Deploy Jekyll blogs with git

4 minute read

Jekyll is a static-site generator that provides some of the benefits of a Content Management System (CMS) while avoiding the performance and security issues introduced by such database-driven sites. It is “blog-aware” with special features to handle date-organized content, although its usefulness is not limited to blogging sites. Jekyll is well-suited for people who need to work off-line, who prefer to use a lightweight editor instead of web forms for maintaining content, and who wish to use version control to track changes to their website.

In this tutorial, we will install a Jekyll 3.2.1 development site on Ubuntu 16.04. In later tutorials, we’ll explore the content generated here, publish a static site to the same server, and eventually deploy to a production location.

This work is created by Melissa Anderson and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. I have copied it for the sole purpose of archiving and data centralizing. Minor changes have been made to the original article that you can find on Digital Ocean.


To follow this tutorial, you will need:

  • An Ubuntu 16.04 server
  • with a non-root user with sudo privileges

Once you’ve completed this prerequisite, you’re ready to install Jekyll and its dependencies.

Step 1 — Installing Jekyll

We’ll start by updating our package list to be sure we have the latest information on the newest versions of packages and their dependencies.

sudo apt-get update

Then we’ll install Ruby and its development libraries as well as make and gcc so that Jekyll’s libraries will compile once we install Jekyll:

sudo apt-get install ruby ruby-dev make gcc

When that’s complete, we’ll use Ruby’s gem package manager to install Jekyll itself as well as Bundler to manage Gem dependencies:

sudo gem install jekyll bundler

We repeat these operations on our laptop to be able to develop without an internet connection.

Step 2 — Create a new development site

On our laptop, from our home directory, we’ll use Jekyll’s new command to create scaffolding for a site in a sub-directory called

cd ~
sudo jekyll new
New jekyll site installed in /home/sammy/

Jekyll specifies its default theme, minima, in its Gemfile. We’ll need to run Bundler to install the theme:

cd ~/
bundle install

To start jekyll web server locally run the command below and access your site through http://localhost:4000

jekyll serve

Step 3 — Use git to control our versions and deploy

We want to use git to control our versions, record the changes made to the website and deploy it to our web server.

Version control

To do so we start by creating a repository on our laptop:

cd ~/
git init .

We can then make our initial commit:

git add -A
git commit -m "Initial commit"

Automatic deployment

On our server we create the git repository that will hold our project:

git --bare init

And we create the directory that will hold the compiled website:

mkdir /var/www/

We add a post-receive hook so that when the server receives a push from our laptop, the jekyll compilation starts and the compiled files are placed in /var/www/

vim hooks/post-receive

Here are the contents of the post-receive hook:


bundle exec jekyll build -s $TMP_GIT_CLONE -d $PUBLIC_WWW

Now make the hook executable with:

chmod ug+x hooks/post-receive

If you ever need to log your post-receive hook you can add the following code at the beginning of the file:

# Close STDOUT file descriptor
exec 1<&-
exec 2<&-
# Open STDOUT as $LOG_FILE file for read and write.
exec 1<>$LOG_FILE
# Redirect STDERR to STDOUT
exec 2>&1
echo "This line will appear in $LOG_FILE, not 'on screen'"

Laptop configuration

We can now run the following command on any laptop that needs to be able to deploy using this hook:

cd ~/
git remote add deploy

Deploying is now as easy as running the following on our laptop:

git push deploy master

Step 4 — Verification

Run manually the following commands on the server to verify that the compilation succeeds:


jekyll build -s $TMP_GIT_CLONE -d $PUBLIC_WWW

Use git clone -b <branch_name> <git_repo> <clone_dir> to clone a specific branch

You might have to install some dependencies with

bundle install

You can also run jekyll locally with

bundle exec jekyll serve

Step 5 — Authentification