I finally got around to creating a Jekyll powered blog running on GitHub pages, and it was much easier than I thought. There are only a few steps involved:

  1. Set up a GitHub repo called <username>.github.io (in my case ndench.github.io), this makes github automatically serve the repo at https://<username>.github.io.
    Note: Make sure you have set up an ssh key on your github account.
  2. Install Ruby.
  3. Install Jekyll and Bundler:
     $ gem install jekyll bundler
    
  4. Create a Jekyll project locally:
     $ bundle exec jekyll new <username>.github.io
    
  5. Set up your local git project:
     $ cd <username>.github.io
     $ git init
     # Note: You can get this url from GitHub on your new repo page
     $ git remote set-url git@github.com:<username>/<username>.github.io.git
    
  6. Build your blog locally then view it at localhost:4000:
     $ bundle exec jekyll serve
    
  7. Commit and push your blog
     $ git add .
     $ git commit -m "Create my blog"
     $ git push -u origin master
    
  8. View your blog at https://<username.github.io> (this might take 10 minutes or so to become available)

Understading Jekyll

Now that I had my blog live, I was confused by what to do next. All the tutorials I read said that I should have this sort of folder structure:

_includes/
_layouts/
_posts/
_sass/
assets/
script/

But all I could see was _posts/. It turns out that in a recent update Jekyll added gem powered themes. So you no longer have to manage your own includes, layouts and other assets. By default Jekyll uses the minima theme, you can see those missing files on the GitHub page for minima.

So literally the only thing left to do is create some posts. Create a file in the _posts directory with this naming convention YYYY-MM-DD-<title>.md, for instance, this post is called 2018-02-01-setup-jekyll-on-github-pages.md, add the following to the very start of the file:

---
title: <title>
layout: post
categories: <category1> <category2>
---

Note: You can add as many space separate categories as you like, they appear at the start of the URL for the post, for example, this post has the jekyll tag, which you can see in the URL ndench.github.io/jekyll/setup-jekyll-on-github-pages.

Common configuration options

The _config.yml file specifies configuration for how Jekyll will build the site, plus also some variable that the pages can use when they’re being built. My _config looks like:

title: My fully sick title
#email: your-email@example.com # Don't show my email address
description: >
  My fully sick description
baseurl: "" # Don't have any base path on my url. ie. /blog
url: "https://ndench.github.io" 
google_analytics: UA-000000000-0
timezone: Australia/Brisbane
show_excerpts: true # Show excerpts of posts on the home page
permalink: /:categories/:title # Don't show the date of the post in the URL

# Social
twitter_username: nathandench
github_username: ndench
linkedin_username: nathandench

# Build settings
markdown: kramdown
theme: minima
plugins:
  - jekyll-feed
  - jekyll-sitemap # I added this to automatiacally generate a sitemap.xml

# These are default variables for my pages
# Any file in the `_posts` directory gets a default layout of `post`, 
# so I don't have to specify it manually
defaults:
    - scope:
        path: _posts
      values:
        layout: post

Update

Sometimes I want to be able to write a post that I can show someone for proofreading, but not have it available “live”. After looking around I found a great way to implement drafs. The first way is to just add a new markdown file under /_drafts as shown in the jekyll docs. The problem with this is that it’s only visible locally when you run jekyll build or jekyll serve with the --drafts option, so it’s not visible live.

This post gives a great overviwe of Jekyll collections, which I modified to display drafts:

# /_config.yml
...

defaults:
...
 - scope:
      path: _drafts
    values:
      layout: post
      comments: false

collections:
  drafts:
    output: true

...

This makes all markdown files under /_drafts be build without the --drafts flag, gives them the default layout of post, and makes them accessible via the site.drafts variable. I then created a /drafts.md file, which is almost a copy-paste of the minima theme’s /_layouts/home.html:

---
layout: default
---

<div class="home">
  <h1 class="page-heading">Drafts</h1>

  {%- if site.drafts.size > 0 -%}
    <ul class="post-list">
      {%- for post in site.drafts -%}
      <li>
        <h3>
          <a class="post-link" href="{{ post.url | relative_url }}">
            {{ post.title | escape }}
          </a>
        </h3>
      </li>
      {%- endfor -%}
    </ul>
  {%- endif -%}

</div>

And now I have a /drafts page that lists all my drafts to make them easy to find, but the /drafts page is not linked to from any other page, so readers won’t just stumble across it. Unless of course they’ve read this blog post ;).

Update II

Some friends have been bugging me to add an email subscription to my blog. After digging around it turns out to be super easy with Mailchimp, all I needed to do was:

  • Sign up for a free mailchimp account
  • Create a ‘list’ (this will likely happen automatically during the sign up process)
  • Go to my ‘list’ and click ‘signup forms’ -> ‘embedded forms’
  • Customise the form how I wanted
  • Overwrite /_includes/footer.html from my theme and paste in the given HTML

I also customised the thank you page:

  • Go to my ‘list’ and click ‘signup forms’ -> ‘form builder’
  • Choose ‘confirmation thank you page’
  • Customise however much you want

Pages that helped me