Monday, June 20, 2016

Faculty websites

Why are so many faculty websites so bad? Most "getting started on the TT" advice includes the advice to get a nice looking webpage up as soon as possible (FWIW, I agree with this advice--as a newbie, this is your simplest and most efficient recruiting tool until you have a lab in place). But it isn't enough just to set up a webpage. It is counterproductive if your site turns people away. If you aren't going to keep your information up to date, DON'T include "news" or "recent publications" or anything else that requires regular updates to maintain! There is no rule that you need to put those things up. Your favorite photo from 20 years ago doesn't help, even if you really like it.  An obviously out of data website is worse than no website.

Even more irritating is when the site is so fancy that it obscures basic relevant information. Yes, a slick website can impress potential students and wow visitors about the wonders of your research. Just keep in mind, though, that some of the people looking at your site will be your peers who are looking for reviewers for manuscripts/proposals or speakers for seminar/colloquiums. It is really annoying to search around for an email address and/or a mailing address. Your website is there partially to convey information about you. That information should be easy to find! If I have a choice and can't quickly find an email address, I move on to the next person on my list. When you are a new PI looking to become known, this is a big problem.

With modern tools, maintaining and updating a website is pretty easy once it is set up (that part is very tedious and time consuming--most of my colleagues paid a student or a company to do that for them). I used to roll my own, but the tools provided by ProdigalU are so handy and easy to use, that I switched to their system and haven't looked back. Now, I poke at my website once a month or so to keep it updated as part of my periodic CV maintenance. 

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