This WordPress Theme is a Perfect Fit for My Personal Site … Here’s Why it May Work for Yours Too

For the first time, I am the master of my domain. And by that I mean: I finally own jerodmorris.com.

From the time I became seriously web-aware, about six years ago, my name-specific domain has always been taken. Only non-.com, hyphenated, or add-my-middle-initial versions have been available.

Call me a narcissist domain snob, but yuck. Maybe you can relate?

Then I found out that jerodmorris.com would be coming open. You better believe I was there at 12:01 a.m. on the expiry date ready to pounce.

Finally, I felt both emboldened and excited to start carving out my own little corner of the web. I just needed to find myself the perfect WordPress theme.

Here is the 411 on that decision …

Framing the decision

One of the great perks of working for Copyblogger is having the entire library of StudioPress child themes for Genesis at my beck and call.

After testing out five or six different child themes on a different side-project site, I finally settled on Agency Pro for the visual punch and simple layout it gave me.

But I wanted a different feel for my personal site.

I liked how Agency Pro actually made my other site seem larger than life while focusing attention on the live broadcast and podcast, which are the site’s main features. But I want the focus of jerodmorris.com to be on my written words.

I want it to be a place where anyone who is interested can get to know me, and what’s important to me, and what I have to say on those subjects.

And I want the flexibility to host a podcast and an email newsletter, but without any clutter that might distract from the intimacy of the relationship I hope to develop with whatever audience I’m fortunate enough to build there.

So, yes, I have some pretty clear and specific demands.

Which is why I chose the 411 Pro Theme.

The 411 on 411 Pro

I tested out a number of different themes before choosing 411 Pro. Let me count down a few of the reasons why I settled on it.

1. The background image

One of my favorite pictures is a photo my dad snapped 14-15 years ago when we were hiking in the Rocky Mountains. I knew I wanted to use it.

So I wanted a theme built to accommodate a high-res background picture in a way that a) did not obscure the image with content and/or widgets, and b) would be mobile responsive.

411 Pro does this effortlessly. It’s as simple as uploading the image on the theme customization page and … well, that’s it.

You can see the stunning results.

2. The welcome message

I actually hadn’t considered this until I saw the theme demo, but then I loved it: welcoming readers to your site when they visit your homepage … but not with an annoying pop-up window.

411 Pro comes equipped with a “Welcome Message” widget that you can easily populate with text and an image to give a quick, virtual “Howdy” to your readers … plus maybe a credential or two so that they are compelled to care about what you have to say.

3. The minimalist “sidebar” widgets

You may have noticed that 411 Pro does not have a traditional sidebar. I like this. It keeps the page uncluttered, thus focusing eyes on the content. Such a setup also allows my favorite part of the background image to stand out proudly.

But fear not; you don’t lose all of the positives that a sidebar can provide.

The included widget for social media buttons is easy to configure and displays your selected social media accounts stylishly in the upper right corner of the page. (It’s also easy to alter the colors of the buttons.)

And the included “Click Here” widget allows you to easily configure a call-to-action button that sits proudly and ready to be clicked down in the lower right hand corner of the site.

It’s the best of both worlds: minimalism to keep readers’ eyes where you want them and subtle reminders of the ways readers can connect with you.

4. Mobile responsiveness

I already mentioned this one, but it bears repeating: the HTML5-powered 411 Pro is mobile responsive.

So even me, an idiot when it comes to HTML and CSS, can have a site that looks spectacular no matter what device it is viewed on. And I can get it this way, literally, right out of the box.

So can you.

But wait, there’s … less?

Keep in mind that I didn’t use some special secret version of 411 Pro reserved only for Copyblogger employees. I used the exact same theme you would download upon purchasing.

You just add your background image, set up your widgets, alter a few colors here and there … and then start creating content.

If you’re anything like me, the best part of a site design (or redesign) is when it’s over. Because that’s when the writing can begin (or resume). I can’t remember a simpler site setup than I had with this one.

Less time for a better look? That’s one of the great benefits of 411 Pro.

Should you even bother?

Now here is the $64,000 question.

Hopefully I’ve made the case that 411 Pro is a smart choice for a personal blog-based website. But what’s in it for you? Is this an endeavor that you should devoting your valuable time to?

I don’t know.

As Shanice Cameron writes in this useful post on why she changed the name of her blog and business, you have to figure out your goals first.

I know mine.

My personal website has no immediate business purpose, insofar as I have no revenue-generating goals for it. I plan to use it as my own personal R&D sandbox for content I create here at Copyblogger, plus it will be a fun diversion.

And if I can pick up some subscribers and develop an audience along the way, that would be quite exciting. You know, the Brian Gardner model. :-)

And those goals, I’m sure, will evolve over time. Your goals will be unique to you.

Maybe you want to set up a personal site to write about topics that would not be appropriate on your business site(s). Or maybe the simplicity of the theme, and the ability to grab attention with a compelling image, would work for your business site.

Maybe you combine the two. Or perhaps you look at 411 Pro and see a completely different vision. Go for it!

The benefit of a theme like 411 Pro is that it is spatially efficient and induces razor-sharp focus on your content. It’s the perfect fit for me. Go take the demo for a spin, you may realize it’s a perfect fit for you too.

About the author

Jerod Morris


Jerod Morris is the VP of Marketing for Copyblogger Media. Get more from him on Twitter or . Have you gotten your wristband yet?

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Comments

  1. Wow, I got week in the knees when I saw this template. However, aren’t you wasting an awesome resource over at jerodmorris.com by using a low-res image as the background?

    Either way, I’d love to have that template…it’s beautiful.

    • Daniel, it’s funny you mention that. I finally looked at the site on a large desktop monitor yesterday, and the image didn’t look quite as good as on my laptop. So … yes. Getting a higher-res image would only help.

  2. It’s a glorious theme, it truly is. Looking at your site and the demo has me thinking which is often problematic.

    The serious deal is congratulations on taking control of your own name!! It is a thing that not every one gets to experience.

    Thanks for the thoughts and the ideas.

  3. Hey Jerod,

    We have 2 things in common;

    1. I also waited years for my own domain neilashworth.com to become available – I spent way too long trying to rank on a site with my middle initial squeezed into the middle of my domain NOT to know your contempt for sub-standard personal domains :)
    2. I LOVE the 411 theme and agree – for a personal website it looks superb!

    Now, I’m working on the third thing we need to have in common;

    3. I need to write as well as you do too!

    :-)

    • Thank you for the kind words Neil. It sure is exciting to finally get your name domain after years of waiting! And, fortunately, there is a simply, tried-and-true method for improving writing skills: write … a lot. Like Sonia said. :-)

  4. Great post Jarod! Brian and the other developers are well, pure genius. I think personally speaking minimalism within web design is best….=)

    • Thanks David. I agree. I have done a complete 180 over the past several years. I used to cram as much stuff onto a site as a I could … now I want simple: only what is necessary, and nothing more. It’s better for the audience.

  5. I love everything about this theme except that the reverse type in the navigation menu isn’t strong enough. On my screen at least the white letters are not crisp.

  6. Hey Jerod,

    How did you go about finding out when your domain name would be available? I’ve got my eye on one for my new business that’s currently taken but not being used.

    Thanks,
    Carole

    • Carole,

      Great question! I found out where it was registered by doing a WHOIS lookup. That told me where the domain was currently registered. Like yours, the domain was purchased but not in use. I was able to get on a backorder list, but the prices were too high … so I just kept waiting. Eventually, something very strange happened, and I was actually able to gain control the domain for a month or two via bellnames.com without paying anything (as in, I could edit the DNS records and actually use the site), but then it’s almost like they realized some mistake and my access was withdrawn. I inquired about what had happened, and they informed of the date when it would be officially open for purchase. It was really quite weird series of events at the end … but I’m glad I stayed after it. I got it, so now I can rest easy. :-)

  7. Awesome and perfect theme. Jerod you and your team did a great job. Its good for my personal website which i am planning to start in couple of weeks.

  8. That’s an awesome looking website you got there Jerod and congrats on getting that domain I have had my own name.com for a few years now and well it’s changed a lot over the years! First it was my main blog then it was my portfolio site and now I added genesis to it and turned it to my revamped portfolio site as I got a separate blog.

    I am a great believer in having your own name domain as a blog as it gives you credibility and people will feel they know you better as after all people will follow people they know like and trust and especially if you have something of value to offer!

    I myself am still not 100 percent happy with my personal site and toying with removing WordPress and handcoding it again as I have done before but to be honest WordPress really is quick and easy!

    Here is another thought, I wonder if the .od tld is available as you could always go for jer.od much like what Matt Mullenweg has with his personal ma.tt site! Some food for thought there hey! If it is though I would just add it as a domain forwarder.

    I suppose I better go and check on your site now and see what you got to offer for me! Good luck with it anyway Jerod!
    – Phillip Dews

    • Thanks for the comments Phillip … both here and at the new site! Very much appreciated. And I agree regarding the benefits that having a yourname.com site can bring (or at least just some type of personal site or side project).

      As for the .od, I don’t think that’s a valid TLD. I did, however, secure jmorr.is to use as a link shortener for Twitter. So far so good. :-)

      • Ohh a link shortner! I had one of those before. I used to have gplusmini.me for Google Plus but let that expire a few months ago! wish I kept it now but in the end it’s not worth it anymore!

        I wonder if br.um is available for my site? What you using as a script for the shortner as bit.ly can be used for that!

  9. The real keyword here is RESPONSIVE. Demo looks very nice on my phone. Thanks for the heads up.

  10. I Particularly like the fact then when posted to Facebook, Facebook pulls in the picture of a blog and several sentences from the blog as well.

    This doesn’t happen with a Blogger blog posted to Facebook.

  11. The 411 theme looks great! I will have to keep it in mind, I have been wanting to update my personal website theme which is already on the Genesis Framework. Perfect! Thanks for sharing.

  12. Peter Johnston :

    I’ve been receiving stuff from Copyblogger about StudioThemes for a while. It sounds great.

    But the world has changed. Tablet views now exceed desktop ones. And once you learn to swipe, it changes how you use a website.

    It is so much easier just to swipe to what you want, rather than click and wait for pages to load. And you can swipe sideways, not just up and down.

    Hover also works differently. Used badly it means that as you swipe you keep getting all sorts of horrid popups. But used well it allows you to go near something and find out more.

    Zoom is a third feature of great importance. Find what you want then zoom in to greater detail. Zoom out to see how it fits in the larger scheme of things.

    There is just so much more that you can do with a swipe optimised site.

    But the guys at Studiopress are stuck in the past. You know – logo at the top, full width scrolling banner, three nice little logos with a short paragraph below. Those are “noughties” websites. Stuck in print thinking. Useless for the way people use the web today.

    Please pass this on to the Studiopress designers as a kick up the ass. There’s a whole new world of possibilities out there. Create for those and you’ll create a powerful competitive advantage for Studiopress.

  13. This is a great theme – thanks for bringing it to our attention. I’m a WooThemes guy, so it’s interesting to see what’s out there.

    One thing I have to say, I think you’ve made a smart choice in your background image.

    The theme demo has a tightly cropped head shot staring out of the page. Personally I think it would have been weird to scroll down the page and have a static mug grinning at you. “Hi, welcome to my website. Look at my face! It doesn’t move!”

    I also like the way the social buttons look kind of crisp and flat. Reminds me of Windows 8. Wonder if there’s a name for that kind of design, because I like it.

  14. Great insight.. I’m using siteorigin for most of my sites.. Loving it so far.. Thank you for the post.

  15. The theme is great and design is awesome. Somehow it resembles about.me layout style

  16. Jerod,

    411 is a great choice for a personal blog. I’ve been developing websites for years but have just started to pay attention to Genesis and the associated themes … they really look great. The clean designs and simple but elegant typography are really well conceived. I’m getting that “think I’ll dive in” feeling.

    On the domain front: 1,400 new much-more-descriptive domains are being opened up, and many are already available for pre-registration. .guru, .marketing, .services and .repair are among those coming online. I pre-registered a couple at https://www.name.com. (I put up a blog post about the new domains at http://bit.ly/1lS5R85 if anyone is interested.)

    Thanks for the post and I’m sure I’ll see you inside the Genesis framework before long!

    Chuck

  17. What makes this theme successful for me is the simple organization of a striking photo and social media links without expecting the site owner to have business assets such as a logo. It seams like it would be easy to maintain. I think this would be great for an author or student resume. We’ll probably start seeing this theme used in a lot of personal sites.

  18. Odell McCants :

    Jarod – Taking a similar approach as you to a personal site, I went ahead and bought the 411 Pro Theme. Question – How did you get your pic into the Welcome Message.