Building your personal website can seem like the most daunting task in the process of building your web presence. But it doesn’t have to be! There are a number of sites and services, many of them free, that provide a framework and templates that let you quickly and painlessly build a personal site.
So, why build a personal website? For one, résumés are boring. No pictures, no videos, no flair, and very little personality. On a website, you can link to work samples and presentations (from your beautiful new Slideshare profile), you can easily link to your LinkedIn profile, and you can imbue the site with your personality. Moreover, it shows potential employers and connections that you are technically savvy, which is important in the 21st century economy.
In addition, résumés are static. As soon as you hand (or even email) someone your résumé, they forever have that version of it. However, if you include your personal site’s URL on your résumé or business card, your connections will have access to a dynamic, up-to-date (hopefully!) source of information.
Finally, a personal website is searchable. Remember, an important part of building web presence is controlling what results people find when they Google your name, and so your site provides a lot of relevant context that will be indexed with your name.
Convinced? You’d better be. Below, I’ve listed some tools to easily make your new personal website. Needless to say, this isn’t an exhaustive list, but it’s a good place to start.
As a MIIS student, you are able to create your own site on the sites.miis.edu domain. To set yours up and get started, go to sites.miis.edu, and click on “Create a Site” in the upper-right of the page. Once you’ve got your site registered, the content management system (or CMS) that you’ll use to build your site is WordPress, so I’ll direct you to that section for more information on using that platform.
***Note*** If you decide to use sites.miis.edu, know that your domain will expire six months after you graduate (or otherwise discontinue) from MIIS. At that point, you’d have the option of either moving your site to a new domain (which isn’t as complicated as it sounds) or letting your website disappear into virtual nothingness.
Another option for MIIS students is to create your site at your own domain by using MiddCreate. MiddCreate allows you to create your own subdomain (for example: amycollier.middcreate.net) for free and install open source web tools on it, such as WordPress, Known, Omeka, Drupal, MediaWiki, etc. This gives you the flexibility to create as many sites as you want on whatever content management system you like, as well as have full creative control over its appearance. MiddCreate is hosted through Reclaim Hosting, a company that started out of the University of Mary Washington.
If you’ve already built a great website at SITES dot MIIS but want to customize it beyond the available options, you can migrate your site over to MiddCreate. You can learn more about the differences between SITES dot MIIS and MiddCreate at the Middlebury Office of Digital Learning’s blog.
***Note*** If you decide to use MiddCreate, you will lose access to your domain six months after you graduate (or otherwise discontinue) from MIIS. You then have the option to 1) pay Reclaim Hosting $45/year to keep everything, 2) download your entire site to store on your computer, or 3) move everything over to another hosting provider. Learn how to migrate your site in the MiddCreate Support Docs.
WordPress is a great content management system that is as simple or sophisticated as you need it to be. It is also one of the most widely used website platforms on the MIIS campus and in the DLC, meaning that there are a lot of people who can offer a great deal of assistance with WordPress sites. To get started, you just signup, choose a theme (this does a lot of the design legwork for you) and fill it with your content.
WordPress sites created through sites.miis.edu are limited in the themes they can use, but you will have access to some plugins and can edit the PHP code behind your site to a degree.
Installing WordPress on your MiddCreate domain will give you full functionality (just like if you were to use WordPress.org). This means you can upload and install any theme or plugin, edit the PHP code, and have access to your site’s files.
If you create your own WordPress.com account, your site will be hosted for free on WordPress.com and you won’t have to worry about purchasing a domain or losing access. However, this means that your site URL will by default include “wordpress.com” and you won’t be able to upload any custom themes, plugins, or modify the PHP code.
About.me offers a simple, one-page personal website, that serves more as a landing page to redirect viewers to other pages, such as your LinkedIn profile. You could build this as a starter page while you’re working on a more comprehensive personal site, or you could use it in addition to your personal site in order to drive traffic and provide yet another relevant Google search result.
Wix is another popular content management system, and it has a free version. Like WordPress, Wix offers myriad pre-made templates that you can use and fill with your personalized content. If you want to get more adventurous and customize your size further, the themes do offer some flexibility. One great feature that Wix offers is being able to control how your site is viewed on different devices; you can optimize your site for mobile devices vs. desktops. A downside to using the free version is that your site will have a small advertisement.
Weebly is similar to Wix; you choose from pre-made themes and fill them with your content. Weebly is advertised as more e-commerce friendly, and the interface is more beginner-friendly. Weebly also offers a mobile app that allows you to edit your site. The site offers free options, but many of the more advanced features require a subscription.
Here are some additional resources that provide strategies for building a website. Enjoy!