How to Build Your Historian’s Website & Where to Build It, Part 1

How to Build Your WebsiteYou know you need to build your platform and you have decided to start with a website, but how and where do you build your historian’s website? If you don’t know how to write HTML and CSS code, creating a website may seem daunting, but it shouldn’t be.

There are several low and premium cost options available for those who don’t know how to code in a computer language.

In this post you will discover three options you could use to build your historian’s website.

Part 2 of this post will cover WordPress and where I think you should build your website.




Blogger is a free weblog publishing tool provided by Google.

Blogger offers the ability to create a blog and to add webpages that highlight who you are, your CV, books/writing/research, teaching, news, and services that you offer.


Themes: Blogger offers a selection of themes (background designs) that you can use to customize your website.

If you have the know-how, you can customize any blogger theme by adjusting the HTML and Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) code.

Blogger also offers users several “dynamic” designs to choose from.

“Dynamic” or responsive themes automatically scale to a viewer’s device. If you pick one of Blogger's “dynamic" themes your website will look good on giant monitors, laptop screens, and mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones.


Social Sharing: As a Google product, Blogger websites work seamlessly with Google+. This integration makes it easy for your to share your blog posts on Google+.


Monetization: Blogger sites easily connect with the Google AdSense revenue generation platform. This opt-in service will allow you to add advertisements to your website. If someone clicks on one of your ads you will earn a percentage of the rate Google charges the advertiser.


Mobile: Blogger has both Android and iOS apps that you can use to post to your blog and tweak your webpages while you are on the go.


Cost: Free, unless you want to purchase a custom URL or domain name. (Highly Recommended)



Blogger provides a wonderful option for those with very limited budgets. Purchasing a custom domain name from Google will be the only investment you need to make with Blogger (about $12).

Some historians have done well by hosting their blogs and websites on Blogger.  John Fea and J.L. Bell serve as two examples.

If you want to use Blogger to create a website instead of a blog, you should adjust your settings to direct web traffic to a welcome or landing page. If you don’t, those who search for you on the web will be directed to the blog portion of your site.  See Inside Tech Tricks, "How to Create a Custom Landing Page in Blogger to Increase Leads."





Squarespace is a content management system that provides a website builder, blogging platform, and hosting service.

Squarespace provides a suite of drag-and-drop tools that will help you build anything from a basic website and blog to an e-commerce store.




Themes: All Squarespace themes are responsive. This means they will automatically scale your website for different screen sizes; from giant desktop monitors or TVs to small smartphone screens.


Website Building: Drag and drop the features you want (and that Squarespace offers) into your theme layout.


Social Sharing: A built-in social share feature allows website viewers to easily share your content with all major social media networks.


Customization: Squarespace allows you to access the cascading style sheet (CSS) to customize the look of your theme.


Costs: Squarespace offers 3 plans:

1. Personal: for $8 per month you get to create one website with up to 20 pages, a blog, 2GB of storage space, and up to 2 contributors. You also receive the ability to sell 1 product, accept donations, and access 24/7 customer support.

Squarespace Website2. Professional: for $16 per month you get to create one website with unlimited pages, a blog, photo galleries, and have unlimited storage space and contributors. You also get the ability to sell up to 20 products, access the developer platform (for customization), and reach out to the 24/7 Squarespace Customer Support team.

3. Business: for $24 per month you receive all of the benefits of the Professional plan plus the ability to sell an unlimited number of products, real-time carrier shipping information, label printing via ShipStation, and integrated accounting by Xero.

If you pay for your plan in one, annual installment Squarespace will give you a free custom domain name.



Squarespace seems like a great option for beginners who aren’t interested in learning WordPress.

From what I have read, Squarespace’s drag-and-drop website builder makes website construction easy and the service offers only responsive themes. I also like that Squarespace provides its premium customer support to all of its clients.


DH HistorianHire a Professional Web Designer

You could hire a professional web designer to custom build the website of your dreams.

This is likely to be an expensive option, especially as you may need to retain the web designer and pay them a monthly fee to add content to your website (such as a new page or blog post), maintain your site with code updates, or to fix your website if it breaks. Additionally, you will need to pay for a hosting service to host your website and for a custom domain name.


Stay tuned for “How to Build Your Historian’s Website & Where to Build It, Part 2,” which will discuss your WordPress options. I will also reveal my thoughts as to how and where you should build your historian's website.


Share StoryShare Your Story

Do you use Blogger or Squarespace?

Have you hired a professional website designer? Please share your experiences in the comments below so we can help our colleagues make an informed decision about how and where they should build their historian’s website.


How to Expand Your Writer Platform with Medium

MediumAre you looking for a platform that will allow you to share your ideas, spread news about your writing, and workshop your drafts with other writers and readers? If so, Medium might be the right platform for you.

In this post you will learn what Medium is and how it can help you expand your writer platform.


What is Medium?

Founded by Twitter and Blogger founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone, Medium stands as "a new place on the Internet where people share ideas and stories that are longer than 140 characters."

Medium allows you to blog without a blog.

It has a clean appearance that presents both words and pictures in a visually appealing way. In fact, you can blog using just pictures.

However, Medium is more than a blogging platform.

Medium curates and workshops content through user-established and moderated collections.


Medium-CollectionsWhat Are Medium Collections?

Medium collections organize and filter content.

You can use Medium to explore your interests in 2 ways:

1. You can use its search to find a collection that contains user-submitted articles or photos that discuss, or depict, a topic of interest.

2. You can create a collection.


Responsibilities of Collection Creators

When you create a collection, you become its moderator.

User-writers who share your interest may submit essays to your collection for publication. As collection moderator, you decide which of the submitted content to publish.

If you opt to pass on a submission, Medium requires that you provide the author with a reason for your rejection.

User-moderators help Medium curate content in 3 ways:

1. Moderator-established collections help writers see what kinds of visual and written content users want to read about.

2. Moderators help vet the content to make sure it fits within the collection they establish.

3. Moderators help readers easily find content they want to read.

The idea behind user-moderated collections is that user-readers will be able to find a collection that has content that matches their particular interest.


Medium-FeedbackMedium As A Tool for Writers

Medium encourages posts by giving writers the option to request reader-feedback on their work.

Medium serves as a great tool for writers who need to workshop a piece because they lack a writing group.

It also serves as a great tool for writers who want to market their books.

IsaacsonMedium as a Book Marketing Tool

Late last year, Walter Isaacson posted excerpts of his new book about the "Information Age" to Medium for user feedback.

18,000 people read Isaacson's first excerpt. 125 readers commented, dozens of people sent him e-mails, and several writers wrote full-length articles that explored the ideas in his post.

Isaacson posted to Medium because he arrived at "the point of the book where people started using the Internet to collaborate" and "it didn't take a genius to say, 'why don't I use the Internet to collaborate?'"*

Isaacson used Medium to lessen his writer's isolation as well as generate buzz for his new book.

By asking readers to submit feedback, Isaacson allowed them to participate in his creative process, which in turn gave these readers a stake in his new book.


A Great Idea With Strings Attached

Medium is quickly becoming a great platform for writers because it provides them with the opportunities to both workshop and market their writing.

It is a platform for writers who want to blog, but do not want to take on the time commitment that comes with maintaining a blog.

With that said, WRITERS BEWARE.

Medium belongs to Evan Williams and Biz Stone. It is there platform, not yours.

Williams and Stone own the information for Medium users, not you.

This means that just like your Twitter followers and Facebook friends, you have no way to contact them all directly nor do you have a say in how Williams & Stone reproduce, post, or monetize their site with your content.



I view Medium as a great supplement to my digital platform.

Although I have not posted to Medium yet, I can see using it like Isaacson did, as a place to escape periods of writer isolation, workshop sections of my book, and interact with readers interested in early American History.

Medium may also help me expand my digital platform.

By including my website and blog URLs in my byline, I may lead Medium readers and writers to my digital hub and mailing list.

These are experiments I might try as I revise my book.


Share StoryWhat Do You Think?

Do you use Medium? How do you use it and what has your experience been like?

What other platforms do you use to help extend the reach of your writer platform?


*Joshua Brustein, "Walter Isaacson on Crowdsourcing his New Book," Bloomberg Businessweek, December 30, 2013.

You can also read about Isaacson's use of Medium at The Christian Science Monitor and Fortune Magazine.

Photo of Walter Isaacson courtesy of David Shankbone.