I look at a lot of scientific lab websites. I tell investigators the same thing over and over again. I feel like a broken record sometimes. Some websites do some of these things well, but it’s rare to find one that does them all. If you are a scientist and want to communicate the value of your research, do these 8 things when you create a lab website, and you will be leaps and bounds ahead of everyone else.
Without further ado, my 8 best practices for scientific lab websites in no specific order.
Make sure you have the right to publish paper PDFs, protocols, images, etc. You can always link safely to PubMed (or the journal itself). Don’t post images from the internet without permission unless they have an open use license, ideally Creative Commons 0. Be careful with using university logos. Some get snippy about unauthorized use.
Write in plain language
For me, this means will a prospective graduate student be able to understand what you do? Potential postdocs, collaborators and reviewers from different fields will also appreciate this. They can always consult the primary source that you have so nicely linked for them to read more.
Consistency is professional and accessible
Make sure that your pages are laid out with titles, headings (h1) and subheadings (h2, h3, h4) as appropriate. Body text should be formatted as paragraphs. This makes you look professional, helps search engine bots understand your pages and makes your content accessible to screen readers for those with low/no vision.
Look at your site on your phone. Most current website platforms automatically make it look pretty decent on mobile. Make sure you can read it easily. Tweak text sizes larger if needed. Make sure what’s clickable is clear. You can’t rely on hover to reveal links.
Yes, this is your website, but it is not a CV. It’s about your lab, and the research you do as a team. Lead with the research not your biography. Use “we” when appropriate.
Toot your own horn
Yes, I said research should come first, but when it comes to your biography, it’s time to shine. Summarize your experience, briefly. Inject a bit of personality or philosophy, or both. Put links out to relevant press releases, articles or videos from your university. Link to Twitter, Google Scholar, PubMed and the like. Your photo should be professional, well lit and current.
If you do it, keep it current. Better not to do at all if you can’t. Your Twitter feed can take the place of a news page or blog. Embed it instead of going through the hassle of writing an article, finding a photo and coming up with a title. Alternatively, if you have an interest in blogging about research, policy or outreach then by all means go for it and create great medium- to long-format content.
Promote your site
Related to tooting your own horn, find all the ways you can link to your site. Put it in your email signature and Twitter bio. Today. Then brainstorm all the other places you can put a link. Some universities are more strict about linking to outside websites than others so be cognizant of that. See if you can put a link on your business card, department profile, graduate program listing or association directories.
Join the List
Get notified when new articles are published.