How did I make my personal academic website?


Establishing an online presence as an academic can help others learn more about your research and serve as an online CV for future career opportunities.

This guide shares the steps to create a website similar to mine. It is meant for those that have some comfort with coding and Git. There are a variety of alternative options that do not require coding or the use of Git, such as Google Sites, Squarespace, or Wix. Additionally, your university may support creation of a personal page on their website.

Personally, I chose Hugo because I wanted to maintain my website in a text editor rather than by clicking around on a browser. I felt this would maximize my degree of control, while still allowing me to take advantage of pre-built web components and themes. Ultimately, you should choose whichever option makes sense for you, both in terms of the initial setup and longer-term maintenance. To deploy my static website, I’m using Netlify, which is free for my use case. Lastly, I manage my domain name using Cloudflare.

In terms of costs for this website, I only pay for the domain name: 45USD annually (3.75USD monthly). However, several cheaper alternative domain names were available (e.g., 10USD annually) and free domain names are possible with Netlify or GitHub Pages.

Building your website

Hugo: Static site generator

Before I made my website, I sifted through other academics’ websites to get a feel for what I liked and which options had my desired functionality or look/feel. I saw that many academics used Hugo, an open source static site generator. You can learn more about Hugo here.

After some initial orientation, Hugo is relatively simple to use and customize without having to get into the weeds of dependencies, databases, and so on. The result is a website that is fast and customizable.

Choosing a theme

Hugo has a variety of themes for different purposes, from personal academic CVs to research lab pages and portfolios to books. You can see the full list of themes here. The right theme for you may depend on what type of content you want to showcase.

For this website, I’m using the Academic CV theme, which is free. However, I’ve customized the styling quite a bit to make the website feel a bit more personalized.

Configuring settings

Go through the files in the config/ folder to set your website settings. In general, you can use the defaults. However, some important settings to configure include:

  • Website title (title)
  • Base URL (baseURL) – do this once you’ve chosen a domain name
  • Menu order
  • Appearance (e.g., mode, theme, font, font_size)
  • Search engine optimization (SEO) and marketing (seo, marketing) – note that it can take a day or two for your website to appear on search engines

Adding content

Once you’ve identified the theme you’d like to work with, follow the edit/download link. This should take you to the Github repository for the code, which you can fork (copy) and edit in your preferred text editor (e.g., VSCode).

In general, all of the content is within markdown files inside the content/ folder.

Landing page

The main landing page is at the path: content/ Here, you can choose the order of your content, remove sections, and choose between different views for the content.

Content types

There should already be dummy examples of the different content types (e.g., projects, blog posts, biography) that you can adapt as needed. Refer to the Hugo Blox Docs for more infortmation on how to customize your content.

Different content types support different parameters, which are specfiied at the top of each markdown file between lines of ---. The main body is specified after the parameters, using general Markdown syntax. For reference, a simple example is shown for a project below.

# Parameters: General information
title: An example project
summary: Here is a brief summary of the example project
  - academia
  - website
date: '2019-11-01T00:00:00Z'
show_date: False
# Parameters: Optional links that will appear as badges
url_code: ''
url_pdf: ''
url_slides: ''
url_video: ''
<!--- The content below will go into the main body of the page -->
## Overview

Some text here.

## Acknowledgments

Some text here.

Custom styling

Some ways you can customize the styling of your selected theme include:

  • Adding an icon (favicon)
  • Setting a color theme
  • Choosing fonts
  • Adjusting the navigation bar
  • Changing the order of content in the menus

Refer to the Hugo Blox Docs for the supported customization options.

For more advanced styling, you can always add your own custom css at the following path: assets/scss/custom.scss. This will override the default styling.

Deploying your website

Deploying locally

In order to deploy locally, you will first need to follow the Hugo installation guidelines for your machine type. I recommend doing this so that you can preview your changes and check for any errors before updating your repository’s main branch and affecting the production version deployed online.

After you’ve installed Hugo and its dependencies, you can deploy locally from a terminal window. First, navigate to your repository’s root directory. From there, you can call hugo server to deploy locally. A message should appear with an address you can navigate to on your browser (e.g., http://localhost:1313/).

You can also view live changes when you deploy locally. That means, you can edit the files and the instantly see changes in your browser.

Deploying online

Hugo websites can be deployed by a variety of services.


Netlify is free and easy to use, and will automatically update when you commit changes to your repository’s main branch.

To do this, link your Netlify account to your Github account and find the repository hosting the code for your personal website. Once an update to the main branch of your repository is detected, it should only take a minute or two for Netlify to build and deploy the latest changes.

GitHub Pages

GitHub also lets you host a static site for free. To do so, you need the code repository to be named <USERNAME> Detailed guidance on how to set up a Hugo website using GitHub Pages is available here.

Domain names

There are free and paid options for your domain name. Once you decide, don’t forget to update the baseURL parameter in the relevant file in the _config/ folder!

Finding a domain name

If you want, you can use a free doamin name from Netlify (<NAME_HERE> or GitHub Pages (<USERNAME>

However, you can also purchase your own domain name from a variety of providers. You can search for available domain names and prices on services such as Hover or Namecheap. Pay attention to any listed renewal costs, which are sometimes higher than the initially listed price.

Setting up a DNS record

The Domain Name System (DNS) acts as a phonebook of the internet. The DNS maps human-friendly domain names or hostnames (e.g, to computer-friendly Internet Protocol (IP) addresses (e.g.,

Once you have a domain, you need to add a DNS record in whichever service you use to manage your domain (e.g., Cloudflare). Netlify provides several guides to help you configure your DNS settings, as does GitHub Pages.

Note that it can take between a few minutes to three days for your DNS record to be propagated (i.e., to correctly direct to your website).

Nicole Paul
Nicole Paul
PhD Student

Researching population displacement in disasters