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Help me contract somebody to design a personal/academic/faculty candidate website.
September 24, 2011 10:50 AM   Subscribe

Help me contract somebody to design a personal academic/faculty candidate website.

I am a wannabe career academic polishing up my research portfolio and preparing for the dreaded faculty job hunt. I would like to go into this with a well-designed and presented personal/academic website that will impress search and hiring committees while serving the functional role of providing information to potential collaborators, students, and others interested learning more about me and my work. I am hoping that the majority of the work will be in designing a beautiful "front end" for an existing CMS or blogging solution after a few discussions to define and elucidate my requirements.

A few more points:

* I need somebody to work through the requirements process with me. I can point to a few website designs that I like as well as where my information has been scattered around my current site and the web e.g. LinkedIn/Mendeley/Facebook/github/bitbucket/Google profiles, but I really need somebody to help me design a categorization system for where to put my stuff as well as an impressive landing page that highlights my active research collaborations. I am willing to pay for the elicitation of requirements, but I am not sure how to structure this.

* I have lots of UNIX and programming experience, as well as an 'unlimited' Virtual Hosting plan from Joyent (formerly Textdrive). I will need help with the design and potentially the install, but I intend to maintain the site myself.

* I have not yet set a budget, but I have about a 3 month time horizon.

* I live in Saudi Arabia, so it is likely that I will be working with somebody remotely.

Here are my main questions:

Academic hiring committees/faculty: What impresses you the most about faculty candidate web pages? What annoys you the most? How useful overall is a candidate's web page/site in helping them get hired? Does it matter if the site is hosted on a personal domain or at an academic institution?

Web developers/Sourcing staff: How do I start formulating a budget/contract/proposal to negotiate costs and pricing, particularly when I have not yet locked down my requirements? Are there rough guidelines to how much I should be expecting to pay, and how much of it should be paid up front vs. later?

Students/faculty: What personal academic websites have you found the most impressive/helpful?

Some references:
Previous AskMetafilter question about selecting an academic CMS.
A really cool website linked from that question.
Another cool academic website.
My current page.
posted by onalark to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm a web designer, and I've done this sort of thing a few times. I typically end up essentially designing a custom theme for Wordpress, though I've used other CMSs such as Stacey, The Secretary, Indexhibit. It depends on exactly what you want to do with it, what I can do with it, and the end user's technical ability.

However, this is all putting the cart before the horse. Let me answer the questions that I can.

I need somebody to work through the requirements process with me.

I find that this usually requires an in-depth conversation. A big part of my job is to find out what the client wants. It's not uncommon to provide an initial consultation for free, though I stress that this should be limited to that first conversation, and maybe a resulting proposal.

How do I start formulating a budget/contract/proposal to negotiate costs and pricing, particularly when I have not yet locked down my requirements?

The designer should provide the contract, so no need to worry about that. Make sure to specify that you want one, because people often proceed without creating a contract. That's a bad idea, as it should ideally protect both of you. You also won't provide the proposal. That's what the designer will provide in response to your specifications. If your specifications are not set in stone, that's ok. As I mentioned, you can flesh that out with the designer. It's ok to be vague about things at first.

Are there rough guidelines to how much I should be expecting to pay, and how much of it should be paid up front vs. later?

Work out how much you can realistically afford to spend on this. A good web designer/developer would be able to advise you of your options within a budget, and tell you honestly if your expectations are unrealistic. Jeffery Heer's website would easily run you £1500+.

Different developers balance upfront deposits with final payments differently. Anything up to 50/50 is not unusual.

Good luck, and I hope that was helpful!
posted by Magnakai at 11:53 AM on September 24, 2011


I'm on the academic job market too (and have been in previous cycles).

Some suggestions:

1. You don't need a really impressive page. Being TOO flashy/nice might be a turn off. The pages that you linked to are not too flashy though. And paying someone to do this is probably overkill.

2. Most everyone that I know does the following:
a. an Academia.edu profile
b. a Wordpress page (the page that you linked to was basic enough.)

3. You want your CV in PDF form and in textual form up there.
4. You want to have a blog (that is frequently updated) that makes you sound smart about your topic

I think that what is wrong with your current page is:
- the font
- that I don't know immediately what your research is
- the color scheme being chromatic

And I think that with a new wordpress theme, you could fix this yourself.

Here's my own academic wordpress page (that I host on a public, non-academic domain name... although I have my academic affiliated webpages redirect to this page).

My "tabs" or "sections" are:
Homepage (blog)
Caucasus Barometer (a dataset that I work with a lot)
Contact & Social (links to Mendeley, Twitter, etc.)
CV
Dissertation (diss abstract)
Presentations (could put slides up here too)
Publications
Research (a summary of what I research)
Teaching (just a list)
posted by k8t at 11:56 AM on September 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hiring committee view: never forget that there are 50 other candidates to look at today. Some search committees don't even look at all.

Tell me what you are, what you do, and why it's interesting right in the top centre. Then have some obvious links to your CV (so I can check it against what you sent in your application pack...) and pdfs of as many of your publications as possible. Maybe a couple of photos of your research in action, to humanise the process, but that's it. Look at the information density on Heer's page you linked to.

Your outreach activities, personal interests, blog/FB/Twitter, thesis, student recommendations, Mendeley or academic.edu profiles are not going to get read unless you get through the first cut and are likely to succeed at interview on the strength of your publications and funding. Even then I know a lot of people who would just ask "why has this person not been writing grants or papers with this time instead?".

I guess you could hire someone, but I wouldn't bother.
posted by cromagnon at 1:47 PM on September 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Academic hiring committees/faculty: What impresses you the most about faculty candidate web pages?

A bar at the top that has items for CV, research, and teaching. A research page with links to pdfs of publications and papers, hosted locally instead of a link to the publisher's page for it -- if I'm checking your info from home, I'm not going to try to navigate around paywalls. A teaching page with links to syllabi or, if you have not taught any/much, proposed/sample syllabi.

This is one of those your mileage may vary kinds of things. Some people are going to be deeply impressed by a well-organized web presence. Myself, I look at that and think that the person hired a pretty good web designer... but why should I be impressed by that fact that you happened to hire a good web designer? So, me, I favor simplicity of navigation and clarity.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:13 PM on September 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


On a hiring committee, I do not bother looking at a candidate's web page. If I did, like ROU Xenophobe, I would want it to be simple and clear and just list the basics like k8t said.
posted by vincele at 2:48 PM on September 24, 2011


I'm an assistant prof on the tenure track in the US. I like nice, simple, professional websites that have limited or no personal information. This is an example of the kind of content I'd expect to see (and note that the only not-work related thing on there is a link to an organization I'm guessing she feels strongly about). Something with a bit more color can work too. But, again, this is pretty simple.

Unless your design skills are relevant to your job, I'd be worried about having something too slick.

The Prof Hacker blog on the Chronicle of Higher Ed website had a blog post about this just recently.
posted by bluedaisy at 2:54 PM on September 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Selfishly - links to syllabi are a good idea? Will do!
posted by k8t at 5:11 PM on September 24, 2011


I run the hiring committee for a major university department. I wouldn't even look at your website unless you make it to our long list and were being considered for the short list. Even then, I wouldn't expect you to have something professionally done. In fact, it might be a little strange. All the examples above are good ones.
posted by procrastination at 5:39 PM on September 24, 2011


Students/faculty: What personal academic websites have you found the most impressive/helpful?

Philip Meyer's of the University of North Carolina, in the USA.

I pick this not because the design is special, but because it's helpful. The design is clean and simple, and that's good for me.

The order in the menu implies a focus on students, because "Courses" is the first choice. There he links to his syllabi.

For a student with the same interests as him, it's a great site.

One thing that's good to link to or include is work by your students, or something similar. That helps other students imagine what they might do under your tutelage.
posted by maurreen at 1:30 AM on September 25, 2011


Thanks everybody for taking the time to help answer this. I am guessing that it might be best for me to focus on getting the content and basic layout of the site right first before I get involved with a professional developer (though I still want to use one :)
posted by onalark at 10:46 PM on September 25, 2011


The redesign is here.
posted by onalark at 11:54 AM on December 6, 2011


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