These two themes are excellent when it comes to a flexible, multipurpose WordPress theme, so you can’t really go wrong either way. However, there are some differences between the two themes that might make one more suitable to fit your specific needs than the other.
In our Kadence Theme vs Astra comparison, I’ll help you understand those differences so that you can make the right choice.
This is not about picking a single winner because, if I’m being honest, I really like both themes and I would happily use either. It’s just about showcasing some of the key differences that might tilt things in one way or another for your specific use case.
Sound good? Let’s dig in.
Quick Introductions to Kadence and Astra
To kick things off in our Kadence Theme vs Astra comparison, let’s quickly go over the basics of these two themes, including the teams behind them.
Kadence Theme is the flagship theme from Kadence WP. Up until launching Kadence Theme, Kadence WP had exclusively focused on plugins, with a number of WooCommerce plugins along with the Kadence Blocks plugin.
In April 2021, Liquid Web acquired Kadence WP via its iThemes subsidiary (which Liquid Web also acquired in 2018).
If you’re not familiar with Liquid Web, it’s a popular web host that’s been going on an absolutely massive buying spree when it comes to WordPress plugins and themes. Here are all of the WordPress brands that Liquid Web has acquired via its StellarWP subsidiary:
Basically, there are a lot of resources behind Kadence WP and Kadence Theme — Liquid Web is clearly invested in building out the theme/plugin part of its business.
Astra has achieved a very impressive milestone:
It’s the only non-default WordPress theme to ever pass the one million active install count at the WordPress.org theme directory.
For comparison, Kadence Theme has 100,000 active installs according to WordPress.org.
That means it’s also the most popular, non-default WordPress theme of all time at WordPress.org (and maybe overall, though it’s hard to get exact usage numbers for themes such as Divi and Avada).
It also has another record — the most five-star reviews of any theme at WordPress.org.
Basically, a lot of people like and use Astra.
Astra is also no slouch when it comes to resources, as it comes from Brainstorm Force, a large WordPress development company.
While the Astra theme is Brainstorm Force’s most well-known product, Brainstorm Force does make a number of other popular plugins, including the following:
- Ultimate Addons for Elementor
- Ultimate Addons for Beaver Builder
- Spectra (formerly Ultimate Addons for Gutenberg)
- Convert Pro
- Schema Pro
Additionally, Astra’s massive success/popularity pretty much ensures continued support and development.
Starter Sites and Demos
While both themes give you all the power you need to create a custom website from scratch, they also offer importable starter templates that you can use to simplify the setup.
For both themes, the starter templates look amazing. Seriously — I think that Astra and Kadence are both at the top of the game when it comes to the design quality of the starter templates.
In terms of quantity, Astra is the winner as it offers more starter templates.
While Kadence Theme has been rapidly adding starter sites, it’s a younger theme than Astra, and it still hasn’t quite caught up.
Let’s go through each theme in more detail.
Kadence Theme includes demo sites built with two page builders:
- Native WordPress block editor (Gutenberg)
However, not all starter sites are available in both builders — Gutenberg has more options than Elementor.
You can choose your preferred builder in the top-right corner and then select the demo site that you want to import:
When you open the importer, you’ll get a few options. You can choose:
- A color palette
- A font pairing
- Whether to import the full starter site or just a single page
To see all of the Kadence Theme starter sites, you can click the button below.
While all of Kadence Theme’s starter templates are built using the native WordPress block editor or Elementor, Astra lets you choose from three different builders:
Astra used to also offer Brizy templates, but not anymore.
So if you prefer Beaver Builder, that’s a big point in Astra’s favor.
As with Kadence Theme, not all starter sites are available for all builders. Elementor has the most available options.
First, you’ll choose your preferred builder:
Then, you can select the demo site that you want to import:
Then, you’ll get a short setup wizard where you can:
- Add your logo
- Choose a custom color palette
- Choose a custom font pairing
The two import processes are now very similar. If you’re wondering, Kadence Theme had its import process first.
Both themes use the native WordPress Customizer for customization and include a huge array of options.
Honestly, there are far too many options in both themes to compare in detail. Covering everything would take a book, so I’m not going to try to do that.
In the past, I think that Kadence Theme’s free version used to be a bit more functional than Astra. However, I think Astra’s recent changes have beefed up the flexibility of its free version and there’s not a big disparity anymore.
In terms of other differences, they certainly exist, but it’s hard to come up with one overriding theme. Some people prefer Astra and some people prefer Kadence Theme — it really just comes down to the specific customization options that you’re looking for.
To give you an example, here are the color options for the free versions of both themes.
Kadence Theme free color options:
Astra free color options:
And then here are the blog archive options for the premium versions of both themes.
Kadence Theme paid blog archive options:
Astra paid blog archive options:
Inside the Customizer, both themes also offer drag-and-drop header and footer builders to help you customize those important areas of your site.
These builders work in pretty much the same way, so there’s little difference for most users.
Kadence Theme had its header/footer builder first, if you’re wondering. Astra’s builder is definitely heavily inspired by Kadence Theme.
With Kadence Theme, you’ll get a grid at the bottom where you can drag content elements to customize your header (or footer):
You can design different headers for desktop and mobile/tablet.
You can also set up transparent headers and sticky headers.
With the premium version of Kadence Theme, you’ll get access to 20+ new elements to customize your header.
You also get a conditional header feature that lets you create new custom headers and conditionally apply them to parts of your site, which is one advantage over Astra (though most people probably won’t use this):
Astra’s header/footer builder works pretty much the same as Kadence Theme:
If you switch the Customizer preview to mobile/tablet, you can create a different header for mobile/tablet devices. You can also set up sticky headers and transparent headers.
To help you control the layout of individual posts and pages, both themes come with a number of page-level controls.
These can be especially useful if you’re using a page builder. For example, you could change to a full-width canvas so that you can control everything using your builder.
Both themes are quite similar in terms of the rules, though each has a couple of unique options. You can see all of the options below.
Kadence Theme page-level controls:
Astra theme page-level controls:
WooCommerce and Other Integrations
In terms of plugin integrations, both themes are quite good.
Firstly, both themes have a native WooCommerce integration. If you’ve created an eCommerce store with WooCommerce, you’ll get special options in the WordPress Customizer to configure your store, along with other features like slide-down carts.
Beyond that, you also get integrations for some LMS plugins, membership plugins, and more.
|Easy Digital Downloads||❌||✔️|
For casual users, this section won’t interest you much. In fact, you might want to just skip it as some of the terminology that I’ll use gets a little complex.
But for developers/advanced users, both themes include options to work with hooks or custom layouts.
If you’re not familiar with this concept, the basic idea is that these features let you inject custom content at different areas of your theme or completely redesign certain parts of your theme.
Kadence Theme calls these “Elements” while Astra calls them “Custom Layouts”.
Overall, I think that Kadence Theme now has a stronger custom layout feature, thanks in part to the template element it added in December 2021.
Kadence Theme lets you create four types of elements:
- Content section
- Fixed section
- HTML editor
While all four element types are useful, the template element is the most interesting to me as it essentially lets you use the native block editor as a theme builder.
You can customize your single post templates, archive templates, etc. Or, you could further customize your header and footer.
You can use conditional rules to control the content for which you want to apply the template. You can also go further and set user rules to only display the template for certain users and expire rules to stop using the template after a certain time.
For example, you could create a special template to promote a sale that’s only visible to logged-in users and expires a week after you publish it. Pretty cool stuff!
Note — you need Kadence Blocks Pro to insert dynamic content in your templates. But even without Kadence Blocks Pro, it’s still a very powerful feature.
Astra lets you create five types of custom layouts:
- 404 page
- Inside post/page content
Compared to most other themes, this would be a very strong feature. However, it lacks the full template/theme building functionality that Kadence Theme and Blocks offers, which is why I say that Kadence Theme has the edge.
Still, Astra is very useful here. You can use conditional rules to only apply the layout to certain content on your site and you also get the same user targeting and scheduling/expiration options that Kadence Theme offers.
Overall, custom layouts in Astra are very good…it’s just that Kadence Theme is better.
I did not import a starter site because that would introduce too many variables. Instead, I just tested the “naked” theme with the default “Sample Page”, which I think is the only way to achieve a fair, apples-to-apples test result. I used WebPageTest for the performance tests.
This is not a very realistic test for a live site, but it should give you an idea of the out-of-the-box optimization for each theme.
Here are the results:
|Kadence Theme||0.588 s||43 KB||9|
|Astra||0.592 s||38 KB||6|
So which theme is the winner? The answer is that both of them are winners when it comes to performance.
Both Kadence Theme and Astra are far more lightweight and performance-optimized than the average WordPress theme and both can help you build fast-loading sites.
Basically, I don’t think performance needs to be a factor in your decision because both themes do a great job of keeping things lightweight and performance-optimized.
In terms of pricing, there are a lot of similarities between these two themes.
Both themes use a freemium pricing model. For both, the developer makes the core theme available for free at WordPress.org and then sells a premium plugin add-on that extends the core theme with new features.
For the premium version, both themes let you use the theme on unlimited websites no matter which license you purchase.
Both themes also give you two options for upgrading:
- You can purchase just the theme.
- You can purchase a bundle that includes the theme and other plugins from the developer.
Finally, both themes offer two license durations:
- You can pay for one year of support and updates. After the first year, the theme will keep working but you’ll need to renew your license if you want to continue receiving support and updates.
- You can pay for lifetime support and updates. However, Kadence Theme only offers a lifetime license for the full bundle.
In terms of free versions, I think that the two themes are pretty close now.
Again, Kadence Theme used to have the edge because it gave you more control over basic details such as typography and colors. However, Astra has beefed up its free theme and now offers features like global colors even in the free version.
That’s not to say you won’t find some specific feature difference that matters to you. I just don’t think there’s one clear-cut winner anymore when it comes to free functionality.
Both themes use evergreen “sales” for your first year, so you might pay a little less than the list price (though this only applies to the first year for one-year licenses).
If you’re not interested in the Kadence Full Bundle, the fact that Astra offers a lifetime license for just the theme can save you a ton of money long-term.
Kadence vs Astra: Which Theme Should You Use?
I would rank both of these themes at the top of the game, so you won’t go wrong either way.
If you’re specifically looking for a free theme, I think the two themes are now pretty close in terms of the flexibility that they give you. Kadence Theme used to be stronger, but Astra has improved the free theme customization options to compete. For example, the free version of Astra now offers global color palettes, just like Kadence Theme.
In terms of premium themes, one detail that stands out to me in Kadence Theme is the power of its new Element templates. If you’re a developer/advanced user, I think Kadence Theme’s Elements are now stronger than Astra Custom Layouts, and that might be an important differentiator for you.
However, Astra also has a few edges:
- More importable starter sites. You can also access sites built with Beaver Builder, in addition to the native editor and Elementor sites that both themes offer.
- The Pro version of Astra is a little cheaper.
If you’re planning to pay, I would recommend basing your decision on the following:
- Which starter sites you like better.
- Which plugins you’re planning to use. E.g. If you’re building an Easy Digital Downloads store, then Astra has the advantage, while Kadence Theme might have the advantage for a non-profit using GiveWP.
- Your budget. Astra Pro is more affordable, especially because it offers a lifetime license for just the theme (whereas Kadence Theme makes you purchase the full bundle if you want a lifetime license).
- Any specific, nitty-gritty customization options you absolutely must have.
- Whether you’re going to actually use the custom templates in Kadence Theme elements. While this is a powerful feature in Kadence Theme’s favor, most casual users probably won’t use it.
In terms of performance, I don’t see any real-world differences between Kadence Theme vs Astra and you can build lightning-fast sites with both. Both are also significantly faster than the average WordPress theme.
Do you still have any questions about either theme or our Astra vs Kadence Theme comparison? Let us know in the comments.