As a student, you may be asked to produce a website or blog as part of your studies. But where do you start?
It makes a lot of sense. As a writer, actor, or ceramicist, you’ll need a digital portfolio; so why not produce it while you’re here, rather than trying to launch both your career and your website when you graduate?
Even if you don't need to make one for your course, a simple website, done well, is an asset when you’re job hunting or networking in any industry.
But where do you begin? What will you talk about? What kind of website should you build? And how can you maintain and grow it?
Your site is your chance to be authentic, give voice to passions you may not have another outlet for, and demonstrate your values to potential employers and collaborators. It can also be a tool for personal growth; you’ll pick up technical skills, and you’ll learn more about yourself and your subject.
How to start
1. Find a clear purpose
Set clear goals before you begin. This will stop your website from taking over your life (in a bad way), and ensure that you get the results you’re looking for. What do you want your website to do? What’s its job? Perhaps you need it to be professional, and document your practice. If it’s going to be assessed, you may be expected to make entries at regular intervals. Check the assessment criteria before you begin.
2. Know your audience
It’s also important to decide who your audiences are. But remember, you can’t please all of the people all of the time, and you shouldn’t try. Serve a handful of audiences well by deciding what they’re looking for and making it easy to find. Audiences could include peers (for collaboration), industry professionals, companies, employers, and community groups, to name a few.
3. Research your options
There’s no one-size-fits-all platform or approach. There are a ton of host providers, domain registrars, and content management systems to choose from. Research the pros and cons of each before you begin – only you can make the right choice for you.
As a general rule, a self-hosted site is best. This means that your URL will be (for example) yourname.co.uk, rather than yourname.siteprovider.com. The former is more professional and is really yours, while the latter is built on borrowed turf.
4. Decide what to talk about
You’ve seen good blogs, and you’ve seen bad. Now it’s time to create something of your very own to be judged by the whole world. Just kidding (kind of).
The word ‘blog’ comes from ‘web log’, which is why many people choose to diarise their dinner choices. This is fine for them, but you’ll want to create something more targeted. At the same time, you can be authentic and quirky – it’s your site, after all. Strike a balance by expressing your unique personality while sticking to the goals you set earlier.
5. Website or a blog?
Today, almost every website is updated with fresh content all the time. Abandoned sites don’t rank well in search for long, and more to the point, they don’t reflect well on you or serve your readers. Good content is the hero of your site, whether or not you think of it as a blog. That being said, try not to post just for the sake of posting. Quality over quantity is the way things are going.
6. Create your content
Identify your skills. If you’re a great writer, harness this. If you’re visually creative, focus on images and video. Your site can be slick and polished, or irreverent and unconventional. You can demonstrate knowledge of your subject with authoritative articles, or explore the unknown and take your readers along for the ride - it really is up to you.
Hopefully, over time, your site will become a blend of powerful content and beautiful design.
7. And finally, make it yours
It’s easy to see that if you’re a student of design, performing arts, or creative writing, a blog is an essential tool. But maybe I’ve also convinced you that a website can work for budding biologists or future politicians, too. Remember, this is your home on the web. Now, go make it yours.
Resources to help you
Did you know that as a Bath Spa student, you can access thousands of software, creative, design and business short courses for free on Lynda.com? New courses and videos are added every week.
Budding vloggers and podcasters can hire out mics, cameras and more using SISO, Bath Spa's free equipment loan service. Our technicians will help you get started with unfamiliar tech. Find them downstairs in the Commons building.
Disclaimer: The Bath Spa blog is a platform for individual voices and views from the University's community. Any views or opinions represented in individual posts are personal, belonging solely to the author of that post, and do not represent the views of other Bath Spa staff, or Bath Spa University as an institution.
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