Astra is a lightweight theme that’s built for speed. Still, we took its Google PageSpeed Insights score from an impressive 96 to a stellar 99!
We’ll show you how it’s done by boosting Astra’s performance even further with the help of our free optimization plugins, Smush and Hummingbird.
The Astra theme is one of the most popular WordPress themes of all time, used by over 1.6 million websites. It was made as a lightweight foundation for any type of WordPress site. It typically clocks in at below 50 KB in file size and has zero jQuery dependencies, making it so it doesn’t interfere with time for page loads.
That’s incredible! But there’s still more you can do to get your Astra site close to perfect optimization.
In this article, we’ll take a look at…
How We’ll Do It
It’s done with a little Astra optimization and the help of our plugins, Smush and Hummingbird. Plus, a dash of good hosting.
And in case you didn’t know, Smush is our 5-star image optimization plugin. She has over a million active installs and can optimize images, lazy load, resize, bulk smush, and compress all of your images for enhanced speed.
When it comes to speed, our own 5-star rated Hummingbird runs the gamut of making your site super fast with adjustable enhancements of file compression, minify for CSS & JS, lazy load comments, cache, and much more. She has over 100K active installs and continues to grow in popularity daily.
Of course, we have to mention that both Smush and Hummingbird are free to use!
We’ll create an Astra website using Astra Pro and then optimize it to its fullest potential. There is a free version of Astra as well, but we decided to go pro as we figured this is the version that most professional web developers would use.
We’ll be covering:
- Astra Overview and Test Layout
- Optimization Test Set-Up
- A Speed Test Without Optimization
- Optimization with Astra and Smush
- Optimization with Astra and Hummingbird
- Further Boosting in Hummingbird and Your Host
- Other Optimization Tips
To follow along, you’ll need Astra Pro, Smush, and Hummingbird. If you’re not familiar with Astra and want to try it out first, you can also use the free version. However, the results may be significant considering performance perks, such as CSS file generation.
Click here for a comparison guide of what free vs. Pro includes.
By the end of this article, you’ll have your Astra site fully optimized for performance!
Elementor, Divi (requires Divi Builder Plugin), Beaver Builder…even Gutenberg.
We’re going to go with the Mountain template for this article. It has an excellent combination of images and text, so it seems like a winner to me.
You can locate the Mountain template from the dashboard under Starter Templates and Gutenberg from the template dropdown. Also, there is a search bar to find it.
Now we have a nice view to work with 🙂
Since we have our template for our website, let’s move on to…
WPMU DEV Dashboard, Astra Pro, and Starter Templates. Starter Templates is from Brainstorm Force and can be activated directly from the Astra dashboard in WordPress so that you have access to the Mountain template we’re using.
Other parameters for this test include:
- Hosted on WPMU DEV’s Bronze plan.
- My region is the USA/West.
- The free versions of Smush and Hummingbird. Please note that with WPMU DEV hosting, it will install the Pro versions. For this example, I disabled the Pro features.
- I’m using WordPress version 5.7.2.
- PHP Version is 8.0
- Page Caching, Fast CGI (Static Server Caching), and CDN are disabled to start with. Also, Hummingbird optimization uses several types of caching and compression features on WordPress sites, so Page, Gravatar, and RSS caching were disabled.
- Chrome (desktop) browser.
As for how this test is performed, it’s a step-by-step process that looks like this:
- Install Astra Pro and accompanying plugins, as I mentioned above, on a clean WP site.
- Optimize Astra.
- Run a speed test.
- Activate Smush and set up recommendations.
- Run another speed test.
- Activate Hummingbird and set up recommendations.
- Run another speed test.
- Activate hosting features.
- Run a final speed test.
For the speed tests, I will be using Google PageSpeed Insights. When test results are the same throughout testing (which is the case in this article) after several runs, I’ll include a screenshot.
Keep in mind that EVERY site will be a bit different. It can’t be stressed enough that your geographical regions, the size of your media library, your host, and other factors will determine different outcomes.
We’ve also mentioned this before in some of our previous performance optimization articles, check them out if you haven’t yet:
- How to Speed Up and Optimize Avada for Free Using Our Smush and Hummingbird Plugins
- How to Optimize Divi for Free Using Our Smush and Hummingbird Plugins
- How to Optimize Elementor for Free Using Our Smush and Hummingbird Plugins
But regardless of your WordPress setup, you still achieve results with site optimization using this process.
With that being said, let’s begin!
hosting with us or another provider, this feature is available to you.
It’s a quick hop into The Hub to make FastCGI happen.
If you ARE hosting with us from The Hub, you can turn on FastCGI by enabling Static Server Cache. Go to your website, Hosting, and then Tools. Just click it to ON, and you’ll be all set!
Now that we’ve enabled these optimization features let’s run some final tests…
We’ll check out what Hummingbird has to say, too.
As you can see, though Astra starts with a great score, you can make it even better with a few tweaks. Plus, all of these optimization options are for the long term, so as your site grows, your optimization stays the same with a bit of TLC and monitoring.
This site started with a Google PageSpeed Insights score of 96 for desktop and 88 for mobile. We were able to get the scores up to 99 for desktop and 95 for mobile.
We can conclude that the most significant improvements were mobile, where the desktop improved a little, but not much considering how optimized it was already.
Every site will be a bit different. However, following this optimization path will help your Astra site, and you should see improvements.
For more optimization tips, be sure to read our Ultimate Mega Guide to Speeding Up WordPress.
Astra is a superb lightweight theme for optimizing your site, and obviously, it doesn’t take much. The minor enhancements we covered can boost your site’s speed to its full potential and keep it that way.
Plus, you don’t need to spend a lot of time or money to make good Astra optimization even better. Smush and Hummingbird are accessible to you, and there are plenty of budget-friendly options (e.g. WPMU Hosting — wink, wink) that can get the job done when it comes to hosting.
If you don’t have Astra, be sure to pick up the free or Pro version and give it a try. Combined with our plugins and some good hosting, you too will be saying, “Astra la vista” bad optimization!