Why You Need a Website: How to Create Your Own Website in a Day (For Free!)

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This article is all about why you need a website as a PhD student and how you can create one for free (in just an afternoon!).

Editorial credit: Blueee77 / Shutterstock.

Why You Need a Website as a PhD

One of the first things my student mentor said to me in our introductory meeting was, “You should make a website.” While its importance depends on the field, in computer science and related fields, a website is a must. In fact, I found my supervisor through his website and also was able to determine that he would be a good fit for me, in part, by reading it.

If someone is interested in collaborating with you, hiring you to do a project, or considering you as their supervisor (master’s or undergrad students), one of the first things they’ll do is look at your website. LinkedIn is also important, of course, but your own website can be much more geared to your academic career accomplishments. Your publications and research interests will be featured much more prominently and you can include things like links to your teaching materials as well.

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How to Create Your Own Website

Website Hosting

So, how the heck do you make an academic website? I recommend GitHub Pages. Basically, they’ll host your site for free and you can add own domain name (which should be pretty cheap if it's your name—I got mine on GoDaddy for something like £0.99).

Don’t know how to use Git yet? Check out this tutorial to get started. It takes some Gitting used to (sorry, bad pun intended), but is an absolute must know in computer science (and, I suspect, helpful in other fields where you’re collaborating frequently with others!).

GitHub Pages also has tutorials to help you get started with the website building part of things.

Now, if you’re not in a technical field, you can also look at hosting options such as Bluehost. It costs less than one cup of coffee per month and can be easily integrated with WordPress, so you can customise existing themes from there. Bluehost is what I use for this blog and I am quite a fan!

I've got a LONG article on how to start a blog here if you want to learn how to use Bluehost.

Design and Create Your Own Website

I coded my website from scratch, but you can also find some themes through GitHub.

For my personal website, I was looking to highlight my coding skills. I am also a little bit nerdy (if you haven’t figured that out by now) and it seemed like a fun project to design and code it myself.

So, first off, how did I decide what I wanted my website to look like? I looked at other people’s academic and personal websites for inspiration. See below for a few that particularly inspired me.

Next, I went to Canva and did a mock-up of the site. It’s much easier to design the site first before you get down to coding. People’s academic websites range from incredibly basic to pretty stylised, so it’s up to you what look you go for.

Some additional style tips: if you’re not a trained designer, look up things like colour palettes and font combinations so your site looks more professional.

Then, was the fun part—actually coding. I used CodePen initially since it renders a sample of your site in real-time. Another code editor I recommend is Atom (developed by GitHub). There’s a plugin called Kite you can also add which is an AI coding assistant that is super helpful.

Then, I committed everything to GitHub and there it was! (Okay, there was a little bit of additional Googling and troubleshooting through Stack Overflow as well in there!)

All, in all, it took me just a Saturday afternoon to get it all up and running, which is pretty manageable, even for a busy PhD student!

What to Include on Your Webpage

Now, when you create your own website, you can really include whatever you want, but here are a few things that are standard.

1. A personal introduction/summary.

You should include where you’re currently studying, a bit about your academic and professional experience, and your research interests.

2. A photo of yourself.

This is optional, but I think it is pretty standard in Europe! It’s always helpful for people to put a face to a name!

3. Your publications and any press coverage thereof.

This one is pretty self-explanatory!

4. Any other projects you’re working on, including software you’ve created.

I’ve got a section on the research I’m currently working on and info on my role in the start-up I’m part of.

4. Your CV/resume and skills.

I’ve embedded a copy of your CV, but a bulleted list of your experience, education, and professional skills and certifications is also fine. If you want to embed a PDF of your CV, I'd recommend using Canva to create it.

5. Your research interests and contact information for collaborations.

This one is important! If someone is interested in doing some research with you, learning more about your research, or being your supervisee, they need to know how to reach out to you!

6. A blog.

This one is completely optional and a lot of people don’t do this. However, it’s a good way for people to get to know you better and may increase their chances of working with you. I personally do not have this blog connected to my website in any way as I like to blog pseudo-anonymously and blog about lifestyle topics as well. But, if you’d prefer to blog only about things related to your research and academic interests, I say, go for it!

Some Personal Websites I Like

Here are a couple of personal websites I particularly like, and used as inspiration when designing my own:

Melanie Daveid – UX Design & Art Direction

Tania Rascia – Software Engineer, Writer, and Open-Source Creator


Okay, so this isn’t actually a personal website, but a lot of Canva’s website templates are pretty great and are a good place to start for inspiration.

Now, as I said, I do like to keep my blog and my academic and professional life separate. But, if you’d like to see my website, get in touch and I can send you a link directly!

Do you have any other recommendations for how to create your own website? Do you have a personal academic website? Do you think it’s helped you get more opportunities? Let me know in the comments below!

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