Beginner’s Guide on Academic Website for Graduate Students

Benefit and cost of an academic website

We live in the age of Googling (or ChatGPT in the future?). Many people use Google to get to know others, and in academia, this seems to be even more common. But do you want a sense of control over the results that come up when you’re Googled? If so, you need an academic website. The introduction page of your school might 1) be difficult to update frequently as per your needs, 2) be challenging to encompass much information, and 3) make it even harder to include a little bit of non-academic personal information.

Creating an academic website to showcase information about yourself all in one place can save the time it takes for people to get to know you. In the long term, you can be on Google search results – leading to more opportunities. Someone might find you when searching for specific keywords, requesting an interview, or proposing a collaboration. Plus, you can provide information about yourself to future students or collaborative researchers who want to learn about you by including more personal content about your background or hobbies (like film, photo, essay, or blog).

So, what’s the cost? It’s just the time it takes to create and maintain. Over the years, creating a website has become easier, and many no-coding tools are available. However, if you want a slightly more fancy domain, you might need to pay fees, but this is entirely optional, so you can create a website without spending any money. Let me explain in detail from now on.

Hosting & Domain

If a website is compared to a house,

  • Hosting: It’s like the “real estate.” An online storage space where you put your content, meaning a server.
  • Domain: It’s like the “address.” It’s what you tell people to let them know where your house is. If you don’t mind having a simple address, hosting services usually provide a basic domain. But if you want a fancy address, you can pay an additional fee for it (e.g.,
  • Template: It’s like “interior design.” Once you buy a house, it’s time to decorate the interior. However, very few people create the interior entirely from scratch. Most people take an existing interior designed by someone else and customize it according to their preferences. That’s what a template is for.

Platforms and tools

Here are several popular website-building tools for graduate students.

  • Coding required: GitHub, R Blogdown
  • Coding NOT required: WordPress, Google Sites, Weebly, Owlstown
  • Free: GitHub, R Blogdown, Google Sites
  • Freemium (need to pay for personalized domain or more customization):, Owlstown, Weebly

Google Sites

If you are looking for the easiest and fastest way to create an academic website without much hassle or overthinking, Google Sites is likely the most accessible option.

While it may not offer advanced features like blogging and might take longer to appear in search results due to Google Search Engine Optimization, it still provides a basic personal homepage that is better than having no website at all. Starting with Google Sites can be an excellent first step, and if you later feel the need for a more sophisticated and stylish website, you can explore other options. So, if you find website creation challenging, beginning with Google Sites is still a great starting point!

Please check out this link for the tutorial on YouTube:

You can also find academic websites created by using Google Sites by googling the keyword like (“assistant professor” site:””) or (“PhD student” site:””). You can browse some examples and then customize them for your case 🙂


If you search for WordPress templates, you’ll find plenty of options, including free templates that are of decent quality. My website is built on WordPress! If you plan to post some blog posts, I recommend WordPress for Google Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

How to Host WordPress: Once you decide to use WordPress, you’ll need a hosting service to install it. If you find FTP daunting, you can use a service like “bluehost,” which offers WordPress hosting and installation services. It’s highly recommended for beginners.

Instead of using hosting services, you can create a basic WordPress website builder using For the differences between (self-hosting) and, please refer to this post. If you want a custom domain, you will have to pay $4/month, and if you want to use various themes, you will have to pay $8/month. However, even the free version can be a not-so-bad option.

How to install themes on WordPress: After installing WordPress and accessing the admin page, you’ll see the WordPress management Dashboard. Click on “Appearance,” and you can install themes provided by WordPress. You can also download themes separately and upload them. Search for “WordPress free theme” or visit Themeforest, which is the largest marketplace for WordPress themes, to find a theme that suits your taste. Then, go to the “Appearance” section and upload the theme file to install it.

  • Pros: In my opinion, WordPress is better suited for “blogging” purposes when compared to GitHub. WordPress offers a user-friendly editor with many built-in features. On the other hand, if you don’t plan to publish blog posts frequently and want to update pages or use it as a portfolio, GitHub or Google Sites could be a good option.
  • Cons: You need to pay for hosting and domain, compared to other services 🙂

If you are studying at a U.S. university, they might offer WordPress hosting and templates. In my case, the university provided WordPress hosting and even offered templates [Example: NYU]. However, you might be limited to using only the provided templates and have restrictions on installing various plugins. Thus, it depends on how comfortable you are with HTML and how much customization you desire. Nevertheless, I don’t recommend using hosting or domain services provided by your university since, as graduate students, we may need to migrate the website after graduation. So, it’s better to have separate hosting and domain services for your personal website.



Owlstown is a hosting and domain service that offers themes specifically designed for academic websites. It follows a freemium model, which means that using the domain is free of charge. However, if you wish to use a different domain, please be aware that you will need to pay a monthly fee ($4/month, as of now).


Weebly is also free for basic use, but if you want to make domain changes other than, you will need to pay $10 per month. For more information, please find UIUC’s guide on creating website on Weebly. Another similar option for no-coding website is, with a similar payment structure (the basic plan is free, but you need to pay for the extra custom and domain).

The following options (GitHub Pages and R Blogdown) require some level of comfort with coding or HTML. If you follow some guides, it will not be too complicated! However, if you are unfamiliar with them and it looks daunting, you can use the tools that do not require any coding 🙂

GitHub Pages

Two themes are popular for academic websites 1) Jekyll-based themes and 2) Hugo-based themes. If you click the name of the theme, you can see the example academic websites based on these themes. Some variations are based on these themes, so you can search on GitHub for the best template based on what you need. For example, you can search for “Hugo academic website template” on GitHub and then browse the repository.

  • No hosting costs. Uploading code is easy! (Recommended for those who frequently share code.)
  • Even though you need to write the post on GitHub with some knowledge of HTML, You can implement a blog-style website using GitHub pages. However, it may require some optimization techniques to appear in Google search results.

There are lots of great tutorials on GitHub pages for personal website 🙂

Easiest Way To Create The Perfect Academic Website

R Blogdown


You can also use R’s blogdown to create an academic website! I’ve never tried it myself, but it looks pretty cool. I think it would be a great choice if R is your main language! Check out this post:


Feeling overwhelmed by the numerous options available for creating a website? Don’t worry; you can take the first step with Google Sites! Even if it’s not the most sophisticated option, it’s better than having no website at all. Nowadays, many people browse the web on their mobile devices, and traditional CVs may not be the best fit for mobile viewing – they can appear too formal or hard to navigate, making it challenging to showcase your true personality.

While having a personal website isn’t a must, it can open up new opportunities for you. If you find the process daunting, start by gathering examples of academic websites that you find inspiring. You can also check out ECR/Global South Website Workshop Links for Inspiration with lots of great examples of academic websites. Please use these examples as a foundation to build your website. I’m sure you’ll create something amazing! Good luck!

  • July 29, 2023