Blogging with Jekyll Plugins and Netlify

GitHub Pages is a wonderful platform for hosting blogs and project websites with Jekyll. It’s free, it is integrated into GitHub, which most programmers are familiar with, and it is super easy to set up. However, GitHub pages has a few limitations. If you’re using a custom domain name, as I am, you can’t enable HTTPS, which reduces the security of your site and can hurt your search engine ranking as Google uses HTTPS in its ranking algorithm. GitHub Pages also restricts the use of Jekyll plugins to a whitelist; this means GitHub won’t have to worry about running potentially dangerous code on its servers, but it can be inconvenient for users who want to take advantage of non-whitelisted plugins.

To use non-whitelisted plugins you can always build your website locally, and then push to GitHub (e.g. as described here and here), but this can be complicated and timeconsuming to set up, particularly if you are (like me) unfamiliar with Ruby, and since Jekyll isn’t officially supported for Windows, Windows users face an additional step in getting their website set up. Plus you still can’t get a custom domain name with HTTPS.

That’s where Netlify comes in, specifically the free Netlify Pages hosting service. It takes the code from a repository on GitHub, GitLab or BitBucket, builds your site and deploys it on its servers. Simply sign up (you can use GitHub, GitLab and BitBucket accounts), select the repository you want to build from, the branch (for Jekyll, typically the master branch), the build command, jekyll build if using Jekyll, and the directory you’re publishing from. Since Jekyll defaults to building in the _site directory of your master branch, use that. Netlify will also accept any respository name, so you are no restricted to the name. Every time you push an update to your repository on GitHub, GitLab or BitBucket, Netlify will automatically build and deploy your site.

Update the settings with your DNS provider as shown here, and once that has updated (it can take anything from a couple minutes to 3-4 hours, depending on your provider) you can enable HTTPS on your site with a security certificate from Let’s Encrypt with just a couple of clicks.

That’s it. That’s all there is to it. The whole process takes less than five minutes, and you end up with a free hosting service that lets you use your own domain with HTTPS, and accepts a whole additional range of Jekyll plugins. For example, here I’m citing the Penguin Classics edition of Marx’s Capital Volume I {% cite marx1990 %} with jekyll-scholar, the full citation of which you can see below.

Note: I am not affiliated with Netlify or Jekyll in any way. Other blogging platforms and hosting services are available.


{% bibliography –cited %}

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