Tips & Tricks for Grad Student Sites
People.ua.edu has recently been made available to graduate students, and if you are one of them, you may be asking yourself some questions: What is a graduate student website? Why do I need one? What should I put on it? The first two questions are answered in a previous post: Welcome Graduate Students! But even after you've been convinced of the utility of a personal academic website, you're probably still unsure what should go on it. We are here to help!
Your personal academic website is your online identity. And you get to choose what it looks like! A good rule of thumb for design is to keep things simple (a nice neutral color palette works best) and consistent (i.e. don't use different colored text for each page). Avoid long walls of text in which the reader can get lost; pictures or block quotes are a great way to break up paragraphs. Above all, keep the design professional-looking and non-cluttered.
Professionalism must apply to your content as well. Potential employers as well as your teachers and students will be looking at your site on a regular basis. You want it to make a good impression! A link to your Twitter feed or blog is admissible only if the contents is appropriate for a professional environment.
Now that you know how to make your site look good and what not to put on it, let's talk about what you should put on it. Most important is keeping your personal academic website up-to-date; as this great Chronicle article puts it, "Nothing says apathy like a website that hasn't been updated since 2004." Any time you do something new, add it to your site.
Content you might post includes but is certainly not limited to:
If you have any additional questions or need some help getting started,
The creator of a great website doesn't just focus on the content - delivery is important, too. When building your site, focus on the what as well as the how. This blog post will cover the latter: how to display your content in a way that is visually appealing to visitors. Here are three ways to make your site look its best.
First, consider how the elements of your site are arranged. The most attractive way to align items is on a grid, so check to see if your content is all lined up. If you have several pictures in a row (or one above the other), make sure the edges line up. Having some stick out farther than others looks unprofessional. Avoid centering paragraphs of text (titles can be centered, on occasion) - choose to align them to the right or (most likely) the left.
Don't feel as though you need to fill every inch of your pages with content. The empty space around or between elements, often called "white space" (regardless of whether it is actually white!), is a very useful design element too. It allows your content some breathing room and doesn't overwhelm the reader. Making use of the empty space on your pages can create a very visually commanding look. Read more about white space in web design.
And finally, keep your mobile users in mind. More and more people, especially students and young professionals, do most of their web browsing on mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets. The site editor allows you to see what the mobile version of your site looks like by clicking the smart phone icon in the upper right corner near the PUBLISH button. Check out all of your pages in this mobile viewer to make sure they show up the way you want them to, and fix them if they don't.
By employing these methods, you should be well on your way to creating a visually compelling website that will make visitors want to read your content.
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