I am convinced more people need their own personal website, and I am not alone. A whole movement has cropped on on the internet to reclaim the idea of individuals carving out their own space on the web independent from large social platforms.
Meet the Indie Web.
The Indie Web
In the world of increasing social media fragmentation, it's getting harder than ever to know have a clear presence and identity on the web. Furthermore, with so many differnent social platforms, the unfortunate reality is that your ability to create a profile and space depends on their willingness and continued existence. In this way, using a social platform such as Twitter, Facebook, or even a blogging platform such as Medium or Substack means the presence you are building is dependent upon those platforms. Think of this as "dependent web," or having limited autonomy and sovereignty over you own online identity.
In reaction to this, the indie web movement attempts to restablish personal online identity in the hands of individuals, making it as independent of platforms as possible. By developing an identity that is first independent of these social platforms, you have both autonomy and soveriegnty. The fate of your profile is not tied to the fate of the platform. Furthermore, you can still leverage these platforms in conjunction with your established idependent identity.For an excellent explainer and introduction to the indie web, see Chris Aldrich's An Introduction to the IndieWeb.
In my line of work, I come across several different categories of people that I believe should have a personal website. In general, I think most people would benefit from one; however, I believe there are at least three types of people for which it can (and probably should) become a central part of their work.
- Academics should have their own personal website
- Students should have their own personal website
- Pastors and missionaries should consider their own personal website
Tips for a developing a personal website
Buy your own name, it is worth it. I think we will increasingly all need a personal website, so go ahead and get it. And, while you can try to do something clever as your URL, I'd suggest using your own name. It will stick with you much longer than some branding slogan. By securing this, you have the option to always be at the same place on the web regardless of what you call it for the rest of your ministry.
Think of owning your domain as purchasing your own home. It's online real estate, and this is your address. Secure the piece of real estate where you want to live, so that you can build your home and invite others into your space.
There are too many domain registries to count at this point. I've had my own name registered with Godaddy for over a decade now, and laziness is the only reason I've not moved it. I'd shop around on where to buy your domain name, and if you use one of the webhosts mentioned below, they may throw it in for the first year for free. A lot of people say good things about NameCheap for domains.
You will have to pay someone to host, if you want to use your own domain name. A number of webhosts offer free acouunts for a personal website. That's fine to use, especially in the beginning, but as soon as you want to "build on your own land," you'll have to pay for the opportunity to do so at most hosting platforms. There are exceptions, and most of those come when you learn how to build your own website and host it somewhere like Github Pages. You can see more on that below. If you do decide to pay someone else to build it. Who you use really really depends on what kind of website you want to make.
If you decide you need a blog. I'd suggest Wordpress.com or Wix. Sqaurespace is expensive for an individual who is not planning to make money off the site. Though it looks a little better out of the box), it's very limited in how you can customize it. And the analytics are awful. Wordpress.com (as opposed to self-hosted wordpress.org), is stable, traditional, widely extensible, and easy to learn.
If you really want to lean first into a personal website that links out to other published content, then there may be even cheaper and easier options. The personal website (as opposed to the blog) is a cottage industry in tech that is spinning up in a hurry because everyone is realizing they need a piece of real estate on the web. There might be some options I can run you to if you choose to go that road.
Learn to build your own I don't pay to host my sites anymore, but that's because I know how to build them from scratch and host them on Github. You could learn how to do that. It's honestly not that hard, and it's probably one of the better time investments I've made in the last year or so for my long term career.
Now that I know how to build my own sites and am able to host them for free on Github Pages, I can spin them up quickly for a particular project. I've already found this to be invaluable, both in ministry and in academics.