GretaThemes launched its eStar theme yesterday. The team’s goal was to build a lightweight theme that focused on the block editor. However, it works alongside other page builders such as Elementor, Beaver Builder, and more.
GretaThemes is a project of eLightUp, which is the same company behind the popular Meta Box framework, WP Auto Listings, and FitWP. The site’s focus is on selling WordPress themes, many of which are pro versions of its free theme offerings. For now, eStar is merely a free theme with no direct commercial upsells.
eStar is promoted as a multipurpose theme that is suitable for various types of sites. In my tests, I found it to be best designed for businesses that need a clean and professional look. However, with enough tweaks via its numerous customizer options, end-users can get a lot of mileage out of this theme.
With gzipping enabled, the theme’s scripts and styles add less than 10 kb of data to the page load. That is reasonably lightweight and should result in a speedy website, assuming nothing else causes issues.
The theme recommends and integrates with the Meta Box and eRocket plugins, both of which are available for free in the WordPress plugin directory. The Meta Box integration will add extra per-post settings, which are primarily related to the layout on the front end. These can be configured globally in the customizer. The plugin integration merely provides the ability to do so on the per-post level. The eRocket plugin adds a contact info and recent posts widget along with social sharing buttons. The eStar theme has additional styles for making these fit into the design on the front end.
eStar ticks many of the boxes that would make it a great go-to option for people who need a reliable theme that supports the block editor. It does not push any artistic boundaries. It is not the type of theme that has an incredible wow factor. It is simply a solid offering that gives users a lot of freedom to take an almost boring default configuration and turn it into something special with a mix of font and color options.
Check out the eStar theme demo for a picture of what the theme looks like.
Build Landing Pages Like a Pro
The GretaThemes team has designed eStar to get out of the way for users who want to build full pages with either the block editor or a third-party page builder. It offers several post and page templates as a starting point:
- Blank Canvas: Displays only the post content.
- Narrow Content: Shows the header, footer, and post content, which is in a narrow column in the center of the page.
- Full Width: Shows the header, footer, and post content, which stretches across the page.
- Wide Content: Shows the header, footer, and post content, which stretches across the page.
No, there is no typo or copy/paste mistake for those final two templates in the preceding list. There seems to be no difference between the Full Width and Wide Content templates. I am unsure why both are included, except to wonder if one or the other is there for backward compatibility with other themes.
What makes the theme great at building landing pages so great is not its four custom templates. Those are nice additions that provide an open canvas. However, it is the theme’s block styling that provides the customizability to build these landing pages. Its block styles will not blow you away with unique design takes. They simply work.
The one thing that would bring this theme to the next level would be the addition of custom patterns. The Patterns API is not available in core WordPress yet, but it will likely land this year. Now is a good time for the team to get on top of this feature, even if it is a part of a commercial offering.
How Does the Theme Handle Blogging?
The theme markets itself as suitable for blogging. However, it falls short of being a great blogging theme with the default configuration. For long-form content, single posts have far too many characters per line for comfortable reading. For short, media-rich blog posts, it would work well.
To get the most out of eStar as a blogger, users will need to make some adjustments. Fortunately, this is one area in which the theme shines. It provides a slew of customizer options that provide enough flexibility to make it work. By heading to the Fonts section in the customizer and bumping up the Font Size in the Body section, it would transform the theme into something suitable for long-form content.
There are some other adjustments worth considering. If you routinely use the same image within post content as you do as a featured image, the theme will show that same image twice on single post views — a common issue in many themes. eStar does provide a customizer option to configure or disable the featured image on single posts. Using the featured image as the header background is also another useful option the theme provides and can make your posts stand out.
I also recommend disabling the sidebar for blog posts if you enjoy wide or full-width media. The theme’s design stands out when it can make copious use of the page.
The biggest issue — and would be a deal-breaker for me if I could not code — is the theme adds a custom design to the first paragraph of the post content. The font-size is increased and given a light gray color. It is not easy to read. The theme should leave this bit of customization in the user’s hands. WordPress provides block-level customization via the editor if the user needs to do something special with the intro paragraph.
I also recommend switching the archive layout to either grid card or grid, which is used in the theme’s demo. The grid card option looks a little better and is a concept likely lifted from Tailwind’s component documentation.
The theme is not without a few trivial issues. For example, the site title and description feel a little cramped. I would love to see some extra whitespace above and below it.
With the default configuration of the theme, I would recommend it to anyone who needs a solid design for a business website. By throwing in a custom logo and adjusting a couple of colors, the average end-user would have all they need to launch a business site. With the power of the block editor or a third-party page builder, costs to setting up shop would be minimal.
For people who do not mind a little legwork and need something better suited for blogging, the theme can handle it. It will simply take some minor customization to make the text a bit more readable.
Overall, it is nice to see another good option land in the official WordPress theme directory that caters to the block editor. I look forward to seeing what GretaThemes does in the future with its themes and hope to see other theme companies follow suit with block editor support.