This guide was compiled for a first-year Ph.D. seminar on social media presence. This is not intended to be a tutorial on building websites, but some things to consider when you do.
To start off, I think it’s a no-brainer when it comes to deciding whether you should create a website as an early Ph.D. student (or any student for that matter). As a researcher, your goal is to share your interests, knowledge, and findings. Having a digital presence will complement other traditional avenues such as journals. And a website is the best way to accumulate, organize, and share this information in a way that you want to.
Having an online presence is all about branding. You want others to quickly find you. And you want to found for what you want to be found for.
There are different ways to write websites (see resources). In the long term, everyone should learn some basic HTML and CSS to edit websites. This is not hard and will be useful down the lane. So, I recommend using GitHub Pages. There are tons of tutorials to help you with this (see resources).
Once you have the website ready, you will need a server to host this. Again, for beginners, I recommend GitHub Pages. It’s free and easy. If you find yourself outgrowing GitHub Pages, I recommend Netlify – this is what I use currently. If you are advanced and know what you are doing, there are other options like Digital Ocean and AWS (personally, I think this is overkill for an academic website).
Your university might also provide you with some webhosting options. I would avoid using them because they can be very limiting. And you will likely lose access after you graduate. Ideally, you want your website to last your entire career. This is why I suggest using a trusted and well-known independent provider.
Lastly, you may want to consider getting a custom domain name. These cost ~$10 a year, and you usually get the first year for free as a student. Namecheap is one popular option.
Look up other researchers’ websites. What do you like about them? What don’t you like about them? Learn and adapt from others. Generally, you want the following:
Some miscellaneous tips:
The content largely depends on how you want to market yourself to the world! For example, look around Dan Larremore’s website. Compare that with Aaron Clauset’s website. They work on similar questions and frequently collaborate, but their websites evoke different feelings. I am not saying one is better than the other. Just be mindful of the message you, intentionally or unintentionally, send. Where do you want to lie on the spectrum between strictly professional and professional + personal?
Do not add anything that you would not want a future (or current) employer/collaborator to see.
If you do not want to spend time learning how to build a website, there are lots of website builders that make this job easier. Here are a few popular options:
Other alternatives to GitHub Pages:
Some other alternatives that I have never used: