2 min read

Starting an Academic Website

These days it seems like every academic has their own website. I am only in my second year as a PhD student, but our DGS emailed all the students encouraging us to build one. So here goes.

Not having any programming background (besides R), I looked for the easiest option with the least work. I found it (quite be accident) when I stumbled across the book blogdown: Creating Websites with R Markdown. This lays out a relatively easy-to-follow way to create a static website using R Studio. Since I love working with R anyway, this was a good fit.

If you don’t know what a static website is, then welcome–you’re just like I was a few days ago. A static website just means the pages on the site all have fixed content that will be the same for all visitors to the site. It’s basically just a collection of HTML files. And since R studio has an option to convert Rmarkdown files into HTML files, it means that I can just do all my work in R.

The website itself is built by Hugo. I don’t really know anything about Hugo yet except that it works. In order to customize my site, I’ll have to get more familiar with Hugo. As of writing, I’m still using the generic Lithium theme created by Yihui Xie, with very little customization.

The domain name and hosting is provided by Netlify. They only charge $15 per year, which seemed reasonable. I went back and forth between .com, .net, and .org, but ultimately chose .org because it seemed the least commercial. Netlify has an option for continuous deployment coming from one’s Github, but I haven’t managed to make it work yet. So right now I am just dragging my public folder onto Netlify each time I want to make any changes to my website. It’s fine, but takes more time than continuous deployment would. That’ll be something to figure out for the future.

Anyway, blogdown is a fairly easy way to create a website, even if you’re new to programming. Right now my website is bare bones, but I’ll post some updates as I figure out ways to embellish it. Next tasks: creating a nice CV with Latex and getting it on the website, setting up Google Analytics, and making it searchable.