Updated: April 18, 2021

Optimized WordPress Themes Compared: GeneratePress vs Astra vs Kadence

You’ve decided that WordPress is the best choice to power your website, and in my opinion you’re right. WordPress is powerful, adaptable and flexible. It’s also extremely easy to use and quite safe.

By now you have also, most likely, chosen the company and team to host your WordPress powered website for you. I won’t upsell ServerWise to you right now, but I do suggest you avoid discount hosts. A cheap host will give your site cheap service and slow servers. In short, you get what you pay for.

Now it’s time to select your WordPress theme. Here’s what to look for:

  • Built for optimization and speed, meaning the theme isn’t heavy with frivolous coding to make it seem dynamic and grab your attention. You can do all of that on your own without the wasteful heft.
  • Responsive so your site will automatically look great and load quickly on all devices including desktop, tablet and mobile.
  • Not too many bells and whistles. You don’t need the flash and dramatics of a popular theme from ThemeForest.net if you have to sacrifice site speed.
  • Keep it simple and professional. At first glance you may be attracted to the themes that boast 50+ free add-ons and 10 including premium plugins, but ask yourself whether you actually need those features and functionality. Again, you’ll be sacrificing the speed of your site and who quickly the pages load for your visitors if you opt for the heavy feature-laden theme.

GeneratePress - My Choice

GeneratePress is fast, and I mean fast. In fact, it clocks in with faster page loads than any other theme on the planet. And it should. It was built with speed at the forefront.

While the theme may seem simplistic (that’s a good thing), it does provide all the tools and functionality you most likely need.

With the GeneratePress theme you’ll get your hooks, elements, typography and color control, menus (and submenu) and a host of other necessary features.

What you won’t get is unnecessarily large DOMs full of code you don’t need to create visuals that no one wants anymore. GeneratePress keeps it simple, fast and professional.

My Favorite Things About GeneratePress

  • The theme has been around for some time, meaning it has a wide base of users and fans who contribute on the community forums and help each other out.
  • It was built for both coders and non-coders alike, and is the only optimized theme that can boast that.
  • The Elements feature is great. It works similarly to hooks and filters for developers, but includes a sleep GUI for non-coders.
  • Lots of integrations because GeneratePress has been around for years, is hard-coded, so it’s fast and easy to work with, and serious content marketers love it.

My GeneratePress Useability Trick

If you opt to go with GeneratePress I suggest you spring for the Premium version of the theme and couple it with Elementor Pro. The two combined work flawlessly together and allow you to design, customize and power an Elementor website still built for speed.

But doesn’t Elementor slow down a WordPress site?

Yes and no. Elementor when used in combination with a large theme and multiple plugins is slow. If you use Elementor with a fast and lightweight theme like GeneratePress and only the plugins you need, your site speed will clock in around 95 or better.

To build on my previous recommendation, if you opt to pay for Elementor Pro with GeneratePress Premium you’ll notice that you can remove a handful of extra plugins (or up to 13 based on my experience with one ServerWise client) that weight down your site. These include, but are not limited to, the following:

Author Bio Box: Elementor Pro includes a nicely done and professional bio box widget.

Contact Form 7: Elementor Pro has its own built-in Submissions widget.

Forminator: Elementor Pro provides a complete Form builder widget.

Master Add-ons: Elementor Pro now has widgets for fancy engaging headlines and author bio boxes.

Ulimate Addons for Elementor: Elementor Pro provides these included without the extra scripts running on every page of your WordPress install.

Astra - Not My Choice

You’ll notice a lot of websites, review bloggers and marketers are pitching Astra like their mortgages depend on it. Astra has a more generous affiliate commission, so perhaps some of them do.

ServerWise is not an affiliate for any theme, marketplace or plugin which allows me to be brutally honest. 

Astra is not worth your time, even if you opt for the free version.

I can’ t recommend Astra’s theme or plugins.

Reasons I Don't Like Astra

  • Most of Astra’s themes and plugins are just copied from someone else, so there’s no originality or creativity coming through there. In short, if you want tired and generic Astra is a good fit.
  • Astra is known to be buggy, with a long list of issues that have gone unfixed and unpatched for far too long.
  • While the theme is fast, it’s still slower than GeneratePress.
  • Support requests keep piling up as the Astra team is focused on their other businesses and do not prioritize customer support.
  • The theme uses too many shortcodes on the backend, meaning when you remove it from your WordPress site, bits of code are left behind that can harm performance. It’s lazy coding.

What about this Kadence I keep hearing about?

Kadence is the new kid on the block. And like any shiny new product that offers a decent affiliate commission, marketers are pitching Kadence like it’s the next coming.

Don’t be fooled. Kadence isn’t much to get excited about. It may be one day, but not now.

Kadence has a handful of decent demo themes for autoloading into your site. Looks like they have a nice header and footer builder as well. And the theme was created with a focus on Gutenberg Blocks rather than any other page builder, which sets it apart.

All of that said, I don’t recommend Kadence. Every six months, I revisit this article and update my recommendations, so we’ll see whether Kadence has grown and improved its optimization over time.

A Note To ServerWise Clients

If you are a ServerWise client and would like to use GeneratePress Premium, please open a ticket.

ServerWise provides GeneratePress Premium at no extra charge to all clients. Our support will even install it for you.

Rad Mitkov
Rad Mitkov
Radoslav is a senior motion graphics engineer and designer specializing in 3D modeling prototypes for digital marketing platforms. Rad frequently writes on WordPress, site optimization and cybersecurity topics.