About a year ago, I started thinking about building a professional website. It seemed like the “next” step in my professional life. If a built a website in my first year of graduate school, then when I started looking at jobs in year two, I would have a platform to advertise and promote. Having a website seems like a nice compliment to your Twitter presence (or another social media you’re active on).
But I had no idea of where to start. I eventually ended up at my department’s career services, where I was told to go scout out websites of my peers and then try out some platforms. After several nights of staying up late, I had something to show. Something I really liked.
A year later, my website is still a work in process, but along the way, I picked up some good tips. Those, paired with previous HLS posts on building an eResume will hopefully help you if you’re thinking about building a website and expanding your digital footprint.
Static vs Non-Static Website
The first step when designing and building a personal website is figuring out where on the static/non-static spectrum you will be at. Essentially, how often do you plan on updating your site? If you want a blog feature and lots of updates, that is going to require a greater time commitment than a static site where you do all the work at the front end and then occasionally update it as you get new projects and jobs. Personally, I love the blog feature, so I committed myself to website that requires more constant up-keep (although I’m not always the best at blogging more than once a week).
Plan it out
Once you know the type of website you want, you can begin to map it out. That might be writing it down on a piece of paper or diving right into a website platform and trying things out. Questions to think about:
- What do you want your main page to have on it?
- What are your top sub menus (what will be visible from the front page)?
- Does your resume get its own page?
- Do you want a portfolio section?
Look at other professional websites for inspiration
Sometimes the best way to answer these questions is to do some research in this planning stage. Scout out your librarian role models and check out their personal websites. What do you like about their sites and what features do you not like? This research will not only give you good ideas but help you better define what you want your website presence to have.
Decide on a platform
Now, if you want to work on your coding skills, website building is definitely for you. However, many websites opt for the drag and drop builders that allows non-coders (like myself) to build something beautiful. I’ve had a lot of experience with website builders (been blogging since 2010) so I’m really picky. But lucky for us, there’s something for everyone (including myself). My suggestion is just like how you’ve decided how static or not-static you want your website to be, you need to decide what platform will work best for you.
The other decision you will have to make is if you want to pay to maintain your website. Most platforms have a free or limited option. This option gives you a free space to promote yourself on the web. Your URL will have whatever you want, along with the tagline of the company (like hailleyfargo.wordpress.com). There might be ads when people visit your site, the logo of the platform, and your options might be restricted when it comes to pages, themes, and other features.
If you do decide to pay for a subscription, websites have either monthly or yearly subscriptions. When you pay for a subscription, you get access to the features that were limited or restricted in the free version, along with your own domain name for the first year (so hailleyfargo.com is my domain name and mine alone).
Here are what I think are the top places for website building
- Wix and Weebly: To me, these are very similar; both are newer platforms. These are great for newbies who want something very simple and subscriptions are fairly inexpensive. Some say that Weebly is the easiest to use and Wix gives you the chance to use some more advanced features. My advice would be to try them out, or look through their templates to see if something catches your eye.
- Tumblr: A popular platform that has many great themes to display visual content. This platform is free to sign up and you can add your own domain name at any time.
- WordPress(.com): Another popular platform (HLS uses WordPress). WordPress is more geared towards bloggers, but a portfolio could definitely be included/made with this platform.
- Squarespace: My current platform of choice. A little pricey (but has a nice student discount when you use your “edu” email or you use the code by podcasts sponsored by Squarepace [shout out to Another Round]). What I like about this platform is the ability to do what I want, with the capability for me to use code if I ever get around to learning it. They give you a free one-week trial before you have to buy in which I appreciate (I stayed up very late seven nights in a row perfecting my website).
- Also, previous HLS blogger Joanna June, made a list of potential website platforms that gives you even more options to choose from.
In theory, at this point, you know what you want and have chosen a platform. As you build your website, there are a couple of things to keep in mind:
- Clean and clutter free is a good way to be (keep it simple).
- Pick a font and color that’s easy to read.
- Check what your website looks like on a mobile phone (there’s a high chance that people might look at your site on the go, so make sure the mobile version makes sense).
- Seek feedback – ask your peers and look for feedback.
Has anyone else built a professional website? Do you have any tips to share? Or those about to dive into the website world, any lingering questions? Best of luck and I better get back to perfecting my website!