6 Tips for Creating Your Personal Website

After a tumultuous two-year relationship, I’m finally at peace with my website. Creating a web portfolio can be a big commitment, but it’s also a great way to take control of your online identity. Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way…

1. Consider Squarespace

During my last semester of library school I started a blog as a course requirement. I wasted hours working with Wix, WordPress, and Tumblr-trying to get the right look and feel. I finally landed on Squarespace and can’t say enough good things about it. Squarespace is ridiculously easy to use and it’s tough to make an ugly website. The options for templates, fonts, and images are streamlined and curated, unlike many other platforms that overwhelm you with hundreds of options. The only downside is the cost. $12/month is a little steep-especially when you’re a student, but I’ve found that it’s worth it to have a low-maintenance platform.

2. Establish Brand Guidelines

When I started creating imagery for my site, I made an executive decision to use a color palette of yellow, black, and white only. Sounds limiting, but it’s saved me from my indecision. I make a lot of my own graphics and I’ve been known to get lost in a Photoshop vortex. Choose your color palette, fonts, and a couple images before you even set foot in a website builder.

3. Decide What to Share

There’s no hard and fast rule for what to include in your personal website. Ultimately it’s up to you to decide what you’re comfortable sharing with the world. I’ve opted out in a lot of ways. For instance, I don’t have my CV or even a real picture of myself on my site. Instead I created an illustration of myself and have included examples of my work and a Google map of libraries where I’ve worked. I like keeping some things off the web, but I also admire people who put it all out there. Case in point, fellow LITA member Brianna Marshall has an incredible website with slide decks, her Twitter feed, blog posts, and lists of projects and publications. Start thinking about where you fall on the spectrum before you start building.

4. Save Everything

Don’t forget to backup any content you create for your website. I save everything in Google Drive and on my computer so that if I decide to switch platforms I can easily access all of my materials.

5. Purchase a Domain (or Don’t)

Once I got a real library job I decided to spend a little more money and purchase a domain without “.squarespace.com” at the end. I like the clean look of my new URL (it looks great on my resume), but I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary, especially if you’re on a tight budget. If you’re on the job hunt, chances are your potential employer is going to Google you before they take the time to type in your URL. Instead of spending the extra dough on a custom domain, consider working with a free domain and driving traffic to your site through Twitter or Facebook.

6. Be Yourself

The tone of my website is very playful (ahem, not academic). When I made the move from public to academic libraries, I started to wonder if my site was inappropriate. Certainly an argument could be made either way, but the whimsy of my site is an honest representation of me. If I were to apply for a position in the future that found my website too playful, I suspect that wouldn’t be a good place for me anyhow. If your site reflects your personality while still looking professional, then don’t be afraid to own it.

Have you designed your own personal website? What have you learned along the way?