custom sidebars for your theme.
Blocksy: After installing Blocksy theme, you’ll be prompted to add the Blocksy companion plugin which adds several additional models and allows you to import demo templates.
GeneratePress: GeneratePress integrates with GenerateBlocks to enable full site-building features using Gutenberg blocks, including dynamic content (requires premium).
Customizer & Design
These themes all use the Customizer for controlling the overall look and feel of your website. All the settings from menus to color, typography, sidebars & layout are found here.
Blocksy, Astra & Generatepress all feel very similar here. You get global colors, detailed typography controls, multiple sidebar layouts and basic control over your post templates and blog design.
Here’s how they differ:
Headers: Astra has a drag-and-drop header builder that lets you visually arrange widgets inside your header & menu.
Colors: Astra has global colors and color palettes but also lets you customize the color of almost any theme element (pro upgrade).
Typography: Global typography that includes Google font support. The pro version also lets you host Google fonts locally and automatically preload your fonts for better performance.
Menu: Astra includes a mega-menu module (pro) for visually designing beautiful, user-friendly menus.
Header: Like Astra, Blocksy includes a visual header builder.
Color: Blocksy has global color settings and local color settings for every theme element. Granular color controls are available in the free version.
Typography: Blocksy supports both Google Fonts and Adobe fonts. The pro version also supports custom fonts and locally-hosting Google fonts.
Blog Layout & Single Posts
These themes all let you control the layout of your blog and archive pages, though Astra and GeneratePress restrict most of the functionality to the pro version.
Blocksy, on the other hand, has better blog layout options in their free version than you get in Astra or GP’s pro version. It’s that good.
Astra gives you three basic templates for your blog layout, image-top, image-left and image-right. You can also rearrange and customize the post loop itself. This is done via drag-n-drop inside the customizer.
In addition to one-column layouts, Astra lets you use a grid-based layout with multiple columns for more of a card-style design. Additionally, you can make this a rigid grid or use a masonry layout.
Blocksy gives you full control over your archive template and card design. They have 5 different layouts that you can enable with a click. This functionality is even available in the free (base) version.
You can also customize each item in the post loop itself, switching between simple or boxed (card-style) designs. There are full color controls for each loop element and you can rearrange elements such as the post meta, post title and featured image.
Even better, Blocksy gives you separate controls for your Category pages and your general blog pages. You can achieve the same thing using GeneratePress’s elements module (pro), which is more powerful but not as quick or easy.
When it comes to single blog posts, Blocksy lets you design a post hero section and re-order post template elements like your image, post title and meta. Again, this functionality is completely free. Blocksy Pro adds a hooks module for even more fine-grained control.
This lets you create custom page layouts for different sections of your site, without touching code or using a theme builder like Elementor Pro.
GeneratePress is similar to Astra’s blog layout options, but even more limited. You can choose from a one-column or grid layout, and adjust the location of the featured image and post title in each loop item.
There is very little in the way of styling controls and even spacing is inherited from the single post template. There is no way to achieve a boxed card design like Blocksy without using custom CSS as in this tutorial.
You can, however, do deep customizations using Block Elements & content templates in GeneratePress premium. You can customize your blog & archive loops or even design entire post templates using Gutenberg blocks.
Who did it best?
Two themes really stand out for their blog customization. The right choice will depend on how much control you want and whether you value power over simplicity.
- Best for beginners: Blocksy lets you create professional looking blog and archive layouts with a few clicks.
- Most Powerful: GeneratePress premium has full site editing capabilities via the Content Template Blocks element. There’s a learning curve and you have to BYODesign, but it’s quite powerful.
Site Library & Demo Content
All of these themes have fully importable demo sites that showcase the full power of the theme while jumpstarting your design process. It’s far easier to customize an existing design than to built something from scratch that looks professional.
Here’s an overview of what you get with teach theme:
|Theme||Starter Sites||Page Builders|
|Astra||118 (free), 121 (pro)||Beaver Builder, Brizy, Elementor, Gutenberg|
|Blocksy||18 (free)||Brizy, Elementor, Gutenberg|
|GeneratePress||85 (pro only)||Beaver Builder, Elementor, Gutenberg|
As you can see, Astra is the standout here. They support the most page builders (4) and their library is enormous. You get almost three times as many pre-built demos as GeneratePress offers, and half of them are completely free.
Astra Site Library
Astra currently offers just under 240 importable demos, and fully half of them are free. They have a good variety of site styles and layouts, so you should be able to find a good match regardless of the type of site you’re building.
With four supported page builders (Brizy, BB, Elementor & Gutenberg) you get better compatibility than either GeneratePress or Blocksy.
Importing Demos: Starter sites aren’t built into the core theme. Instead, they’re imported using the Starter Sites addon plugin (free). One thing I appreciate is it includes an option to remove all demo content when importing a new site.
My only complaint is Astra prioritizes variety over quality. There are some excellent demos in here, but the quality does fluctuate between sites. Some of them simply aren’t production ready, especially when it comes to being mobile-ready.
I would much prefer to have fewer designs of higher quality.
Blocksy Starter Sites
Blocksy has the smallest library of starter templates, but the variety between them is intentional and well thought out. Also, each template is available for multiple page builders.
The quality of their pre-built designs is a step above Astra’s, and they really do look professional.
Two standouts are the Blocksy News and Product Reviews templates, which are perfect for building WordPress news sites with magazine-style layouts. They’ll be extremely popular among bloggers looking to jumpstart a new site.
GeneratePress Site Library
GeneratePress’s site library has grown to now include 80+ designs. The styling on these templates isn’t over the top, instead it’s more about layout (consistent with GeneratePress’s design philosophy).
All of the templates are pro-only, but this has the benefit of allowing them all to showcase the site-builder features using the GenerateBlocks integration with the GeneratePress Elements premium module.
Playing around with these designs is a great way to learn how to use them to build custom theme elements like Post Navigation templates or even design complete blog & single post templates using Gutenberg blocks.
Page Builder Support
Let’s be clear from the start, all three of these themes will work well with any popular WordPress page builder.
With that said, some have deeper integrations with specific popular page builders.
General page builder compatibility
Blocksy, Astra and GeneratePress are all designed as highly flexible themes. Each lets you rearrange theme components, and selectively disable them on specific pages.
For example, you can change the template width to ‘full-width’ on any page builder pages so that your landing page isn’t restricted by the theme’s content container.
You can also remove specific elements, for example each theme lets you disable the header on any specific page (requires pro). This is perfect for building landing pages or squeeze pages where you want to restrict the visitors navigation options.
Finally, there’s theme Hooks, which you can use inject page builder templates anywhere on your site. You don’t even need the pro version of Elementor or Beaver Builder to do it if you use our Elementor shortcode hack.
Gutenberg Blocks Compatibility
While all of these themes work perfectly with the Gutenberg Block editor, two have additional features and deeper Gutenberg Integration.
GeneratePress Premium integrates with the GenerateBlocks plugin, and allows you to design entire page templates using blocks rather than PHP. You can also display dynamic data including template tags and custom fields.
Blocksy theme has a basic integration with Stackable Pro, which supports custom fields and dynamic data. There are no theme-builder features however.
Astra theme currently has no official advanced features for Gutenberg, but with upcoming rebrand of Brainstorm Force’s Ultimate Addons for Gutenberg, I expect there will be exciting features in the near future.
Bottom Line: All three themes are great choices if you want to use a page builder to design your site. Astra and GeneratePress in particular are popular complements to builders like Elementor because of their extensive hook locations and fast page load times.
All tests were conducted with a bare WordPress install and the base theme active.
- Hosting: my $12/month Cloudways VPS
- Caching: Disabled
- Gzip/Compression: Enabled
Astra vs. Blocksy vs. GeneratePress GTMetrix scores
Astra performed well, but still a bit slower than GeneratePress. Astra’s page size is significantly larger than GeneratePress (thus the difference).
With caching enabled, The fully loaded time dropped to 852ms.
Blocksy is the clear laggard here. It’s not bad but noticeably slower than GP and Astra. The main culprit is likely the increased page size, which is about 50% larger than GeneratePress.
Fortunately, things improve dramatically when caching added, and we scored 100/99 with a 820ms page loading time.
It shows in our testing, and even without caching page load times are well under 1 second.
Winner: Which theme has the best performance?
GeneratePress is clearly the fastest WordPress theme here, though all three are well optimized for performance.
In real-world situations, the difference won’t be nearly as noticeable because your plugin stack and image optimization are the main contributors to load time.
Regardless of which theme you choose, you can dramatically speed up your WordPress website by using an all-in-one optimization plugin like WP-Rocket.
Themes don’t exist in a bubble. Your site will likely have multiple (possibly dozens) of active plugins. Each of these themes has built out custom integrations for better cooperation with one or more plugins.
Astra integrates with several popular plugins. The most notable are:
The two LMS integrations are only available in Astra pro whereas there are some completely free WooCommerce features available without upgrading.
Astra-specific Woocommerce features include:
- Infinite scroll products (pro)
- Off Canvas sidebar (pro)
- Customized sidebars
- Gallery options
- Grid view
- Drop-down cart widget
Learn More: How Astra works with WooCommerce
Blocksy has more integrations than its competitors, despite the fact that it only launched in 2019. Here are the highlights:
- WooCommerce: Blocksy’s Woocommerce extension is a very strong integration that adds WooCommerce-specific customizer options that include things like an off-canvas panel, and the ability to customize the design and layout of your single product pages. There’s also a gallery slider and wish-list functionality.
- Adobe Fonts: Use Adobe fonts (formerly Typekit) in your designs.
- Stackable: Inherit global colors and typography settings for your stackable blocks (free or pro).
- Toolset: Access Blocksy customizer options when building out content templates and views in the Toolset suite.
GeneratePress has very few official integrations compared to its competitors. In fact, the only plugin with a dedicated integration (but a great one) is GenerateBlocks.
GenerateBlocks is a Gutenberg extension created by Tom Usborne (same developer as GeneratePress) which adds true theme-builder features to GeneratePress.
You can use GenerateBlocks to built entire post templates, custom archives and post meta layouts, and even include dynamic fields such as featured images, post titles, etc.
This is GeneratePress’s hybrid alternative to Full Site Editing, and while there is a learning curve, it’s incredibly powerful.
Learn More: Dynamic content templates with Generateblocks
All of these themes offer fine grained control over important settings like typography, layout, and global colors. Blocksy includes this in the base theme whereas GeneratePress and Astra require the paid upgrade to get most of these controls.
But that’s just table stakes. Let’s look at the pro features that set each theme apart:
Astra Pro includes several standout features compared to the free version:
Sticky Menu: fix your primary navigation to the top of the screen when the user scrolls.
Mega Menus: Go beyond simple text-based menus and built out 2D mega menus complete with images, and other visual blocks.
Astra Custom Layouts Module
Visually select any of Astra’s hook locations, customize it with conditions (like a specific category) and inject any type of content you want, including: PHP, HTML, Gutenberg Blocks or a page builder template.
Choose from multiple footer layouts and customize them with widgets or blocks.
Blocksy Pro adds a bunch of cool features, compared to the free version.
Advanced header builder
Upgrade the already excellent visual header builder in the free theme by specifying display conditions. You can create a new header for specific pages, post types, or categories to fully customize every section of your website.
It also includes a language-switcher widget, which is perfect for multilingual sites.
Like the Hooks modules from Astra and GeneratePress, this pro extension lets you automatically inject content blocks anywhere on your site using the Blocksy’s hook locations.
It works with Gutenberg, HTML, PHP or virtually any page builder (including free ones).
You can specify custom conditionals such as post type, taxonomy, or author.
Similar to Astra, Blocksy Pro includes an mega menu builder. But I think Blocksy’s version is even better than Astra’s because it has a few extra features.
Mega Menu Features:
- Visually design your mega menu with blocks
- Hook custom content blocks into the menu using dynamic conditions
- Add icons to your menu items
- Custom style settings for individual menu items
The power here is just incredible for tinkerers or designers who want fine-grained control without touching a line of code.
Learn More: Blocksy Advanced Menu
Unlike GeneratePress, you’re not limited to a single sidebar for your entire site. You can create unlimited custom sidebars and hook them into specific areas of your site using custom conditionals. For example, you might want a special sidebar just for your WooCommerce product pages, or your ‘reviews’ post type.
Blocksy makes it easy, and you won’t need a separate plugin like I used to create my dynamic table of contents widget.
Blocksy Pro gives you a couple advanced typography features including the ability to use Adobe fonts directly from the customizer.
Even more exciting, however, is the integrated self-hosted fonts option. This lets you upload custom fonts or self-host Google fonts for faster load times and better scores on your Core Web Vitals.
These themes all use a ‘freemium’ development model. The core theme is free, but there’s a pro (or premium) addon that adds extra functionality like a block-based header builder, better spacing controls, etc.
- GeneratePress: Minimalist free version. Barely customizable and no extra features. Typography, color & spacing controls are limited. Pro is recommended.
- Astra: Similar to GeneratePress but includes breadcrumbs, starter sites and a visual header & footer builder. Usable for simple websites.
- Blocksy: Incredible free features, including full design control, multiple blog layouts, adjustable post templates, breadcrumbs, and a related posts module,
GeneratePress free version
Includes: Basic typography & color controls, and almost nothing else.
The free version of GeneratePress is so bare-bones it’s hard to recommend using on a live website. You can basic typography & color controls and a few options for customizing the layout of your site.
There are so few color and spacing controls that you’ll be hard-pressed to create anything that looks custom without knowing CSS. There’s not even a grid layout for your blog archive, but you can create a grid archive layout with CSS if you want.
Astra free version
Astra Free theme Includes:
- Starter sites (61+ free templates)
- Header builder
- Footer builder
- Basic font-pairings
- Limited color controls and global color palette
- Custom Sidebars (via plugin)
Astra’s free version is a bit more generous than GeneratePress. First off, it includes importable starter templates (GeneratePress doesn’t). You do need a separate plugin to import the demo sites, but it’s relatively lightweight and there are multiple demos for Elementor, Gutenberg & Beaver Builder sites.
The typography settings are a bit restrictive, but at least they give you some demo font pairings to choose from. You also get decent color options and some pre-defined color palettes which is great for non-designers.
You also get the intuitive header builder which lets you drag and drop your header elements into various widget areas of your header. It’s almost like a minimalist page builder and supports widgets, blocks and custom HTML. Building a professional looking menu is quick and easy with Astra.
Blocksy Free Version
Blocksy’s free theme includes so many features and customization options it should almost be compared to the Pro version of other themes. There are hardly any free themes that are close. It’s that good.
Here’s just a sampling of what you get for free.
- Comprehensive styling controls
- Layout & spacing controls
- Multiple blog layouts (including grid, masonry and even card designs for your blog posts)
- Customizable post templates
- Related Posts module
- Product review module
- Drag and drop builder for headers & footers
- Powerful header styling options
- Page hero builder
- Social icons
- Image lazy-loading and aspect ratio controls
- Woo-commerce integration
In all honesty, it’s hard to appreciate how incredible the free version of Blocksy is until you’ve tried it. In many ways, it’s even more functional than some pro themes.
The downside of all this functionality is that the base theme is a bit heavier (which explains the load times). That said, most of these modules are extensions that you don’t need to enable, which allows you to keep your Blocksy install as lean as possible.
Verdict: Which theme wins?
It should clear by now that all of these popular WordPress themes are excellent. In all honesty, it’s hard to go wrong with any one of them. That said, I do have extensive experience using each of them, and there are some clear advantages depending on your use case.
Assuming you plan on buying the pro upgrade, the two best themes are GeneratePress and Blocksy.
GeneratPress is really in a category of its own for people who want to built entire templates using the block editor. Neither Astra nor Blocksy has comparable functionality.
When comparing Astra and Blocksy head to head, their feature set is pretty similar but Blocksy gets the edge in almost every category. Blocksy’s base version is better, it has slightly stronger WooCommerce support, and is easier to customize from scratch.
Astra, by comparsion, does have better performance than Blocksy, so if speed is one of your top priorities that’s worth considering.
Who should choose which theme?
Choose Astra if:
- You want a drag and drop header builder
- You want a better price for unlimited websites
- You’re considering the entire BrainstormForce bundle (all plugins + Astra)
Buy Astra: Check current offers
Choose Blocksy if:
- You want the best free theme
- You want a visual header builder
- You want to use Adobe fonts or custom fonts
- You don’t know CSS and want the most design options
- You want the maximum functionality
Buy Blocksy: Check current offers
Choose GeneratePress if:
- You definitely plan to buy pro
- You want the best site-building features & Gutenberg block integration
- You want the best support
- You know a little CSS (GeneratePress has the fewest design options)
Buy GeneratePress: Check current offers