How to: Get started with an academic website

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.

Right now

  1. Quickly search your name (append your universtiy and department if your name is common) on Google.
  2. Can you find yourself easily? Do you like what you see?
  3. What would a peer or potential employer think about these search results? (As much as it does not matter what others think, we live in a society. And, by definition, it matters what others think.)

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.

How a website works

Here is a cartoon of how websites work: There is a codebase (usually written in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript) that generates website. This code is hosted on a server. When you type in a URL, the browser finds this server using the URL. The server responds with the generated website.

Getting started

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.

What to add to the website?

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:

  1. A clear photo.
  2. Your name (full and preferred name).
  3. A short bio containing:
    • Your research interests.
    • Where you are in your professional life.
  4. Contact details and social media like Twitter and GitHub usernames. When you share your email, be careful of robots that crawl the internet to spam emails. You can also include your Google Scholar profile.
  5. Your CV.
  6. Publications. Try to consolidate all related resources such as the paper, code, and slides here.
  7. Teaching. You can also add any course material you developed.

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?

Is there something that should not be added?

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:

However, I highly recommend GitHub Pages. There are lots of customizable themes. There are also lots of official and unofficial tutorials to help you with this.

Other alternatives to GitHub Pages:

Some other alternatives that I have never used: