Websites are your identity to the world. They help establish your credibility and your expertise. These things are incredibly important for researchers and their labs. All professors and researchers running a lab should have them. They are powerful tools for communication, recruitment, and spreading your influence. Your website is where you can control all of the messaging and content. In your own words, you can decide what you show the world. It is a place where you can craft an identity and what you want to be known for. I can guarantee that people will try to find your website to learn more about you before they call or send an email. Do you know what they find? Is your website a good representation of your lab?
A lab website should consist of at least three pages: home, blog, and team. The home page is your first introduction in to the world. This page should include the most important parts of your message that you want to convey. Include information about your ongoing research projects, if you are looking for new lab members, and contact information. Think of the home page as a snapshot or business card of your lab. The blog should consist of articles about poster presentations, future talks, or announcements of new papers published. Including posts about related subjects or opinions to the lab’s work is helpful as well. Post about these short essays to LinkedIn or Twitter, to draw people into your lab. The team section should include bios on all the members in the lab, along with professional pictures. The professor’s publication or even a short CV should be included.
All of these sections on your website serve different purposes. Your home page lets people know what you are all about. Your identity, your brand to borrow from the business world. This is the impression you will leave on people after they leave your site – so how do you want to be remembered? The blog section is your way of drawing people in. Share your blog posts on social media. Getting people to visit your site lets them come to know you, which leads to new recruitment or collaboration opportunities. Finally, the team page serves as a way to show that your lab is real and that the people working in the lab are legitimate. The team page will also improve your credibility, because you can show the depth and breadth of experience and education in your lab.
There are several options in making a cheap website for your self or for a lab. Many platforms will handle the security, updates, hosting, and domain name for you. WordPress.com is one option, it is great for simple sites and blogs. WordPress.org is different and requires more hands on effort and experience. Wix has a free option that allows you to create beautiful websites with its drag and drop interface. Squarespace is another to consider, but is more expensive and does not offer a free version. Many of these sites have tutorials available and there is a lot of content out there that will teach you how to create a site. My colleague John Bhatia has a great site with some helpful videos for creating a website on Wix.
Whichever platform you chose to start your blog, the investment of time and possibly money is worth it. Your website is something that you can take with you and use as a tool throughout career. Use it to recruit new students and expand your collaboration opportunities. It can become a part of your tenure application. Even if you change universities, or pivot to a new career path, your website can be a testament to your work and achievements.
Do you have a website for your lab? How has it benefited you? I’d like to hear about your experience in the comments below.
Photo credit to John Schnobrich found on unsplash.com