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Help! Any suggestions for personal websites?

Help! Any suggestions for personal websites?

I've had "make personal website" on my To Do list for....oh, let's be honest: years. There are dozens of good reasons to have your own website, and there have been some helpful posts on how to set one up. Here are some of my favorite posts from recent years:

Do You Need Your Own Website While On The Job Market? by Ryan Cordell

Creating and Maintaining a Professional Presence Online: A Roundup and Reflection by Jentery Sayers

Creating Your Web Presence: A Primer for Academics by Miriam Posner, Stewart Varner, and Brian Croxall

There's no need to convince me to get started -- I'm sold, and a bit embarassed that it's languished in the 'pending' folder for so long. So...let's get the party started!

Like many others, I'm a visual learner, and I'd love to see your examples of great personal websites, especially those that are easy to navigate, have a clean and updated design, and have showcased their work beyond traditional academic publications. Can you offer some examples?

If you've created your own personal website, can you offer any advice to those of us getting started? Have you learned anything along the way? Did you get professional photos taken, or did you use a photo at all? 

If you haven't made one, what's holding you back? Can we help you get through any specific questions or worries? 



Thought I'd throw this out there: has some of the best, most beautiful portfolio websites I've seen.  They automatically work with mobile devices, too, which is great.  They're a recent YCombinator company.


Check em out here


I use a wordpress blog for my personal website, updating it as needed with professional achievements. It's been accumulating data for 5 years or so and stands as an archive of my work, to date.


Hi Fiona and HASTACers,

Like you I've put off developing my own website until recently, and one question that's come up is where to host the website.  Vanderbilt allows students to have small wordpress blogs for free.  While the security of the university is great, I worry about what happens to my content once I one day leave Vanderbilt.  Has anyone developed websites through their universities??

As a backup plan, I've started my own wordpress blog but this has presented a whole new set of problems.  Do people recommend paying for a domain name and web hosting through companies like GoDaddy, or should I use the free wordpress option?  I'm working on both sites today so hopefully later on I can post both examples.  My last question is how do most people deal with security of their websites (I have an irrational fear that some fifteen year old is going to hack my site beyond my own basic competency for fixing)??




Hi Zoe,

You can use a freely hosted blog anywhere you like, really, and retain portability by buying your own domain name. That way no matter who's hosting it, it retains your identity and accumulated searchability.

In my case, I have my professional website hosted at the university, but that's because I'm a tenured faculty member. I have a separate scholarly blogging project called I ♥ E-Poetry which is hosted by a free Tumblr site, but appears under the URL If I ever become dissatisfied with Tumblr, then I can export the site onto any other blogging platform and point my URL towards it. It costs about $10/year.

I hope this helps.


Anonymous (not verified)

That's a good question Zoe. I have also asked that before when I want to start my own website. There are many good web hosting providers but a friend of mine has recommended this to me and I have no problem with the speed and many things since then.


Hi Fiona et al., here's mine:

I started my website maybe 2.5 years ago I think and my original intention was for it to be a place to share my conference papers. (I had just heard a conference horror tale from a colleague who gave her talk to a room of 3 people: herself, her co-panelist, and the moderator. I work far too hard on my conference papers to let them languish so!) And then I became aware of the need for a website for the job market as an e-portfolio. And I also try to accumulate the blog posts that I publish in various fora on my own website, as well, just to keep a centralized record (since I also blog on hastac and on

However, if I want a post to generate conversation, my website isn't the best place for it -- I post it on hastac or nassrgrads, or both, so that two different kinds of communities (hopefully!) respond. My website is more of an expansive, rollling CV than it is a discussion space. At least that has been the case so far ... perhaps it will change.

I didn't have a professional photo taken for my website, but the CU library did arrange for one for an exhibit that I curated, so I used that photo on the "About" page.

I use wordpress because it is free, customizable without a ton of labor (to a certain extent -- I haven't dipped into child themes for my own website, but could if I wanted to pour more time into it), and easy to updatev -- I've been using it in courses for a long time now. Also because there are a lot of people who I can ask to help me with my website should I want to fancify it greatly. My website is not really all that unique in the way it looks, but it does do a nice job (with the content it has accumulated) of showing the range of projects that I have been at work on. So more content, less visual bling.

Where it needs work: Among the many things that need to be done better on my website, I have not done a good job of writing about my diss project in particular and describing what my diss is about. That needs to be developed into a more full description of the project and its parts. I am about to write a bunch of dissertation fellowship applications (hopefully so I can get some teaching relief next year to spend more time writing) in which I have to describe my project again -- it has changed since I wrote my prospectus -- so I plan to use bits and pieces of my project descrip for fellowship apps to begin to fill this gap in my website.


I have been running my personal website on wordpress since 2003. ( )There were hand-coded php, flash(!), & html/javascript iterations before that. I do host my own wordpress site, which means I configure/develop the site myself and pay for server space.

(side note: my artwork sometimes includes databases, which means that I need to have the serverspace anyway- so it's makes sense for me to have a public-facing website on the server)  

I generally use for my course sites, so I can speak to both of these possibilities:

hosting your own wordpress site:


  • There is some maintenance this way-  you have to do all the wordpress updates yourself - plugins, themes, security updates, etc.  This can sometimes be time consuming, and sometimes difficult- though not as bad now as it was a few years ago.
  • You have to pay for it- and it is not super cheap. It doesn't have to be expensive- but anywhere from $100/year to $100/month depending on your needs
  • it can be difficult to figure out how to use the hosting company's software, to buy and add a domain name (url) & whether it will do all you need it to do. (maybe another post on how to do all of this successfully??)


  • you have control over your theme (site design) and plugins, including designing your own, etc. 
  • many hosting companies have it as a 1-click install, so you don't have to do a lot of the permissions, and FTPing.
  • outside of the wordpress site- having a web server space gives you a space to play with web based tech- teach yourself code, mess around with databases- and you can set it all to private. This, to me, is the most important reason for having your own hosted server space-  the opportunity to play with the texture & materials of the web can be an amazing experience.




  • they have some free themes (site design), otherwise you buy one, or pay them money to put yours up there
  • you don't get the freedom to play that you do on your own server
  • if you don't pay for a url, you have .wordpress in your url (domain name).


  • it is really, really easy. you can be up and running very quickly.
  • they do all the software maintenance


If you need to get a professional website up and running quickly and easily, and you don't want to spend a lot of time designing your own 'unique' site, then is the way to go. It is easy enough to pull the data (2 clicks) out of and move it all to another wordpress installation- so if you want to move it to your own server space later, it can be done painlessly.

If you have time to play and learn as you go, getting your own hosted server space is well worth the time and energy.







In both the PhD Lab in Digital Knowledge I co-direct and in my doctoral class "21st Century Literacies:  Digital Knowledge, Digital Humanities," students are creating professional/personal websites to represent their work, ideas, pedagogy, and web and design basics.   This blog and your examples is extremely helpful.  And I've passed the url for this on to both groups.  Thank you!  


By the way, I have an author website, wordpress highly customized.   And I am in the process of redesigning a more general professional site now that my author tour is over, so I find these examples and ideas very helpful too.   Here's my current author site, for a trade book:


Hi Everyone:

I'm glad you ask this question, Fiona.  I've actually been trying to decide whether or not to create from scratch/hand-code my own website this summer or to use a wordpress, one-click install (see Jarah Moesch's comment above).  I currently host my own site (using a wordpress install) for an introductory writing course I teach, but I'm still uncertain as to whether or not to use this option for my personal website.  So I guess my "big" questions are these:

  • How difficult will it be to update/revise a personal website if I handcode it and do all of the design myself?  Is it worth such a huge time investment?
  • If I use a WordPress one-click install, my site may look similiar to someone else's. Is that okay once I hit the job market?

Advice and guidance is both welcome and appreciated!



Hi Lori,

My first website was handcoded, and while that gave me bragging rights and a custom look & feel, it was a problem to maintain and update. I've switched to WP for a while now and am happy with its functionality. Plus, I'm able to use my coding knowledge to tweak and customize the templates to reflect my own aesthetics. And they're easy to update and port, even from your smart-touch-phone-device.

That's the added value!


Another option is Squarespace. While working mostly with WP in the past, I have enjoyed trying out SS for my most recent attempt at my site. Personally, I'd rather spend as little time building & maintaining my site as possible, and devote my energies elsewhere. And it has some nice additional features, such as hosting included and mobile-versions for every template. I don't think it is the best route for everyone, but it's an option to consider.


Check out

It's a Wordpress site, hosted by UNC, using a stock theme called Minimalist. No coding. I threw it up around two years ago, thinking better get something up and i'd perfect it or re-write it in a month or two. And here we are. There's so much more i could do with it. Check out Cathy's site (above) or my friend John Martin's site: John hosts his own from his own server, which is really cool. (see also his open git workflow). My dreams of an elaborate or self-hosted site are as yet unrealized.

But this is part of the reason I chose Wordpress: I knew I could extend it when I wanted. But, in reality, a great theme is all you need to get started, and it's better to get started and hack when you can than to require yourself to learn CSS before you publish anything. If I were on the market I might finally get around to hacking the site or making my own theme or something spiffy like that. But, like all else in life, other things come up. better to have a site up in the meantime :)

Good content and simplicity. That's the crucial stuff.


Hi Leonardo, Jon, and Elliot,

Thank you for sharing your advice and perspectives!  It sounds like my short-term game plan should be to go with a self-hosted WP site.  As you all mention, I can hack the template code, so it shouldn't look too pre-packaged.  And when I finally get the itch (and time) to hand-code my own website, I can easily move in that direction.

Thanks again!  :)


Firstly, thanks everyone for the great advice. Certainly an example of crowdsourcing at its best. From all of your inspiration, I've finally 'finished' at least building my website. Now I just have to start blogging and adding content.  In the end, I chose bluehost to host my blog and went with wordpress. I've really liked the functionality and was finally able to settle on a theme.  You can find my new website here:

Please feel free to message me if you have any particular advice, but I just wanted to say thanks to everyone for sharing.




Hi Zoe!

That's a beautifully designed blog. I love the background and header images!

Have fun developing your site.



Such great suggestions here. Thanks to your advice, I decided to jump in, head first, and put up a self-hosted Wordpress site: I've figured out how to buy the domain, transfer the domain, get a basic page up, and have started to put up some content. I felt a minor sense of pride when the first post went up! There's not much there now, but I'm building some more sections and will update soon.

Two observations:

1) It's 2013. This should be WAY easier than it is. I'm fairly techy, extremely good at researching, and not afraid to try stuff. But if you don't go with 'pre-made solutions' like, SquareSpace, Posterous (RIP), Blogger or one of the other packages, it's really not intuitive. 

2) Building your own site is an interesting process in terms of figuring out your public persona, and what type of information (and how much of it) you want to aggregate for others. 


Hello hello! I actually just redesigned my personal website earlier this week -->

My reccommendation is simple this: learn photoshop. Being able to create your own personalized details is key in having a site that reflects your personal point of view, while keeping things professional. Understand pixel dimensions, resolution, and photo re-sizing, and you're on your way to a great looking site!


Hi all, 

I've been using a combination of, Tumblr and self-hosting to keep a website presence together ( Eventually, I'll want to do something else, but in the interim, the landing page is simple and looks polished enough, and if people want more information they can click on all of my links (if they want to follow me on Twitter, read my Tumblr, check out press, etc, etc). 

LiveBio is another low-effort option-- I very well may move my stuff over there at some point, but what I have works fine for now. 

Hope this helps!



Hi guys, this is awesome! I am just about start working on my personal site. I saw many of you also host your own blog on the site. I want to do that too but just wondering what is the easiest way if I am hand coding my own site? Of course don't want to have to create a new page each time. Is there a good toolkit, or should I embed an external site somehow? Thanks!