How To Make An Academic Website

Ready to make your academic personal website?

For professors and scientists, a personal website is a big project, but well-worth it. It’s the best way to manage your online presence long-term. And, your academic web portfolio can showcase your

  • teaching
  • research
  • publications
  • speaking engagements
  • service

There are many benefits of academic websites for professors, grad students, and researchers like you. In this guide, discover the 7 steps to a personal website:

  1. Create your content
  2. Pick a domain name and site title
  3. Choose a website host
  4. It’s time for set-up
  5. Preview your site
  6. It’s time to go live
  7. Share your website

I’m Jennifer van Alstyne. Welcome to my blog/podcast, The Social Academic.

Virtual. Self-paced. Choose your own adventure.

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Today we’re talking about how to make your personal academic website.

Having a personal website is great because it

  • shares your professional accomplishments
  • helps your colleagues and other scholars in your field connect with you and your work
  • attracts students who are interested in what you’re teaching (they’ll be able to understand what your classes will be like from a good teaching section)
  • allows people to get in touch without having to search through a dense faculty profile
  • provides an engaging way for funders and publishers to better understand you
  • helps people develop longer-term connections with your work
  • connects people with your public social media accounts (including academic or research-based ones)

Most people I’ve spoken with say the process of making a personal website creates a better understanding of the impact of their own work. There are so many benefits of a personal academic website.

But a website isn’t right for everyone. It does take time and money. And not just once. A website is an ongoing project that needs regular updating.

Not sure if you’re ready? Check out this guide to avoid common pitfalls like lack of time, training, or funds.

If you’re sure a website isn’t for you, that’s totally okay! My top recommendation is to update your LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn is a great way to network with your community.

For the rest of you, here is my step-by-step guide to creating a personal academic website. If you need more guidance, be sure to scroll to the bottom of this post to learn about my academic websites training (with live support).

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7 steps to take your website from start to launch

Woman in athletic wear ready to climb stairs

Creating a personal academic website is a long-journey. It’s definitely not a 10-minute project like some articles claim. A website is typically a multi-day project. This guide should help you move forward efficiently.

Here are the steps to making your personal website a reality.

  1. Create your content
  2. Pick a domain name and site title
  3. Choose a website host
  4. It’s time for set-up
  5. Preview your site
  6. It’s time to go live
  7. Share your website

Communicating with the public, and with your scholarly audiences, is hard work. Following this guide will help you get your academic website from start to launch smoothly.

Let’s get started.

Step #1 | Create your content

A good website thinks about the content first. So step 1 in creating your personal website is deciding what you’ll include.

I bet you thought we were going to start with choosing a host, or domain name. Nope.

This is the biggest step of creating your website

How do you want to structure your website?

The structure and organization of your academic website determines the content you’ll need to create.

If you want to share a lot of information, you can have more pages:

  • About page with your academic bio and headshot
    • Link to CV
  • Research page
    • Current project
    • Research outcomes
  • Teaching page
    • Course descriptions
    • Syllabi
    • Teaching Statement/Philosophy
  • Publications page
    • Abstracts or descriptions
    • Publication links
  • Speaking Engagements page
  • Contact page
  • Links to your social media profiles
  • Blog

If you want a simpler website, a smaller structure is recommended:

  • About page with your academic bio and headshot
    • Link to your CV
    • Links to your social media profiles

The simplest website structure is just 1-page. But it isn’t right for everyone.

The size of your website and how much content you include, will change depending on what you want to share.

That’s why thinking about site content and structure is the kind of thing you want to plan before you get started.

Gather written content for your website

Once you’ve decided on a structure and what you want to include, I highly recommend you write your content before creating your website.

Make a list of the pages you need to write content for, i.e.

  • About Page
    • Academic bio: 150-300 words
    • Research description
  • Research Page
    • Abstract of current project(s)
    • Longer description of research interests
    • Important outcomes or research highlights
  • Publications Page
    • Publication details (not in standard citation format), preferably with an abstract or description

Then, write the content for each page to complete this step.

Need content inspiration? Be sure to check out my post with website content ideas.

Edit your content for the web

Most people don’t write for the web automatically. Academics tend to use

  • complicated or dense sentences
  • jargon / specialized terms
  • long paragraphs
  • no headings (or few headings)

And these are all no no’s for web writing.

For best practices, edit the content you have to

  • use simple sentences
  • define jargon and specialized terms
  • break your writing into short paragraphs (less than 5 sentences)
  • choose headings that help website visitors skim the page to find what they’re looking for

Photography and headshots

Choosing photography now falls under collecting content. You’ll need 2 things:

  • cover photo (also called a splash image, header photo, etc.)
  • headshot

I’m using the word cover photo, because it’s a term you may have heard of for your social media profile. Basically, a cover photo is a large photo at the top of your profile (or in this case website) that will be there all the time. Or that is kind of like a theme photo that represents your website.

If you like taking photos, you may have one already that works for you.

Many people choose stock images for their cover photo.

For your headshot, you don’t need to go out and do a professional photo shoot. If you have photos from your work then that’s a good option.

Selfies are a good option for your headshot too.

You just want your photo to be friendly, like of your smiling face.

And try not to have distractions in the background.

Are photos required? No, but it really does help. So if you’re uncomfortable with photos, consider making an avatar instead.

Whichever you photos choose, you need to have the rights or licence to share them online.

Want your academic or scientist website to be super engaging? Try adding video!

Back to the 7 steps to your website

Step #2 | Pick a domain name and site title

Once you’ve gathered/written all your content, you want to pick a domain name. Do this before choosing a host because it’s literally going to be the 1st thing most of them ask you to do when you sign-up.

Your domain name is your main website URL, or web address.

For instance, the full URL to this page is

So the domain name for the website is

Your site title is what your website is called, in my case, The Academic Designer, which is the name of my company.

For a personal website, my top recommendation for choosing your website domain and title is to use your full name.

My personal website is (site name: Jennifer van Alstyne).

Using your full name will help your page rank in Google and other search engines.

Afterall, the keyword most people will use to find your website when searching, is your name.

So, decide on a domain name and website title.

And, an easy way to check if your domain name is in use is by typing it into your navigation search bar. If it’s taken a website will show up, and you may need to add a middle initial or keyword (i.e., or

Typically if a domain name is taken but not in active use, it will tell you how you can purchase it.

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Back to the 7 steps to your website

Step #3 | Choose a website host

What website host is best for you will depend on your budget and technical skills. Oh, also your time. I almost forgot that one.

So there are 3 things to consider when choosing a website host:

Here’s my guide to choosing the best website host for your personal scientist website.

What’s your budget like?

Depending on where you end up hosting your website, the full annual cost can be anywhere from $0 to around $175 USD per year.

This is going to sound harsh, but unless you have coding/technical skills for web design…

Or you have the time and interest to learn…

You’re going to want to spend some money.

Learn more about the cost of a personal website.

So how tech-y are you?

So how good are your technical skills? If you know basic HTML and CSS, a self-hosted WordPress is a free option you may consider. If you use any of the other coding languages used for web design, you probably already know how you want to build your website and you just needed some guidance on the content.

But if you’re like most academics, you probably haven’t had web design or coding training. And that’s okay! That’s normal. Most people haven’t had training on how to make a website.

There are options for you that don’t require a lot of technical ability:

  • a managed WordPress host like (my favorite), Bluehost, WPEngine
  • SquareSpace
  • (not recommended, but better than other drag-and-drop editors)

I do not recommend hosting a personal academic website through your university or affiliation,, MLA Commons, your scholarly organizations, etc.

And that’s for a lot of reasons, but mainly these three:

  • you should own and have full control of your website (including the option to move to another host)
  • you need the ability to have good search engine optimization (SEO), and many of those larger sites are not well-indexed by search engines like Google
  • if your research, work, or interests change you want your website to be able to adapt to you long-term

My top choice for academic websites is, a managed WordPress host. For most people the Personal plan is great at $4/mo. But if you want more control over themes and look, Premium is $8/mo. The benefit of using a managed WordPress host is that they take care of things like security and updates for you. It saves professors and scientists a lot of time to have customer service too.

Subscribe to The Social Academic blog.

Got time on your hands? Start thinking about content and technical updates now

A website does take up a lot of time during creation, but not everyone thinks about ongoing maintenance. You’ll want to update your content on an annual basis, if not more often (i.e. when you add a line to your CV). A great website developer I’ve partnered with for Squarespace websites recommends updating your website content every month. I know that’s just not feasible for most of you.

But you do need to regularly ensure that plugins and website updates are done. Technical updates are necessary.

If your website gets a virus or gets hacked, can you take time out of your busy schedule to deal with it? You’ve got classes to teach, research to do, writing, speaking…That’s why paying for hosting that includes security and support is your best option.

Have a new personal website? Plan in advance by putting website updates in your calendar now.

Subscribe to The Social Academic blog.

Back to the 7 steps to your website

Step #4 | It’s time to set-up your personal website

Once you’ve chosen a host, it’s time to set up your website. This is an exciting day, because when you have the content written already, your website will come together fast.

Choose a theme for your website

Most website hosts have themes or looks to choose from for the design of your website.

When choosing a theme for your website look for these 3 things:

  • mobile responsive (your website adapts from desktop to mobile screens well)
  • clean design, free from distractions
  • accessibility-ready (depending on your host)

Once you’ve chosen a theme, you can usually edit things like font and color.

For font, choose a sans serif font (letters without the little feet).

In terms of color, you want something with a high contrast for easy readability. Dark text on a light background is preferred.

Place your content

Once you’ve selected a theme, you’re ready to place your content. Depending on how big your website is, you’ll want to know how to do these things

  • add a page
  • place text
  • insert a URL link
  • upload a photo
  • make a header

Note that sometimes the cover photo, or what some hosts call a splash image, is in a different site-level section. Where to find that setting is different for each website host. Look at the Support/Help section of your website host. And don’t hesitate to reach out to customer service with questions. Most website hosts have well-written guides you can use to help you perform these actions.

You may also need to know how to add and edit these site-level items

  • a menu
  • social media links
  • a contact form

Titles, tags, and other metadata

When you upload photos or other media to your website, it’s important to check that the metadata and alt tags are descriptive.

For my splash image of succulents:

  • title of the photo (Succulents)
  • name of the photo (succulents.jpg)
  • description of the photo (website header photo of many green echeveria succulents)

Do this for all photos and images.

Back to the 7 steps to your website

Step #5 | Preview your site

Once your content is placed, preview your website. You want to check your content for

  • spelling
  • formatting
  • readability

Be sure to preview your website on different screens if you have the option

  • desktop
  • tablet
  • mobile

If you are able, try your website on different browsers

  • Chrome
  • Firefox
  • Microsoft Edge
  • Safari

I suggest asking friends and/or family to check your site for you as well. We often miss our own simple errors. And, you may learn if something is confusing or hard to find.

You’d be surprised how many personal websites I’ve come across where it’s difficult to find the name of the person who it’s about. Seriously.

Back to the 7 steps to your website

Step #6 | It’s time to take your website live

Okay, so you’ve previewed your website. And you’ve asked a friend to look it over. It’s time to take your website live!

Please note that if you sell anything on your website including consulting or editing services, you are required by law to have a Privacy Policy and a Terms and Conditions page. Look to your country’s regulations about this. You will also need a Privacy Policy and Terms page if you are using Google Analytics or other tracking pixels or tools. Do not take your website live until you have those things.

If that is not the case for you, or if you’ve added those policies…

Go ahead and Publish your website.

Congratulations! You have a personal academic website ready to be shared with the world.

Back to the 7 steps to your website

Step #7 | Share your website

Once your website is live, you need to share it.

In the next couple of weeks, Google will crawl your website (unless you tell it not to, but don’t do that). Once that happens you’re website will start showing up when people Google your name. But that shouldn’t be the only way people find your website.

  • Announce your website on social media. Invite people to check it out.
  • Update your social media profiles to include your website address.
  • Add your new website address to your email signature.

Back to the 7 steps of your website

Good luck with your website project!

Well that’s the whole process, step-by-step. Good luck setting up your personal website.

Be sure to bookmark this page so you can come back and check the steps. Read more articles about personal websites here on The Social Academic.

If you need help with your website, don’t hesitate to reach out. I have services and recommendations to help you!

Free online presence workshop

Get started for in this virtual choose your own adventure workshop for professors, researchers, and graduate students.

Guides and Advice Articles Personal Website How To's Resources for Grad Students Share Your Research

Jennifer van Alstyne View All →

Jennifer van Alstyne is a Peruvian-American poet and communications consultant. She founded The Academic Designer, LLC to help professors, researchers, and graduate students manage their online presence. Jennifer’s goal is to help people share their work with the world.

Check out her personal site at https://jennifervanalstyne
or learn more about the services she offers at

22 Comments Leave a comment

  1. It was a beneficial workout for me to go through your webpage. It definitely stretches the limits with the mind when you go through very good info and make an effort to interpret it properly. I am going to glance up this web site usually on my PC. Thanks for sharing

  2. Hey, we have developed a full service for scientific and academic websites. We are three scientists (PhD) and we were bored wasting precious research time in website management. You can check our plugins and templates specially designed for scientific websites (e.g. bibTex import of publications or ORCID import directly to your site). Give us some feedback ! Thanks ! Quentin Glorieux

    • Very cool. Thanks for letting me know, Quentin – I’ll be sure to check it out Rubidium Web Project soon! Sounds like your templates could help scientists with their websites.

    • Where can your templates be found? my website is hosted by BlueHost with WordPress. Can I download the plugins and templates there? I am in real need of finding good templates for humanities researcher personal website! Thanks!

  3. Thank you for this informative article, I am a research scholar, can I design a smart portfolio website? Actually my PhD is not submitted yet, do not have enough matter to put on site. Please suggest me, need your help.

  4. Thank you for this informative article! I have two questions:

    1) If I was a teaching assistant, is it good form to include the syllaby that I have worked with but have not designed myself?

    2) My full name (excluding my middle name) is 8 syllables long. Is there a practical cut-off when it comes to including your full name? Will my long name put me at a disadvantage or is it still better to have something that is easily searchable?

    • Hi Élaina, great questions.

      1) Personally, I wouldn’t include a syllabi I didn’t design myself. That’s because people viewing syllabi on your website are doing so to get an idea of your teaching style. From assignments to policies, syllabi can vary widely. However, it doesn’t mean you can’t include it. If you do, I recommend a brief note for transparency (i.e. “Syllabus designed by…”).

      2) Use your full name if that’s what you use for things like publications, speaking engagements, award programs, etc. You want to use the name people will generally by searching for you by. So you don’t want to cut it off even if it’s long if that’s what you use elsewhere.

      Good luck with your site! I’m so glad you found this article informative.

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