5 useful WordPress plugins for your academic website

Last time I wrote about setting up your own academic website with WordPress. In this post, I would like to share a few plugins that will improve your website experience from day 1. For me, these plugins simplify my blog-related tasks, and help me focus on the content.

1. Jetpack

Jetpack is a very versatile plugin with awesome features that improves the responsiveness of your blog. One of the features I really like is its understandable statistics. I have Google Analytics, and have done a few tutorials for it, but I don’t find it very user-friendly. Jetpack shows me what I’m most interested in: how many people go to my blog, where they come from, and where they go next.

Most popular pages of the month, by Jetpack.
Most popular pages of the month, by Jetpack.


Other options I’m using are different widgets which make finding and sharing content easier, like the “related posts” below, and the social media buttons.

2. iThemes security

WordPress has a few security problems, so what I like about iThemes security is that it pretty much eliminates these worries. The options I particularly like are:

  • Sends me an email with a back-up of my WordPress database
  • Sends me a summary of security events, for example if somebody trying to gain access
  • Allows hiding the veronikach.com/wp-admin page by changing it to, say, veronikach.com/goawayhackers, so that the login page cannot be misused

iThemes has a free and a paid version. I have the free version, which includes all the options above.

3. Akismet

Akismet is excellent for filtering out spam comments. I have several WordPress websites, and on the websites where I don’t have Akismet, the amount of spam is annoying, plus it increases the risk of you accidentally deleting a real comment!

For personal websites, Akismet has a “name your price” plan – I think the minimum amount is $5 per year, which is nothing compared to the time it saves.

4. Yoast SEO

Yoast SEO is a search engine optimization plugin. SEO is not something to be worried about when you are starting out with a website, but the plugin has a feature I absolutely love for writing blog posts. It gives you an immediate assessment of the readibility of your post. It looks at characteristics like sentence length, paragraph length and so forth, and gives a grade: – Needs Improvement, OK and Good.

I typically write my posts in Evernote, and do only the editing in WordPress, trying to get at least an “OK” grade for each post. Like all plugins, Yoast SEO has a free and a paid version, the readibility feature is free.

Yoast SEO readbility feature
Yoast SEO readbility feature. I often use too long sentences.

5. Nimble Portfolio

Nimble Portfolio is what I use on my publications page (update 2020: I’ve switched to using a plain page for this one, the plugin was still great though!). Rather than using a separate page or post for each publication, it uses portfolio items, which is a different content type. Because of this, it’s easy to display all the publications together, all the publications with a particular tag, and so forth. I’m using the free version of this plugin.

Some of my publications as portfolio items
Some of my publications as portfolio items

If you liked this post, you might be also interested in:

If you are looking for some inspiration, you might like my other pages about academic websites:

How to quickly setup your own academic website

In this post I share how to quickly setup your own academic website, by buying hosting, a domain name, and installing WordPress. As there are many tutorials already on how to do these steps from the technical side (and things might differ between providers), this is more of an overview if you are considering this approach. 

This post does not cover why you should have your own academic website, or why you should pay money for it. Yes, this is not a “how to quickly setup your own website for free” post, but don’t worry, all of this can be done for less than 10 EUR per month. Also, this is not THE only way to setup a website, but this is the way I have done it for several websites in the past, including this one. So, I’m assuming you already decided already you want your own professional website, and you think the website I have is decent 😉

Step 1: Decide on a domain name

Since you are going for a professional website, the best bet is probably some-variation-of-your-name.com. For the name, try your first name (like Felienne at felienne.com), or your whole name, if it is easy to remember (like Noeska at noeskasmit.com). If neither option is possible, you have to be a bit more creative. Whenever I say my last name out loud, I add that “it starts with C-H” in an attempt to remove some confusion. So, that’s why you are now on veronikach.com.

Why .com, you ask, if you are not a company? Yes, .nl is cheaper, and .net is prettier, and you can even get lots of cool alternatives, like .science. But the people who will want to go to your website, will probably type “.com” anyway, so just help them out. You can always register additional domains later 🙂

Step 2: Buy domain name and hosting

Since I’m assuming this is your first own website, you will want to buy both a domain name (around EUR 10 per year) and some hosting. Most hosting providers offer both – I’m currently quite happy with Siteground, where the StartUp package will cost you from 6 EUR per month, Bluehost has some cheaper alternatives. 

When buying a domain name, most hosts will offer you the option to anonymize yourself as the owner of the domain. I did not do this, since it is clear that the website is about myself. However, the data you enter will be visible to people who look up your domain. So I would recommend using your work address/phone number. 

Now, go ahead and proceed with the checkout. After a few steps, you should be the owner of your very own website. Congratulations!

Step 3: Find the administration panel

Once you get an email with all your hosting details, there should be instructions on how to access different options of your hosting package, through a tool like cPanel or DirectAdmin. 

With SiteGround, I just log in with my customer details on their website, and go to the “Websites” tab. Each website has a “cPanel” button next to it. 

Step 4: Install WordPress

CPanel has lots of interesting tools to improve your website, but now we want the WordPress autoinstaller. 

 

 

 

 

 

Here a number of defaults will already be filled in. Most importantly, don’t forget to enter a valid email address, and to store your username (this should NOT be equal to “admin”) and your password in your password manager. 

You can leave the other settings at their defaults and click “ïnstall”!

Step 5: Add some content!

Now your WordPress website should be ready! Login with the username/password you just created and explore the WordPress dashboard. Edit the pages/posts that are already created by default, and you have just setup your very own academic website!

Maybe your website is a bit basic now, but that can change very soon, as WordPress is easy to customize and there are a lot of themes and plugins available that you can install with a few clicks. If you are looking for some inspiration, you might like my other pages about academic websites:

9 gift ideas for academics

9 gift ideas for academics | veronikach.com

It’s December! I’m looking at a Christmas tree, drinking glögg and I just received my first gift – a box with food, tea, and a blanket – from my employer. I don’t really exchange a lot of gifts for Christmas, but I know it’s a big thing in other places. I do enjoy coming up with gift ideas, which I know can be difficult, especially now that most people have too much stuff. So this time I thought I’d try a different kind of post, and share a few inexpensive gift ideas for academics!

9 gift ideas for academics | veronikach.com

1. A domain name

Because many universities still treat emails and websites like they did 20 years ago. It’s easy to buy a domain name yourself, and then transfer it to a different owner. Setting up a website is not required – it’s possible to forward the domain name to an existing website, or use it for multiple email addresses. If you are in the Netherlands, I recommend Versio.

2. A paid subscription to a service

Because there are a lot of great services out there. Despite the monthly cost of about 2 cups of coffee, many people are hesitant to pay for apps, and settle for suboptimal solutions instead. Let them experience how helpful these services can be and buy them a paid subscription for Evernote, Dropbox, or Headspace. My most recent subscription is to focus@will.

3. A voucher for a day at the spa

Because we all need this from time to time. I get mine at Treatwell.

4. Getting things done

Because everybody needs to read this book. An updated edition recently came out, so it’s a good gift even for those who read it already. To save trees, get the electronic or audio version.

5. A wireless presenter

Because when I got one as a PhD student, I felt like a real scientist. I like the ones with a built-in timer, but I have this more affordable version:

Gift ideas for academics #5: wireless presenter

6. A snuggie

Because sleeves. Appropriate for Netflix and grading papers.

Gift ideas for academics #6: Snuggie blanket

7. Good tea

Because alcohol and coffee are great gifts too, but we probably are drinking too much of those already.

8. A plant

Because it can cheer up any (office) space.

9. A donation to open science

Because it’s important. A great initiative to donate to is Scihub, but if you don’t pay in bitcoins, you can try Wikipedia instead.

More ideas

If you are looking for more gift ideas for academics, check out my most recent post, and the guides by Tenure She Wrote and Stylish Academic.

Happy holidays!

5 easy ways to do more with your poster

How can you make your poster stand out at the poster session, if you only have a limited amount of time? There are many tips out there on how to design the poster and how to structure all the information (a couple of resources I like are here and here), and these are the most important things you should be doing! But if you already have a poster ready and can’t afford doing a complete overhaul, here are three ways to make your poster more memorable:

1. Print your poster on fabric

Print your poster on fabric if you don’t already do so. This not only makes travel easier, but also makes it easier for people to approach you and to start a conversation, and that’s what poster sessions are all about.

2. Add a picture of yourself to the poster

Chances are that your poster will be up for a longer period of time than you will actually be there to present. If people see your picture on the poster and then see you later at a conference, there are again more likely to approach you if they have any questions.

Add a picture of yourself next to the contact information on your poster
Add a picture of yourself next to the contact information on your poster. See the full poster here

 

3. Add business cards next to the poster

These days most people have a smartphone and can take a picture of your contact information. But if you do this regularly, you end up with lots of pictures that you might forget to follow up with. Make it easier for people to remember and contact you by giving them an opportunity to take your card! If you do not have cards, you can consider adding print-outs of the poster (or even the full paper) instead.

Add business cards to your poster for easy exchange of contact information
Add business cards to your poster for easy exchange of contact information

 

4. Add a QR code that leads to your website

This is especially helpful if your website has a URL that is difficult to remember. There are many QR code generators out there, such as this one. Remember to save the image in a large size and resize it afterwards for best quality during printing.

5. Promote your poster on social media

If you have Twitter, take a picture of yourself next to the poster and tweet about it using the hashtag of the conference, and include the location of your poster. People are more likely to like an image if it features a face and might decide to stop by for a chat even if they didn’t yet know about your work.

Presenting my poster at the MICCAI LABELS workshop in 2016
Presenting my poster at the MICCAI LABELS workshop in 2016

That’s all the tips I have tried so far while attending conferences. Please share below if these work / do not work for you and if you know any other tips that might be useful. Thanks for reading!

Bonus tip

To leave a lasting impression, glue your PhD thesis to your poster:

How to print your posters on fabric

The Problem

Probably all PhD students face this problem in their career: the poster presentation, and bringing the poster with you to the conference. This usually means you need one of those poster tubes to keep your poster all neat until the poster session. Not too bad if you are going to a local conference, but more annoying when you are going to, say, Japan, where I attended the International Conference on Pattern Recognition in 2012.

poster

I was determined to go to Japan with just a carry-on bag, something I have never attempted on trips longer than 3 days. Of course, I would also have a “personal item”: my regular bag for my laptop and valuables. I really, really did not want to add an extra piece of luggage (the poster tube) to the list of the things I had to bring with me. So I decided to look for a solution: posters that would fit into my carry-on!

The solution

For paper, this would mean either a very small poster, a poster with fold lines, or a poster consisting of several small parts. Neither of these seemed very appealing, so my material of choice became fabric. After some searching, I settled on this product, in particular the “vlaggendoek” or “flag sheet” variety. This material weights just 115 grams for 1m2, which is conveniently almost the same size as an A0 (841mm × 1189mm). Printing + delivery costs just over 20 euros, which is actually cheaper than an A0 paper poster with a plastic coating. That’s not all: apparently the material is fire retardant, because you never know when fire could break out at a conference.

But the best thing of all? You can fold it and it still looks great when you unfold it! Here are my two posters folded a few times:
poster folded

These did not only fit into my carry on, they even fit into my purse (and made a great padding for my mini laptop).

I received a lot of compliments (about the content too of course 😉 ) and heard a lot of  “I should have known this earlier!” during the poster sessions. So this is me, telling you: print your conference posters on fabric! If you are in the Netherlands, you are welcome to stop by to see the real thing.


Where else to get it

France: Easyflyer (thanks to @cazencott!)

Belgium: UniversityPress (thanks to @dan_marinazzo!)

Germany: Diedruckerej (thanks to @chrshmmmr

UK: SciencePosters (thanks to @IAugenstein!)

US: Spoonflower (thanks to @jengolbeck!) and Postersmith (thanks to @astent!)

If you know of any more companies not in these countries, please let me know (comment below or via Twitter) and I’ll add it to the list! As of July 2017, I’m still updating the list.

 

Bonus

You can get your textile poster repurposed into a piece of clothing or accessory at REpost Science. See my newest blog post about this.

 

 

 

 

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