Website Creation Platforms

Platforms that we are using in class


  • Available through your MSU Commons / Humanities Commons account for free and without ads.
  • Originally built for blogging (core components are “posts” and “pages”) and very widely used, in and beyond the academy
  • Open source (the code is freely available)
  • Strengths
    • Widely used –> many tutorials and help guides are available online, and skills used in learning it can be re-used in other jobs and classes
    • Many theme options (especially in MSU Domains)
    • Images and media have alt-text fields built in to support accesibility
  • Weaknesses
    • Images and other media do not have robust metadata
    • Because it’s so widely used, it can be overwhelming to get help and select a theme
Graphic comparing website creation using MSU Domains versus MSU Commons
Comparing MSU Domains versus MSU Commons for using WordPress

Example: Pure Michigan on Instagram


  • Available through an MSU Domains account for free (while you’re at MSU, or for $30/year otherwise)
    • Created for museums, libraries, and archives as a platform for digital archives and exhibits (core components are “items”, “collections” and “exhibits”)
  • Open source (the code is freely available)
  • Robust metadata are created with each item

Example: Anishinaabe Collections at the University of Michigan Museum of Anthropological Archaeology

Platforms that are available as well (we can provide training assistance as needed outside of class)


  • Available through an MSU Domains account
  • Available through Scalar directly
  • Created with scholarly publications and Digital Humanities in mind (core components are “media,” “pages,” and “paths”)
  • Pros
    • Robust Narrative possibilities – can create collections like Omeka, but also create linear paths through your content for exhibits or multimedia essays.
    • Supports, but does not require, robust metadata
    • Supports integrating other materials, such as YouTube, online library collections, and various visualizations
  • Cons
    • Unpredictable, occasionally goes down without warning
    • Steep learning curve
    • Some customization requires CSS or HTML

Example: Kane in Continuity

Github Pages

  • Available through Github
  • Pros
  • Cons
    • Requires some comfort with coding

Example: Dogs of New York

A note on other platforms

Squarespace, Weebly, Wix, and* are all popular platforms for creating websites. For this class, we recommend not using these platforms, however.

We prefer to recommend free and non-proprietary systems because they allow you to keep your site available for as long as you want it to be available, and they allow you to move your content and backup your content more readily.

Some of the platforms above charge a monthly usage rate, or they require that you pay in order to have your site searchable on Google etc, or they put ads on your site. These are things to consider when selecting a platform for any course, job, or other context.

*A Note on – sites created on use the same fundamental system as all WordPress sites but live on WordPress’s servers, which is why you can set up sites there for free (which is the appeal). The downside is that you don’t have as much control over the files of your site in this context, and that ads may show up on your site without you knowing. By contrast, the WordPress sites that we are working with on the Commons or through Domains, are hosted through servers that are run by MSU or paid for by MSU, which is why they do not have ads (and won’t ever have ads).