The worst place to host your lab web page

Type your name into Google. What comes up first? Is it your lab web page? I hope so, for this is where you can tell the story of your team’s research in your own way. Everyone should have their own lab page and there should be a prominent link to it from the more generic pages your university creates for you. The university pages have format and content that serve the university. They may have a color scheme. Chances are good that you cannot directly change their content. Here is a link to my Washington University in St. Louis page. Here is a link to our own web page.

Your own page should tell your story the way you want to tell it. It should be easily modifiable by you and anyone you designate. And you should have full control over it. This means you should not host it on your university’s server. No matter how much control you think you have, you don’t. I can give you an example. When I was at Rice University, my laboratory web page was hosted by Rice. We had control of its content, and used Dreamweaver mostly to manage it. Diane Hatton, our wonderful administrative assistant, managed it expertly. Now we have left Rice University, and the first thing they did was take down that page. Of course, that is their right with retired faculty. But they did something more. They have not let us point clicks on that site to our new web page. Instead they forward to a department where we no longer have any affiliation (another story, not for this venue). Here you can try it. The site was called Click on it and see if you can find any mention of us in the site you pull up.

Can’t we just recreate our information elsewhere? Yes, we can, but the world wide web is just that. There are many links and mentions of the old site out there. Click on them, and you will never find us. So, don’t host your lab page on your university’s server. Use something you can control forever. Many people buy their own domains, and we have done that for some of our educational material. But for ease of access and easy modification we are using a WordPress blog site, and separately, this WordPress blog. We have more work to do with the web page, but we control it, and always will. I love WordPress for flexibility, ease of management, everything.

You may think you’ll be at your university forever, or that forwarding clicks on your website will be automatic. That’s what I thought too. Even after more than 30 years, you may find you love a change and your former university will not forward. So keep control of your lab website.

About Joan E. Strassmann

Evolutionary biologist, studies social behavior in insects & microbes, interested in education, travel, birds, tropics, nature, food; biology professor at Washington University in St. Louis
This entry was posted in Life in a biology department, Managing an academic career. Bookmark the permalink.

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