Kevin Ha

Building my website with Jekyll

Recently I decided to update my personal website using Github Pages and Jekyll. One big selling point was that I could use Markdown to create my pages and posts. I was inspired by this blog post, which was a great starting point for me to dive into Jekyll. Here, I write about my own experience getting started. Rather than writing a comprehensive how-to post, I’ll just point to online resources that I learned from and highlight some troubleshooting items that I encountered.


See here for a nice overview of what Jekyll is and how it works.

To install Jekyll on my Mac, I followed the instructions on the official website. There were a few pre-requisites that I had to take care of first. I first had to update RubyGems and update my Xcode Command-Line Tools.

$ gem update --system
$ xcode-select —install

I also needed to install NodeJS.

Choosing a theme

Jekyll Themes is a great place to start looking for themes. One theme that looks great is Beautiful Jekyll. I eventually decided to start with a simple and minimalistic look using Poole.


With Jekyll 3.0, there were some changes that affected the rendering of Poole. As of this writing, it seems that Poole hasn’t been updated to be compatible with Jekyll 3.0.

When I tried to serve the website for the first time, I ran into some errors:

$ jekyll serve
Configuration file: /Users/kevinha/Dropbox/website/poole/_config.yml
       Deprecation: You appear to have pagination turned on, but you haven't included the `jekyll-paginate` gem. Ensure you have `gems: [jekyll-paginate]` in your configuration file.
            Source: /Users/kevinha/Dropbox/website/poole
       Destination: /Users/kevinha/Dropbox/website/poole/_site
 Incremental build: disabled. Enable with --incremental
Since v3.0, permalinks for pages in subfolders must be relative to the site source directory, not the parent directory. Check for more info.

I found the solution here. I had to install the missing gem for paginate as it is no longer included in 3.0. I also installed gist as I’ll probably use it in the future.

$ gem install jekyll-paginate
$ gem install jekyll-gist

I next made some changes in my _config.yml file. The first was to add the installed gems by adding the following lines:

  - jekyll-paginate
  - jekyll-gist

Lastly, I removed the relative_permalinks: true line.


A lot of my additional customizations were taken from here, which included how to add a navigation bar. I also made a few other adjustments, including right-justifying the navigation panel. To right-justify, I followed the changes from this user’s GitHub Page.

First, I enclosed the navigation bar with a <nav> HTML tag in default.html:

  {% for page in site.pages_list %}
    &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<small><a href="{{ page[1]  }}">{{ page[0] }}</a></small>
  {% endfor %}

  &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;{% include icons.html %}

Then, I added the float attribute to the CSS file _masthead.scss:

.masthead-title, nav {
  float: left;

nav {
  float: right;

For fun, I also included some icon links using Font Awesome in the footer. I created a new HTML snippet called icons.html and saved it inside the _includes sub-directory. This blog post provides a nice explanation on how to integrate social media links using Jekyll. Beautiful Jekyll also uses a similar approach. Here, I’m only showing icons for Home and GitHub, but I had also included others like e-mail and RSS in the real file.

<ul class="footerbar">
  {% if and site.icons_list.home %}
    <a href="{{ site.baseurl }}/" title="Home">
      <i class="icon fa fa-home fa-lg"></i> 
  {% endif %}
  {% if site.github_username and site.icons_list.github %}
    <a href="{{ site.github_username }}" title="GitHub">
      <i class="icon fa fa-github fa-lg"></i>     
  {% endif %}

To control which icons get shown, I added a custom variable icons_list into _config.yml`:

  home: true
  rss: false
  email: true
  github: true
  linkedin: false

Be sure to add all the required site variables for this to work. For example:

  name:              <your name>
  email:             <your e-mail>
  url:               <your url>

github_username:     <your-username>

Lastly, I added hover effects to the navigation items by borrowing some CSS code from a Bootstrap theme I previously used.

  a {
    color: #505050;
    -moz-transition: color 0.15s ease-in-out;
    -webkit-transition: color 0.15s ease-in-out;
    -o-transition: color 0.15s ease-in-out;
    -ms-transition: color 0.15s ease-in-out;
    transition: color 0.15s ease-in-out;

  a:hover {
    color: #C6C8C9;

Creating index.html from Markdown

Since I wanted my front page to be my “About Me” page. I replaced the default index.html with a Markdown version, where I could write my profile in Markdown. Jekyll automatically parses this file and creates an index.html file when serving or building the site.

Changing blog location

I wanted to keep my blog in a sub-directory. A quick Google search led me to this blog post, which was really helpful. Following Solution 2, I created a new sub-directory called blog and added a new index file within that sub-directory. Then, in _config.yml, I added a line to set how I want the blog post URLs to look like:

permalink:          blog/:title.html

In this case, I wanted my URL to include the blog subdirectory, followed by the title of the blog post*. You could also include the date in the filename as well by doing something like:

permalink:          blog/:year/:month/:day/:title.html

*Update: I actually decided to use this latter format to make it easier to see the date of posting in the URL.

Adding a favicon

I chose a Font Awesome favicon () from here and added it into head.html.