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Creating your personal website

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Things to do

  • Book a domain name that as closely matches your real name as possible. A typical choice is to choose the domain names and and have one of them redirect to the other. If a middle initial is a key part of your identity, include this in the URL. Make sure you have the domain names booked in your own name and your own account, even if you choose to get a friend or some other service to host your website. Having control over the domain gives you flexibility.
  • Make sure you renew your domain registration. Domains are typically registered annually. Do not let the domain expire.

Website as personal identity

You can create profiles on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Quora, and other places, but these may not offer you sufficient flexibility to describe yourself in the precise manner you desire. Having a personal website can allow you to present yourself better.

The main goal of a personal website is to serve as your personal online identity for public consumption.

What to avoid

The general remarks about privacy in your online identity apply. In particular, avoid including the following information on your website:

  • The names of your family members.
  • Your home address.
  • Your phone number (keep contact information restricted to an email address and social media accounts).
  • The names of employers for part-time or full-time jobs that you are doing (unless the employer gives consent, or your public persona requires you to associate yourself with a particular employer).
  • Information explicitly attributed to others that is conveyed by them to you in private fora (online or offline), unless they give you consent.

What to include

  • If you are considering employment or internships, it is beneficial to include a downloadable CV or resume (for instance, in PDF format) for potential employers.
  • You can include a brief online biography and links to various places you have been publicly affiliated with. (Do not include employers who do not have your consent).
  • Include links to your work that you would like to associate with your long-term identity. This includes papers, code, music, art, and writings of yours. In cases where these were published in other venues, make sure you are not in violation of copyright or non-disclosure agreements.

Combining the website with a blog?

If you have a personal website attached to your name, there is a high probability that the website will be attached to you for the next several years. In that time, your interests and goals may change considerably. You need to be particularly careful about this when you are young.

These are the three typical options:

  1. Have a blog section on your main website.
  2. Have a separate blog on a standard blogging platform, such as WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, or Quora. You could link to it from your main personal website, but it is still not highly salient for people visiting your personal website.
  3. Have a separate website devoted to your blogging, using a domain name that you own.

Some advantages of Option (1):

  • This gives people a single place to go to in order to see what you've written and done.
  • Traffic to your blog and personal website feed into each other: people who visit your blog can easily read the rest of your website, and people who visit your website can easily see your blog. Search engine rankings may also be better because of this.

Some advantages of Option (2):

  • Blogging platforms offer a variety of advantages in terms of making content easy for people to discover and reshare. Quora and Tumblr are particularly good in this regard.
  • Blogging platforms have a wide range of features that might be hard to replicate on your own website. However, this is not so much of an issue -- it's possible to install WordPress on your own domain.
  • You can choose a domain name and identity that differs from your own, theming the blog around a specific interest. In particular, it's easier to explore controversial topics.

Some advantages of Option (3):

  • This is particularly recommended if your blogging interests are organized around a specific theme and you're considering expanding to include other contributors.
  • Owning the domain and having control over the hosting allows you to customize the appearance considerably.