Creating a Jekyll powered Website

Jekyll Overview

Jekyll is a Ruby based tool to generate static websites from MarkDown files.

This means it generates static HTML files from templates that are served to your visitors like standard HTML files that you have written by yourself.

This makes Jekyll a very lightweight solution in terms of RAM and CPU power as the files have only to be generated once, in difference to a page generated by a server-side language, for example in PHP, that has to be generated for each visitor.


For this tutorial, you need to have two Ubuntu Xenial instances ready, one for the development platform and the other to run the site in production.

Installing Jekyll on the Development Server

Start with the installation of our development platform.

1 . Before you can install the tool itself, you need to install ruby together with make, tree and the build-essential package

sudo apt-get install ruby ruby-dev make build-essential tree git-core

2 . Once the installation has finished, create a user to run Jekyll and switch into the account of the user

adduser jekyll
su jekyll

3 . Before launching the installation, edit the .bashrc file to provide the gem packet manager the information to place the Gem’s in the users PATH, to avoid conflicts with system-wide installations.

4 . Open the file and add the following lines at the end of the file

# Ruby exports

export GEM_HOME=$HOME/gems
export PATH=$HOME/gems/bin:$PATH

5 . Save the file, close your text editor and activate the exports

source .bashrc

6 . Once this is done, install β€˜Jekyll’ via gem, together with bundler, which manages Gem dependencies.

gem install jekyll bundler

7 . Create a new site by using jekyll new command. The new site will be named www. Specify it behind the command and run it like as following

jekyll new www

The command will generate the following files, enter the www directory by typing cd www.

8 . Once you are in the directory, use tree to get a listing of the files generated by Jekyll:

    β”œβ”€β”€ 404.html
    β”œβ”€β”€ _config.yml
    β”œβ”€β”€ Gemfile
    β”œβ”€β”€ Gemfile.lock
    └── _posts
        └── 2018-04-16-welcome-to-jekyll.markdown

These files are not the actual files of your website, but the data used by Jekyll to generate your site.

Installing Git on the Production Server

Jekyll provides a basic web server for testing during development, but its main purpose is to build static HTML files that can be served by a web server.

We use Nginx in our example on the production server.

1 . Start by installing the required software

sudo apt-get install ruby ruby-dev nginx make build-essential git-core

2 . Run Git on the production server, therefore you have to create β€˜git’ user

sudo adduser git

3 . Answer the questionnaire and set a password for the user.

4 . Now prepare the web root for the site. Start by removing the default index.html file that has been generated by Ubuntu

sudo rm /var/www/html/index.nginx-debian.html

5 . Set the ownership of the web directory so git can update it

sudo chown git:www-data /var/www/html

6 . Once this is done, login as the git user and create the repository

su git
mkdir -p /home/git/scaleway-web.git
cd /home/git/scaleway-web.git
git init --bare

7 . The following message will appear if everything went well

Initialized empty Git repository in /home/git/scaleway-web.git/

To launch the automatic regeneration of our site once we have pushed updates to Git, use Git Hooks.

These are scripts that are used by Git to trigger actions at certain points in git’s execution.

Git stores these scripts in the directory hooks and we will use the post-receive hook to regenerate our site when we push it to Git.

8 . Create the file post-receive in the hooks directory and put the following content in it

#!/usr/bin/env bash


bundle exec jekyll build -d $PUBLIC_WWW


9 . Make the file executable

chmod +x /home/git/scaleway-blog/hooks/post-receive

Installing Jekyll on the Production Server

To build the site, you also need an installation of Jekyll on the production server.

On this server, Jekyll will run under our git user.

As on the development instance, edit the .bashrc file to provide the gem packet manager the information to place the Gem’s in the users PATH to avoid conflicts with system-wide installations.

1 . Open the file .bashrc and add the following lines at the end of the file

# Ruby exports

export GEM_HOME=$HOME/gems
export PATH=$HOME/gems/bin:$PATH

2 . Save the file, close your text editor and activate the exports

source .bashrc

3 . Continue with the installation of Jekyll on the production server

gem install jekyll bundler jekyll-feed jekyll-seo-tag minima

Creating an SSH Key for Data Transfer

To push the content from the development system to the production server, running our website, Git uses SSH.

1 . Create an SSH key for our jekyll user so it can push contents to the production server.

Run the following commands on our development server

ssh-keygen -t rsa
ssh-copy-id git@<production-server-ip>

Disabling Full SSH Login on the Git Shell

For security reasons we configure a non-interactive shell, disabling access to the server’s console via SSH, but allowing to use git commands to manage existing repositories.

Make sure to run the following commands as git user on the production server.

1 . Start by making a git-shell-commands folder, which is required for git-shell to work properly

mkdir -p /home/git/git-shell-commands

2 . To enable the non-interactive shell, create the file no-interactive-login and open it with Nano

nano /home/git/git-shell-commands/no-interactive-login

3 . Put the following information in the file

#!/usr/bin/env bash

printf '%s\n' "Welcome $USER. Interactive sessions are disabled for security reasons."

exit 128

4 . Save the file and make it executable

chmod +x /home/git/git-shell-commands/no-interactive-login

5 . Return to the root account by typing exit.

6 . Configure the user to use the git-shell

sudo usermod -s $(which git-shell) git

Configuring Git on the Development Server

To be able to use Git to manage the files between both, development and production instances, it has also to be installed on the development instance.

Run the following commands with the jekyll user.

1 . Change into the Jekyll directory (www) and initialize the Git repository.

jekyll@jekyll-dev:~$ cd www/
jekyll@jekyll-dev:~/www$ git init
Initialized empty Git repository in /home/jekyll/www/.git/

2 . Once this is done, add the remote repository

git remote add origin git@5<production-server-ip>:scaleway-blog.git

3 . Before you are able to push content to the production system, you have to tell Git which files it should push. We want to use all the files in our directory

git .

4 . Now it is time for the first commit. The -m parameter represents the comment for the commit

jekyll@jekyll-dev:~/www$ git commit -m "Initial commit."

5 . A list of the files that have been modified will appear

[master (root-commit) d9621c8] Initial commit.
 8 files changed, 223 insertions(+)
 create mode 100644 .gitignore
 create mode 100644 404.html
 create mode 100644 Gemfile
 create mode 100644 Gemfile.lock
 create mode 100644 _config.yml
 create mode 100644 _posts/2018-05-16-welcome-to-jekyll.markdown
 create mode 100644
 create mode 100644

6 . Finally, push the content to our production server

git push origin master

7 . An output like the following is displayed

Counting objects: 4, done.
Compressing objects: 100% (4/4), done.
Writing objects: 100% (4/4), 359 bytes | 0 bytes/s, done.
Total 4 (delta 2), reused 0 (delta 0)
remote: /tmp/scaleway-blog ~/scaleway-blog.git
remote: Configuration file: /tmp/scaleway-blog/_config.yml
remote:             Source: /tmp/scaleway-blog
remote:        Destination: /var/www/html
remote:  Incremental build: disabled. Enable with --incremental
remote:       Generating...
remote:                     done in 0.702 seconds.
remote:  Auto-regeneration: disabled. Use --watch to enable.
remote: ~/scaleway-blog.git
 * [new branch]      master -> master

Running Jekyll During Development Locally

Jekyll provides a built-in web server so the site can run during development directly on the development server.

1 . To run it, type the following command

jekyll serve --detach

2 . An output like the following appears

    Configuration file: /home/jekyll/www/_config.yml
                Source: /home/jekyll/www
           Destination: /home/jekyll/www/_site
     Incremental build: disabled. Enable with --incremental
                    done in 1.715 seconds.
    Auto-regeneration: disabled when running server detached.
       Server address:
       Server detached with pid '15424'. Run `pkill -f jekyll' or `kill -9 15424' to stop the server.

3 . Once the server is started, use tree again, to see what happened since Jekyll is started

    β”œβ”€β”€ 404.html
    β”œβ”€β”€ _config.yml
    β”œβ”€β”€ Gemfile
    β”œβ”€β”€ Gemfile.lock
    β”œβ”€β”€ _posts
    β”‚Β   └── 2018-04-16-welcome-to-jekyll.markdown
    └── _site
        β”œβ”€β”€ 404.html
        β”œβ”€β”€ about
        β”‚Β Β  └── index.html
        β”œβ”€β”€ assets
        β”‚Β Β  β”œβ”€β”€ main.css
        β”‚Β Β  └── minima-social-icons.svg
        β”œβ”€β”€ feed.xml
        β”œβ”€β”€ index.html
        └── jekyll
            └── update
                └── 2018
                    └── 04
                        └── 16
                            └── welcome-to-jekyll.html

Jekyll has generated a folder _site, containing the actual HTML files of the website.

Configuring your Site

Jekyll uses different configuration files to generate the static content of the site automatically.

A file _config.yml is available in the main directory. By default its minimum content should look like this

# Site settings
title: Your awesome title
description: >- # this means to ignore newlines until "baseurl:"
Write an awesome description for your new site here. You can edit this
line in _config.yml. It will appear in your document head meta (for
Google search results) and in your feed.xml site description.
baseurl: "/blog" # the subpath of your site, e.g. /blog
url: "" # the base hostname & protocol for your site, e.g.
twitter_username: jekyllrb
github_username:  jekyll

# Build settings
markdown: kramdown
theme: minima
- jekyll-feed

# Exclude from processing.
# The following items will not be processed, by default. Create a custom list
# to override the default setting.
# exclude:
#   - Gemfile
#   - Gemfile.lock
#   - node_modules
#   - vendor/bundle/
#   - vendor/cache/
#   - vendor/gems/
#   - vendor/ruby/

It is possible to edit it towards your requirements.

To customize the layout of the pages, it is possible to build a template by creating the following directories and files:

Front Matters: Jeykill will interpret all files starting with a YAML Front Matter as a special file. The front matter must be the first thing in a file and must take the form of valid YAML set between triple-dashed lines. Here is a very basic example:

    layout: post
    title: Managing site content with Jekyll

A directory _includes, that contains all elements of the site that are being used on each page:

  • footer.html - The footer of each package:

        <p>Hosted at <a href="">Scaleway</a></p>
            {% if site.github_username %}
            {% include icon-github.html username=site.github_username %}
            {% endif %}
            {% if site.twitter_username %}
            {% include icon-twitter.html username=site.twitter_username %}
            {% endif %}

  • head.html - All HEAD metadata

            <meta charset="utf-8">
            <meta http-equiv="X-UA-Compatible" content="IE=edge">
        {% if page.title %} {{ page.title }}
        {% else %} {{ site.title }}
        {% endif %}
        <meta name="description" content="{{ site.description }}">
        <meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width">

  • header.html - The navigation and header of your website

        <div class="container">
                    {% for page in site.pages %} {% if page.title %}
                    <li><a href="{{ page.url | prepend: site.baseurl }}">{{ page.title }}</a></li>
                    {% endif %} {% endfor %}
                    <li><a href="{{ "/blog" | prepend: site.baseurl }}">Blog</a></li>

        <h1><a href="{{ site.baseurl }}">{{ site.title }}</a></h1>

A _layouts directory that may contain the following files:

  • default.html - The default layout of your website:

    <!DOCTYPE html>
      {% include head.html %}

        {% include header.html %}
               {{ content }}
            {% include footer.html %}

  • page.html

        layout: default

        <h2>{{ page.title }}</h2>

            {{ content }}

  • post.html

        layout: default

        <h2>{{ page.title }}</h2>
        <time>{{ | date: "%b %-d, %Y" }}{% if %} β€’ {{ }}{% endif %}{% if page.meta %} β€’ {{ page.meta }}{% endif %}</time>

        {{ content }}

1 . To have a separate folder for our blog, we create a directory blog and put the following file in it:

  • index.html with the following content:

    layout: default
      {% for post in site.posts %}
      <time>{{ | date: "%b %-d, %Y" }}</time>
        <h3><a href="{{ post.url | prepend: site.baseurl }}">{{ post.title }}</a></h3>
    {% endfor %}

<p>subscribe <a href="{% raw %}{{ "/feed.xml" | prepend: site.baseurl }}">via RSS</a></p>

2 . A css folder which should contain only one file:

  • main.scss with the following contents:

    # Layout files to import.

3 . A _sass folder, which is also empty and will contain your style elements:

  • _base.scss - which contains all variables, mixins, and resets

  • _syntax-highlighting.scss - Which can contain the information about the syntax highlighting for different languages

  • _layout.scss - The layout information for your site

The assets folder contains all statical assets that you want to use on your site, for example, images.

All content of the site is located in the directory _posts. To create a new blog post, create a new file in the format YYYY-MM-DD-name-of-post.markdown.

Jekyll uses the Liquid templating language to process templates. So you can place different variables in your files that will be replaced automatically with different contents.

More information on the directory structure of Jeykill is available directly in their documentation.

In this tutorial you have installed a Jekyll development instance to deploy our site and to run it locally on this machine for testing purposes. We have also setup Git to push the site to a production server and to generate it automatically by Jekyll, before it is finally served to our users by Nginx. If you want to learn more about Jekyll, you may read the official documentation.

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