A bouquet of LearnDash themes at your feet, yet identifying the best is hard, isn’t it?
Well, I’ve been there. And, I know what it’s like to mess up the learning experience (more than once) with slow page loads, complex learning portals, average designs, and not-so-attractive features 🙁
But, I don’t want you to go through the same painful process. So, here I am – after trying plenty of themes and a few screw-ups later, down to the 3 best LearnDash themes that I know have the ability to pump up the learning experience for your students to a whole new level.
Now, before we dive deep, let me quickly introduce our contestants:
- eLumine – the sleek, fast, and dynamic eLearning theme that is power-packed with features.
- Astra – the super-fast, multipurpose theme that is adored by hundreds of WordPress users.
- BuddyBoss theme – the student-friendly, theme next door with a focus on social networking.
So, these themes are evaluated and compared on 3 factors – Speed, User-friendliness, and Features.
Why did we choose these parameters?
Based on our experience of working with eLearning websites, we’ve noticed that these three factors are crucial for running a successful LMS.
Website speed is essential to keep your students engaged in the course as, according to research, slow loading speeds often cause distraction and low retention of information. In addition, for independent trainers, website speed is important if your site has to have a prayer of ranking in the Google search results.
User-friendliness, or in technical terms the user interface and user experience, are important for the student to be able to navigate through the website easily and find the courses and course content quickly.
In the context of eLearning, features include all the essential functionalities you require to run an online school or coaching website successfully. This includes the ability to add and manage multiple course authors, create student groups, gamify your courses, handle quiz reports, create student profiles, and much more. In the theme comparison, will analyze the theme for inclusion of features, as well as its compatibility with other plugins that offer these features.
Now the premise is ready. Let’s get to comparing some themes!
eLumine vs. Astra vs. BuddyBoss – Need for Speed
Today, the means of eLearning have increased and so have the distractions. And, one of the major factors that keep the students from succumbing to either, is Speed.
Yup. If you want your students to interact & engage with your content, you’ve got to ensure your webpages, courses, lessons, etc. load at a lightning-fast speed. Since learning is virtual, you have to encourage two-way interaction to keep them engaged.
This means – you’ve got to have a website that loads quickly and seamlessly, with minimum lag.
Having said that, let’s take a look at where our 3 LearnDash themes stand in terms of Speed.
To analyze which was the fastest theme, we set up a test website with the standard plugins an eLearning website would require. And, then tested out the premium licenses of all three themes.
Speed test tech details:
Server configuration – Memory: 1GB, Processing: 1vCPU, Storage: 40GB SSD, PHP 7.2 (for more details about PHP: php7.2-fpm with nginx)
Installed plugins –
LearnDash Course Grid
Tool Used for Testing: Google Pagespeed Insights.
Here are the results (ratings).
|Page Tested||eLumine v2.6.0||Astra||BuddyBoss|
|Course Single Page||74||74||62|
|Blog Single Page||90||80||61|
Clearly, the war here is only between eLumine and Astra. Both are neck to neck when it comes to page load speeds.
eLumine clocks a better rating on Home Page & Lesson page load speed while Astra trumps the course listing page.
But, if I had to pick one, I’d lean towards eLumine because it is a LearnDash-focused theme designed carefully to make your lessons and courses load faster. Plus, it’s compatible with all of the LearnDash extensions. While Astra is a multi-purpose theme that is fast but not fast enough for eLearning.
Interestingly, the older version of eLumine was quite slow to load (which was one of the biggest pet peeves of its users). However, eLumine released a new update which boosts up the theme’s engine quite significantly and brings it on par with Astra, even in terms of eLearning features.
eLumine vs. Astra vs. BuddyBoss – Design, Ease-of-Use, and Experience
As it is, our attention spans are dwindling. And, studying online with nobody to stop the students from wandering off in their own world (except in a live class) is pretty easy.
Now, the solution to this is simple – make your course material and presentations super engaging to hold your students’ attention at all times. And, this is where your LearnDash themes come in handy.
Before we get on, these are some of the basic features you must expect in a good eLearning theme:
- Neat and Clean layouts with customizable fonts.
- Distraction-Free study mode.
- Easy navigation options throughout the website, etc.
On that note, let’s take a look at the layouts for the three themes:
a. BuddyBoss Design & Layouts
BuddyBoss is a social-centric theme, which implies that it has a strong focus on enhancing the social learning experience.
Keeping in line with this thought, it has some great designs for the Student Profile pages and forum pages, with crisp icons and graphics that are retina-ready.
Its Course page and Lesson page layouts could be better though, and its eCommerce template is pretty standard.
b. Astra Design & Layouts
Image source: Astra
Just to reinstate, Astra is not an eLearning theme but a multipurpose WordPress theme with a starter template for LD.
This means, you either have to build your LMS design from scratch or use one of the free/premium Starter Templates that can give you a headstart. These templates have a variety of customization options for the Courses page, the single lesson pages, etc., which help you build a website that reflects your voice and tone.
Now, if you are (or are planning to hire) a DIY WordPress developer who can design Course Pages, layouts, and customize them, this can be a good option for you, since you retain the freedom to build a website from the ground up.
However, if you are someone who knows WordPress basics but wants a ready-to-implement site design where you can work on your courses and go live ASAP, Astra might not be the perfect fit for you.
c. eLumine Design & Layouts
eLumine, with its LearnDash-course centric theme, comes with a LearnDash-only layout. It neatly highlights your course content properly with full and boxed-width display options, and reader-friendly page designs that help improve student engagement and attention spans.
In addition, it has 3 ready-to-import eLearning website demos, along with sample courses. This makes it easy for you to set up your LMS in a short amount of time.
Moreover, you can also use its Neo Layouts that hugely improve the aesthetics and look of your courses and pages. Thereby, significantly contributing to your students’ learning experience.
And, for those, who wish to sell your courses, eLumine integrates perfectly with WooCommerce and even has WooCommerce-ready layouts that help display your course and all course-related information clearly.
All three themes are highly responsive and mobile-ready, which is crucial as students study across multiple devices these days.
However, Astra is more skeletal in its approach with its build-your-way-up module which might not be the best option at this stage.
So, this leaves us with eLumine and BuddyBoss as top contenders in terms of designs & layouts. Both of them provide student-friendly designs and navigation with minimum hassle.
I’d recommend going with eLumine or BuddyBoss when it comes to designs & layouts.
eLumine vs. Astra vs. BuddyBoss – Who’s the Feature Creature?
What’s a learning management system without some cutting-edge features that make life easy for your teachers, am I right? LearnDash scores pretty well in this area, bringing a powerful course builder, advanced quizzing options, and sweet gamification to the table.
So, while selecting a theme for LearnDash, you’ve got to select one that is not just compatible with all these features but also brings additional value to your LMS.
Let’s take a look at the advanced features our three contestants offer, out of the box.
a. eLumine – Powerful features, nifty add-ons
eLumine is quite the powerhouse of features when it comes to building an LMS. Take a look:
- Offers pre-built demos that can be imported instantly to kickstart your eLearning business ASAP.
- Translation-ready & dedicated RTL layouts to avoid any glitches if your students switch to an RTL display.
- Comes with 7 different styling palettes, colors, and customizable fonts allowing you to create your unique website without touching the code.
- It also has an inbuilt-child theme and Night/Read modes for better readability.
- Offers SEO-Friendly content formatting options to rank higher in search results.
- Integrates seamlessly with popular plugins like BuddyPress, bbPress, WooCommerce, etc.
Note: To your LearnDash-eLumine combination, you can further add features like group registration, setting up multiple instructors, course duplication, Zoom integration, ratings and reviews, quiz reports, etc.
b. BuddyBoss – Good features, complex packages
BuddyBoss keeps social networking front and center. Here are some of its key features:
- Provides WordPress social login for your LMS to enhance the easy connection to social apps.
- Integrates easily with all BuddyBoss plugins and bbPress extensions.
- Comes with a Facebook type ‘Wall’ feature that displays all student activities enabling students to like each others’ posts.
- Also offers a Media option that allows students to upload photos and tag others in them.
Coming to the other admin-focused elements of the LMS though – BuddyBoss covers just the basics. In a nutshell, it is a theme that will help increase student interaction quite a bit but won’t make life easier for you as the website owner.
Also, the pricing packages for BuddyBoss can be confusing.
There is a BuddyBoss theme that is for LearnDash and has all the eLearning-specific features you need. Then there is the Boss theme which is powered by the BuddyPress tool but is more of a WordPress theme, which can be used for LearnDash with the Social Learner add-on.
So, make sure that you know everything that your theme package includes, before buying the theme.
c. Astra – Least features, full freedom of development
As mentioned previously, Astra has eLearning templates that support LearnDash. Now, let’s take a look at some of its key features:
- Offers advanced styling options that let you customize your site the way you want.
- Comes with a distraction-free mode & customer dashboard for students to manage all their courses.
- It also has a quick checkout option for customers to buy the courses in a few clicks.
- It also shows progress bars to notify students of where they stand in the course.
However, when it comes to core eLearning features, Astra falls way short as compared to eLumine and BuddyBoss.
Since Astra is a multipurpose theme, it clearly falls short on core eLearning features such as advanced student management options, quiz reporting, instructor management settings, etc.
On the other hand, themes like eLumine and BuddyBoss come good on most of the features and are better suited to provide a dazzling learning experience for your students.
All in all, it is better to opt for LearnDash-based themes like eLumine and BuddyBoss, as opposed to a multipurpose theme like Astra.
Note – We haven’t compared the themes based on pricing here because, considering the varied extensions and packages of the three, there is no common basis for comparison.
Recommended for you – How to Setup a Learning Management System with LearnDash
Some FAQ’s we often receive:
1. Which theme is more suitable to build a Udemy-like website?
eLumine & BuddyBoss are both fit to create your own Udemy-like website. In fact, eLumine comes with course templates and lessons that resemble Udemy.
2. I want my students to be able to communicate with other students and student groups, which theme supports this the best?
BuddyBoss is built with the intention to let your students communicate easily. And, eLumine also allows you to implement this function by integrating the same with BuddyPress.
3. Which of the themes work better with page builders?
Astra & eLumine work great with modern page builders.
4. I want to kickstart my website ASAP, which theme will let me do that?
eLumine & Astra both come with Ready-to-Import demos that allow you to kickstart your LearnDash business within a few minutes.
The Final Verdict?
eLumine, Astra, and BuddyBoss Theme – all three are dependable themes for building your LearnDash LMS. So, which theme you choose depends a lot on your requirement from your LMS.
Want to build a fast, dynamic, and full-fledged LMS with lots of instructors, students, and a variety of courses? – Go for eLumine.
Want a fast but basic LMS where you create and sell your own courses and are happy with the native features of LearnDash? – Go for Astra.
Need a user-friendly LMS where you want to encourage student interaction and discussions? Go for BuddyBoss.
And, if you’re still confused, feel free to reach out to us at [email protected] or just comment below. I’d be happy to help 🙂
Happy eLearning and don’t forget to let us know which one you choose!
silkroad academy :
thanks….it was a great explain
Pink Pineapple :
The. best. theme. comparison. EVER. Thankyou so much! You have saved me from a lot of confusion and indecisiveness, and now I can’t wait to get started!