When starting a new project, picking the right frameworks and stack can make further development a lot more pleasant for your future self. Thinking about how I wanted to develop this blog was not an easy task. My first instinct was to purchase a monthly subscription to Ghost Blog. At the time, the lowest subscription was about $30 / month billed annually. For a casual blog with no revenue, this was way too expensive.

I started to branch out and look at alternatives or self hosting. Diving deeper about self hosting, preserving content, and managing backups just seemed like extra work for little return. I am a single developer just wanting to publish some articles in Markdown when the mood strikes.

Free is an adequate price.

I knew GitHub Pages were a possibility, but really I didn’t enjoy their default offering, jekyll. It seemed a bit too messy with the rigid config and ruby base. There is nothing wrong with ruby, just something I never worked with. For the last few years, GoLang has been my main language.

Then I found Hugo.

Why Hugo

Hugo offered something very compelling, a theme-able, structured, static, markdown based website creator. This along with GitHub actions and pages, a quick and backed up blog could be hosted for free.


You can read more about the content structure here, I’m also still learning… Basically the stack is as follows:

							│ Project Files  │
							│  Git (Backup)  │
							│ GitHub Action  │
							│  GitHub Pages  │
							│   Website :)   │
created with MonoDraw <3

This stack gives a powerful yet stress free blogging platform. Is it a bit technical? Sure, but the core concept of taking a markdown file and publishing it to a platform you control is worth it.

You can view the source code to see how this site is laid out. Keep in mind that the root of the project is not the Hugo source. I placed everything in /site to leave room for CI/CD scripts in the root.

How To

First install Hugo using whichever platform that is appropriate. A simple brew install hugo on macOS did the trick for me.

Next, generate a new project by using hugo new site example. This will generate a base site with no content. At this point you can cd example and run hugo server to see your site at localhost:1313. It will be blank.

After that, browse and find a theme you like to get started. Hugo offers a bunch available here. When you find a theme, just follow the theme’s README to install.

For this site, I used anubis. The installation was pretty standard here. You can use git submodules, or simply download and extract the theme in the themes/ directory.

Finally, add a markdown file in content/ and configure you config.yaml|.toml|.json file. This did get me, yes the config file can be in 3 different formats, all are valid. Just pay attention you are not inserting TOML into a YAML config. Your site should auto refresh at localhost:1313 now.


A lot of this was taken care of with this Hugo GitHub Pages Action:

# .github/workflows/gh-pages.yml

name: github pages

	  - main  # Set a branch to deploy

	runs-on: ubuntu-18.04
	  - uses: actions/checkout@v2
		  submodules: true  # Fetch Hugo themes (true OR recursive)
		  fetch-depth: 0    # Fetch all history for .GitInfo and .Lastmod

	  - name: Setup Hugo
		uses: peaceiris/actions-hugo@v2
		  hugo-version: 'latest'
		  # extended: true

	  - name: Build
		run: "hugo -s ./site/ --minify" # Using ./site here

	  - name: Deploy
		uses: peaceiris/actions-gh-pages@v3
		  github_token: ${{ secrets.GITHUB_TOKEN }}
		  publish_dir: "./site/public" # Using ./site here

This will go through and generate a new branch called gh-pages with all of the static website content in it. I was a bit confused on why this happened, but apparently GitHub does not have artifacts like GitLab so a new branch is necessary for hosting.

Configure your GitHub Pages with the correct branch, in this case gh-pages, and you are all set for a $USERNAME.github.io page.

Setting up a custom domain is a bit more work, but GitHub’s Documentation provides some insight.


This was a quick way to get up and running with a blog that is fully version controlled and hosted for free. Hopefully, this helps shed some light on some initial issues you have getting hosting all set up.

Cheers 🍻

Nathan Grey