Building an academic website using blogdown

Alison Presmanes Hill · 2017/06/16

Hugo academic Github Netlify blogdown

About me

I am a professor of pediatrics in Oregon Health & Science University’s Center for Spoken Language Understanding. My research focuses on autism, and I teach graduate-level courses in OHSU’s Computer Science education program. I also have developed and led several R workshops and smaller team-based training sessions, and love to train new “useRs”. And believe it or not, I have never had a website! This was way overdue, so when I saw blogdown, I decided I had no excuses left since I could now do everything from the comfort of RStudio. I’m really happy with my new site, and you can view the source content on GitHub.

How to start

I wrote up my detailed notes about how to get up and running using blogdown + GitHub + Netlify, so I would suggest that you start there! The tutorial is more general and intended for new blogdown learners, and is not specific to any one Hugo theme choice. Here I wanted to provide some details for academics who want to get started.

A dynamic CV

I opted for the Hugo academic theme mainly based on Yihui and Amber’s recommendation- it was great advice. This theme is perfect if you are faculty or a graduate student, or even a wannabe graduate student applying to masters or PhD programs. The theme offers all the sections present in a standard curriculum vitae with a clean simple interface. If you are an academic, you probably know that although publications are king for promotions and getting grants, you do a lot of work that is “extracurricular” like mentoring, service, and teaching. This theme allows you to flexibly highlight and document these important contributions.

Personalizing your site

You’ll get the quickest pay-off by adding your avatar photo to your static/img folder, then editing the config.toml. Add your contact information, academic affiliations, and links to all of your social networks. The academic theme allows you to use both Font Awesome icons as well as Academicons to you can link to all of the things!

Next, edit your page, which is in the content/home folder. This is where you can list your academic interests, your education/degrees, and write a brief bio for yourself.

After doing these 3 things, your site should be shaping up pretty nicely, and then you can start digging deeper into that content folder and refining your content.

Finally, my advice to students when they are learning ggplot2 is to play with the default settings, and I have the same advice for your blogdown site. The academic theme offers a way to link to a custom CSS in the config.toml file, and this is a nice way to make your site look unique by changing simple elements like colors and fonts.

  # Link custom CSS and JS assets
  #   (relative to /static/css and /static/js respectively)
  custom_css = ["blue.css"]

You can check out my custom css to see how I customized the academic theme, which I based off of this gist.

Get it out the door

The best advice I ever got in graduate school was “Progress not perfection.” At some point, you need to transition into get-it-out-the-door mode. You can always make changes later. I opted to use Netlify for deployment based on Yihui and Amber’s recommendation again. The process was very smooth if you link it up with your GitHub repository from the start.

The brilliant thing about using blogdown is that, if you are already an RStudio user, it will be that much easier for you to keep your website up to date. I’m excited to have one place to start sharing my workshops and teaching materials. It is definitely a work in progress, so check back in with me!