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Build a Personal Academic or Professional Website

A Spring 2024 Workshop

Why a Self Assessment?

Starting with an honest self assessment will help you choose the best platform. It will help guide your thinking about needs and capacity to help you choose the best platform for your website and begin a content outline.

Why Do I Need a Website?

Question: Why do you need a website?

Answer: Someone's gonna Google you.

A better answer: You can tell people about yourself and, maybe more importantly, share your work with other people on a platform they can access at no cost.

Websites are your opportunity to:

  • Tell people who you are in your own words (not RateMyProfessor);
  • Share important research information to positively impact real people outside of academia (not academic jargon locked behind paywalls);
  • Share (and maybe distribute) your creative work;
  • Maybe even create opportunities (because your brilliance deserves to be shared).

The Academic Designer has 8 solid reasons for developing your academic website.

What Do You Want People To Know and Do?

Before choosing your hosting platform, start documenting your goals and needs by reflecting on these questions:

What do I want people to know about me?

  • What is my personal statement/vision/mission?
  • What about my biography do people need to know (whether personal/professional)?

What do I want people to do on my website?

  • Should they be able to access and view my work?
  • Should they be able to purchase my work?
  • Should they be able to connect with me?

What else do people need to know or do from my website?

Notice that all of these questions are less about you and all about your website guests (aka users). These questions should identify their needs and begin shaping how they might navigate your website. User-Centered Design puts the user's needs first, with design and technical considerations following to meet those needs. For a deep, deep dive into user-centered design, you can dig into the many resources in User-Centered Design Basics by or read Usability Geek's blog User-Centered Design: An Introduction. For a mere mortal overview of user-centered design, read 5 User centered design (CD) principles you need to know from Medium.

What Is Your Personal Capacity?

Being realistic about your personal capacity to build and maintain your website is important. This will not only influence what you put on there, but also what web-hosting platform you choose.

For small business owners, Vibhati Sharma has a list of 10 Factors to Consider When Choosing Web Hosting for Your Small Business.

For the rest of us, you may want to subject yourself to a reality check and be brutally honest when you answer the following questions:

  • Do I have the technical skills to build a website from the ground up or do i have the skills to plug content (text, pictures, etc.) into an existing website template?
    • I have the technical skills, but do i have the time to build and maintain a website?
  • Do I have the graphic design skills to design the visuals or do I need to rely on a template?
    • I have the graphic design skills but do i have the time to use them for my website?
  • Do I have good pictures to use or,
    • Do I need to get an updated head shot?
    • Do i need to use stock images to help convey my messages?
  • Do I really need a full website or can what I need to communicate be communicated more effectively by a robust OrcID or LinkedIn profile?

Additional considerations:

  • Do I need an e-commerce site? (maybe if you're planning to distribute your own work)
  • What funds do I have to build and maintain my site with? (while there are some free platforms that are easy to use, there are always more options and support tools available when you pay for your platform)
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