Building a great website for your research

A partially closed Mac laptop a brlightly coloured screen agains a dark surrounding.
A great website for your research can do wonders for increasing engagement and general awareness of the work you do.

Whilst social-media plays an important role in the modern toolbox for outreach and communication, a website remains a convenient way to access information about recent projects, publications, collaborations and teaching — as well as showcase what makes you and your research (or research lab) so great.

There are many ways to build a simple and effective website. But, it’s not all fun and design. There are some key must-haves before you start building anything. We’ll take you through the ins and outs of everything you need to make an informed decision about where to go and how to start creating a website and boost your research impact.

The three things

All websites require three things in order to function properly: a domain name, a hosting provider and a website builder. The domain is the URL address you will assign your website, for example www.youreresarchlabname.com. It’s a bit like a street address without an assigned street. You can purchase domains quite cheaply from sites like GoDaddy, Name.com and other domain sellers.

Domains and hosting

If the domain name is the address, then you can think of the hosting service as the suburb and street you’re going to live in.

Different hosting providers offer different services. Some only host websites built with certain builders, others offer additional features and bandwidths. You can often buy your domain and hosting as a bundle – although that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best price, so shop around!

We always prefer to keep the domains separate just in case we decide to switch hosting or platforms in the future.

The website builder

So you have your “land,” you have your address, now you need a home to house your new website. This is where a website builder is necessary. You’ve likely heard of some of them: WordPress, Wix and Squarespace are all very popular examples. If you are code-savvy you can even create a custom HTML website.

Every platform operates a little differently and there are pros and cons to each of them which we’ve outlined below.

Wix

Wix is generally regarded as the best website builder for those just starting out. Its user-friendly, drag-and-drop site editor allows you to have total creative control over your content and how it looks on the page.

With over 500 professionally designed templates and an enormous app store where you can purchase a bunch of amazing features, Wix provides just about everything and anything you need to create a knock-out website.

We recommend using their free domain name while you explore the platform and when you are ready to launch youre new website, you can upgrade your account and link up your own domain name. For the price of a reasonable phone plan, you get your website builder and hosting all in one.

Squarespace

Squarespace is a website builder with a premium feel. The platform’s main drawcard is its templates which have been masterfully developed and are generally considered great for showcasing creative portfolios such as photographers, illustrators, or interior designers. Because of this, there is less customisability – in order to do so requires a bit of coding but you can absolutely use Squarespace to build a great website!

Squarespace also supports third-party integrations, which covers many common website needs, but these are limited when compared with the range Wix offers.

Squarespace offers a 14-day free trial, before shutting down access to your site – you need to have a solid plan before you start your trial.

Like Wix, Squarespace doubles as a hosting provider; simply build your site and upgrade to their paid plans.

WordPress

But what about WordPress? WordPress is without doubt the most popular platform for designing a website.

It is fully customisable, allows you total control over the look and feel of your website, and is “technically” free to use. However, you will need to supply your own domain and hosting providers. That being said, buying these from dedicated suppliers will likely end up more cost-effective than Wix or Squarespace.

The biggest gripe with WordPress is that it’s not very user-friendly for those with no experience with web design or development. Unless you’re comfortable with code, are willing to pay for plugin drag and drop software – or have the budget to hire a professional developer – WordPress will prove a tricky beast to tame, leaving you frustrated (and still without a website).

Which platform is best?

Generally, we find WordPress to be the happy medium between price, user-friendliness and functionality. It is also open source so there are lots of online forums and video tutorials to help you troubleshoot any issues.

That being said, building a website for your research should be a fun experience and for this reason, we’d recommend that if you’re just starting out, stick to the drag-and-drop website builders.

Building a website for your research should be a fun experience and for this reason, we’d recommend that if you’re just starting out, stick to the drag-and-drop website builders.

Hiring developers

Obviously, this would be our recommendation – especially for a WordPress website. A developer can save you time, frustration and set up a powerful platform that works for you and your research. Developers can also set up all the necessary securities, create a user-friendly backend so once it’s built, maintaining your site is easy.

Here in the Studio, we’ve built websites on each of these platforms and have found each to have their own advantages and disadvantages. We take the time to fully understand what your website needs, your ability to put time into updating and maintaining content and what features you might need in the future and build something that grows with your research.

Additionally, we offer hosting and monthly support to help you update, and troubleshoot any issues so you don’t need to worry about a thing!

“We take a variety of things into account when choosing the right platform to build a client website with. It’s essential we understand not only what features their website requires, but also who will be maintaining it, their experience with websites – and of course whether their budget allows for ongoing costs.”

– Molly Patton, Founder and Creative in Chief

Benefits of a great website

A well-built website seriously improves your chances of being found on Google by potential collaborators and industry partners. If your site is easy to navigate and well organised, visitors to your site can easily find useful information, it presents you as highly professional, organised and you (or your lab) quickly become a credible source of information for those in your area of research.

Combining this with a consistent social media presence, and over time you’ll be a household name for your area of specialisation.

Is a website really that important?

This might seem like a frivolous venture, after all, it’s the science that matters. But letting people know what you’re doing and why it’s important is crucial to effective outreach. Factors such as public awareness and understanding can heavily influence funding allocations and determine how quickly certain projects could progress from lab-bench to real-world solution.

But navigating this space can be tricky. That’s why we often work with start-ups and spinout companies on how they can leverage their digital presence to help them grow their new venture. An example of just how well a website can work for you is our recent project with JKT Coaching. Within days of launching their new WordPress website, they had three new enquiries into their highly specialised training programs for cyclists – a remarkable achievement for such a niche target audience!

“Our business has come such a long way; developing from a little side hustle to working with national and international-level riders – and huge scope to keep expanding! We couldn’t be more grateful to Patton’d Studios for their input into JKT Coaching over the last 6 months and we highly recommend their services – you will not go wrong under their wonderful guidance!”

– KT Ward and Josh Harrison, JKT Coaching

We also do websites!

We hope we’ve demystified some of the points surrounding how to start building a great website for your research and/or research lab that suits your capabilities and time constraints. But if you’d still prefer to let someone else do the heavy lifting – we’re here for you.

Check out some of the testimonials on our homepage to see what other organisations have to say about their new online looks. Then head on over to Molly’s calendar to book a free 30-minute chat to get the ball rolling on your brand new website– we can’t wait to work with you!

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