In my major theme comparison What’s the Fastest WordPress Theme for Your Page Builder? Hestia didn’t do well. In fact: it did worst – by coming in last, performance-wise.
However, a hefty code-base can sometimes mean an easy-to-use, feature-rich theme with lots of power under the hood.
A theme can be slow – yet user-friendly. Its heavy code can be a means to an end: a theme with a powerful customizer panel that lets you control every little nook and cranny of your website.
In other words: Hestia may still have merit as a powerful, user-friendly WordPress theme… But is it?
That’s what this Hestia Pro review is about to reveal! And with the recent release of Hestia 2, the time is ripe for a review, right? Well, let’s go then:)
Note: in this Hestia theme review, I’ll focus primarily on Hestia Pro – the premium version of Hestia. You can always try out the free version. Most readers are interested in whether the premium/pro version is worth it – or not.
That said, we’ll start out with at look at what the free version of the Hestia theme has on offer.
ThemeIsle (makers of Hestia) have a funky, fun and colorful brand. Pirates and all. I dig it. You’re on WebMatros.com after all – nautical elements feel just like home for a sailor like me:)
By the way, in the name of love and full transparency, please know that I asked the fine folks at ThemeIsle to help me with a Hestia Pro licence in order to facilitate this review. They didn’t ask me to write it. That said, I am part of their referral program and may get a free pirate-parrot if you click to their site via the links in this review. Rest assured though! WebMatros reviews are always fair and trustworthy – I state the pros and cons as I see them. My words are not for sale. If a product has flaws, I’ll point it out. And hey: who says this review will be all that positive anyway? Read on!
What Hestia free will give you
Before we dive (pun intended) deep into Hestia Pro, let’s take a quick look at what the free version of Hestia lets you do – and doesn’t let you do. After that, it’s Hestia Pro time:)
Upon installing Hestia, I was recommended the installation of two additional plugins: Orbit Fox Companion and a Pirate Forms / WPForms plugin. I didn’t install the latter, as I prefer Gravity Forms.
According to its description, the mysteriously named plugin “Orbit Fox Companion” (did they do acid or magic mushrooms on the day they named it like that??) gives you frontpage features and team + testimonials sections. And there’s more:
This swiss-knife plugin comes with a quality template library, menu / sharing icons modules, and newly added Elementor / Beaver Builder page builder widgets on each release.Orbit Fox Companion plugin description
Oki doki then… Good times… Party on, Wayne!
Hestia is based on Google’s Material Design guidelines. That basically means modern, flat design as we all know it from across the web.
Overall, I like Hestia’s default look. It’s clear and crisp.
The Customizer design panel
For its design control panel, Hestia makes use of WordPress’ native Customizer. That’s great. And Hestia’s use of it is fairly good, but isn’t organized as clearly as it could be. For example, there’s a menu item called Appearance. Inside that, you’ll find typography, as expected. But why the heck is Color a separate menu item, and not inside Appearance where it should be? Strange.
And it becomes even more strange when you see what’s inside the Color option:
That much. Or little! And still… it has its own menu item… in the main menu… instead of being placed neatly inside the Appearance settings where it should be. Strange choice indeed.
Here at WebMatros, simplicity is key. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by options, in a world of constant change. We don’t want feature-bloat – we want focused features that helps you spread your wings online.
My mission with WebMatros, is to cut through the endless clutter and noise, to find the simplest solutions that help you do so.
Essentially, I want you to have more time doing what you love, rather than fiddle and fuss with complex software.
In general, Hestia’s design panel could be organized more thoughtfully.
Typography in Hestia – a relative affair
Typography in the Hestia WordPress theme is an awkward, weird and disappointing affair.
You see, in Hestia, font sizes are set with sliders using weird relative sizing. Relative to what? The base font size? I couldn’t find a place to set a base font size. Hmmm… Maybe it’s relative to… the theme’s default font sizing – whatever that may entail.
Essentially, you won’t have any idea what the font sizes are, in pixels, rems or ems. In Hestia’s typographic universe: everything’s relative. And just like that thought can make you dizzy when contemplating the universe and existence on earth, relativity will make you dizzy in Hestia. IF you know what you’re doing, that is.
Why? Because apart from being an awkward way to set font sizes, the relative scheme makes it impossible to use a typographic scale. Typograhic scales are something I ALWAYS use, and always advocate, when teaching web design. It’s KEY to solid, sound, beautiful typography that’s a pleasure to look at – and read.
A typographic scale establishes a visual hierarchy, size-wise, based on a consistent rhythm. The interval between various font-sizes is the same percentage-wise. Just like there’s a semi-tone between each note on a piano. Type set to a typographic scale looks better and more professional. Noob web designers don’t use typographic scales: professionals worth their salt, do.
The fact that Hestia totally disregards such a crucial aspect of web design, baffles me. To me, it was a 100% dealbreaker, when considering Hestia for my upcoming website projects.
Responsize font sizing in Hestia
Responsive control of font-sizes is good though! If you look at the screenshot above, notice the three lil’ circles next to the Title size slider? Clicking each, lets you set the font size for desktop, tablet and mobile devices, respectively. I appreciate that!
Some themes only let you set font sizes above and below a single breakpoint, meaning you’d have to make a decision, as to where that breakpoint makes most sense for your site: are you targeting tablets – or mobile devices? The answer of course, is both. Thankfully, Hestia lets you set individual font sizes for each type of device.
As you could read in my What’s the Fastest WordPress Theme for Your Page Builder? comparison post, Hestia structurally isn’t as well-coded as its main competitors. Its architecture simply isn’t as efficient as it could be. For more details read the performance test.
Switching to Tiny Hestia, a minimalistic blogging child theme for Hestia, didn’t solve the problem. Neither did deactivating all plugins – nor doing any other troubleshooting I could think of. This indicates it’s a problem with Hestia itself. Not a good sign. Sorry to say, but there’s no way around it: other, competing themes simply do a lot better.
This is a strange, serious, potential performance bottleneck. If you pay for server resource usage, it may even end up costing you money. If your site receives a huge traffic burst, such a bottleneck means your site goes down before it should, had you been using a lean, well-coded theme.
Conlusion of the free Hestia review
Apart from the above issues, I was impressed with what Hestia offers us for free. It didn’t feel limited or dumbed-down, as “free” versions sometimes can.
Though the free Hestia version is quite feature-rich, I’m a big believer in supporting developers by paying for extra features. So let’s move on to the Hestia Pro review:
What Hestia Pro will give you
Below are the 5 main Hestia Pro benefits, quoting ThemeIsle:
- Header Slider – You will be able to add more content to your site header with an awesome slider.
- Fully Customizable Colors – Change colors for the header overlay, header text and navbar.
- Jetpack Portfolio – Portfolio section with two possible layouts.
- Pricing Plans Section – A fully customizable pricing plans section.
- Section Reordering – Drag and drop panels to change the order of sections. Reorganize your frontpage sections more easily and quickly.
- Quality Support – 24/7 HelpDesk Professional Support.
Quality support is always good to have. Fully customizable colors are essential. Section reordering too. I don’t personally care for the Jetpack portfolio feature, and the header slider is a meaningless relic that died in 2013. I mean: who da fook wants a slider these days?
There are other features you get with Hestia Pro – check the website for the details. Still, I’ll put it this way:
As much as Hestia’s free feature-set impressed me, the additional feature-set of Hestia Pro disappointed me.
Not that there’s anything wrong with the extra features. I was just a bit.. underwhelmed. I expected more.
It’s like when you’re meeting a friend for coffee at a cafe, and you didn’t really plan to dine there. But you ordered some nachos – and they were surprisingly delicious. So you decided to order their burger. When it arrives on your table, you’re slighty disappointed. It’s a fair and square burger. And the fries are ok. But they have nowhere near the finger-licking charm of those nachos.
Same feeling I had with Hestia Pro, after Hestia’s free lunch.
To put it yet another way, I didn’t feel I was using the premium version of Hestia. I kept wondering whether I was accidentally using the free version of Hestia. I didn’t feel the options it offers for customization are adequate for a framework’ish theme of this type. It’s definitely no Headway (a discontinued but an amazingly flexible WordPress theme framework) nor a Divi theme (a feature-rich yet troubled WordPress theme) – it’s more a “this is how Hestia looks – take it or leave it” thing.
And then there was that insistent footer menu Hestia forced upon me. If I didn’t assign a menu to the footer menu position, Hestia would simply dump all my pages there. What if I don’t WANT a menu in my footer? C’mon ThemeIsle-chaps… Gimme the motherf… choice man! 😀
In contrast, Page Builder Framework, one of Hestia’s competitors, gets it right: if no menu is assigned to the footer, there’s no footer menu (as would be expected).
Also, occasionally, the preview in Hestia’s customizer didn’t update my changes. Sometimes requiring refreshing the page. I experienced this in multiple browsers, so it wasn’t a browser issue on my part.
Concluding my Hestia Pro review
In conclusion of my Hestia review, I’m left with a somewhat bittersweet feeling. I sincerely wish I could recommend it heartfully…
However, for the above stated reasons, the awkward typography settings, its suboptimal code, and somewhat limited flexibility compared to its competitors: I sadly can’t recommend Hestia Pro. Sadly so. Fact is, there are better alternatives out there, like GeneratePress, my current favorite feature-wise, and winner in my WordPress theme speed test.
Two other viable Hestia alternatives, are OceanWP and Astra Pro. Or the Beaver Builder theme which comes included with the Beaver Builder Pro package – a longtime fave of mine – a trusty theme that hasn’t let me, nor my clients, down.
The Beaver Builder theme only makes sense if you’re also shopping for a page builder though – in which case I’d recommend Beaver Builder. But if you’re using Elementor, or some other page builder, like f.e. Thrive Architect: GeneratePress Premium is my current, primary recommendation for a lean, feature-rich, easy-to-use, page builder friendly theme.
I hope you enjoyed reading this Hestia theme review?
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