Beautiful Jekyll

Copyright 2016 Dean Attali. Licensed under the MIT license.

Beautiful Jekyll is a ready-to-use template to help you create an awesome website quickly. Perfect for personal blogs or simple project websites. Check out a demo of what you’ll get after just two minutes. You can also look at my personal website to see it in use, or see examples of websites other people created using thcois theme here.

If you need a bit of help or have comments, feel free to contact me. Even if you don’t have anything important to say but found this useful, I’d love to hear about it. Lastly, if you like this theme, please consider supporting me if you want to make me extra happy. :)

This template is built on top of Jekyll and can be used for any GitHub Pages website. (If you don’t know what these two things are, that’s absolutely fine, you don’t need to!)

Table of contents


  • You need to have a GitHub account. If you don’t have one, sign up here - it takes one minute. This is where your website will live - if you sign up with username johnsmith then your website will be
  • It would be helpful to understand what Markdown is and how to write it. Markdown is just a way to take a piece of text and format it to look a little nicer. For example, this whole instruction set that you’re reading is written in markdown - it’s just text with some words being bold/larger/italicized/etc. I recommend taking 5 minutes to learn markdown with this amazingly easy yet useful tutorial.

Build your website in 3 steps

Getting started is literally as easy as 1-2-3 :smile:
Scroll down to see the steps involved, but here is a 40-second video just as a reference as you work through the steps.

Installation steps

1. Fork this repository

(Assuming you are on this page and logged into GitHub) Fork this repository by clicking the Fork button on the top right corner. Forking means that you now copied this whole project and all the files into your account.

2. Rename the repository to <yourusername>

This will create a GitHub User page ready with the Beautiful Jekyll template that will be available at http://<yourusername> within a couple minutes. To do this, click on Settings at the top (the cog icon) and there you’ll have an option to rename.

3. Customize your website settings

Edit the _config.yml file to change all the settings to reflect your site. To edit the file, click on it and then click on the pencil icon (watch the video tutorial above if you’re confused). The settings in the file are fairly self-explanatory and I added comments inside the file to help you further. Any line that begins with a pound sign (#) is a comment, and the rest of the lines are actual settings.

Another way to edit the config file (or any other file) is to use, which is just a simple interface to allow you to more intuitively edit files or add new files to your project.

After you save your changes to the config file (by clicking on Commit changes as the video tutorial shows), your website should be ready in a minute or two at http://<yourusername> Every time you make a change to any file, your website will get rebuilt and should be updated in about a minute or so.

You can now visit your shiny new website, which will be seeded with several sample blog posts and a couple other pages. Your website is at http://<yourusername> (replace <yourusername> with your user name). Do not add www to the URL - it will not work!

Note: The video above goes through the setup for a user with username daattalitest. I only edited one setting in the _config.yml file in the video, but you should actually go through the rest of the settings as well. Don’t be lazy, go through all the settings :)

Add your own content

To add pages to your site, you can either write a markdown file (.md) or you can write an HTML file directly. It is much easier to write markdown than HTML, so I suggest you do that (use the tutorial I mentioned above if you need to learn markdown). You can look at some files on this site to get an idea of how to write markdown. To look at existing files, click on any file that ends in .md, for example On the next page you can see some nicely formatted text (there is a word in bold, a link, bullet points), and if you click on the pencil icon to edit the file, you will see the markdown that generated the pretty text. Very easy!

In contrast, look at index.html. That’s how your write HTML - not as pretty. So stick with markdown if you don’t know HTML.

Any file that you add inside the _posts directory will be treated as a blog entry. You can look at the existing files there to get an idea of how to write blog posts. After you successfully add your own post, you can delete the existing files inside _posts to remove the sample posts, as those are just demo posts to help you learn.

As mentioned previously, you can use to add or edit files instead of doing it directly on GitHub, it can be a little easier that way.

Last important thing: YAML front matter (“parameters” for a page)

In order to have your new pages use this template and not just be plain pages, you need to add YAML front matter to the top of each page. This is where you’ll give each page some parameters that I made available, such as a title and subtitle. I’ll go into more detail about what parameters are available later. If you don’t want to use any parameters on your new page (this also means having no title), then use the empty YAML front matter:


If you want to use any parameters, write them between the two lines. For example, you can have this at the top of a page:

title: Contact me
subtitle: Here you'll find all the ways to get in touch with me

You can look at the top of or index.html as more examples.

Important takeaway: ALWAYS add the YAML front matter to EVERY page, which is two lines with three dashes. If you have any parameters, they go between the two lines.
If you don’t include YAML then your file will not use the template.

Basic Features


Beautiful Jekyll is designed to look great on both large-screen and small-screen (mobile) devices. Load up your site on your phone or your gigantic iMac, and the site will work well on both, though it will look slightly different.


Many personalization settings in _config.yml, such as setting your name and site’s description, setting your avatar to add a little image in the navigation bar, customizing the links in the menus, customizing what social media links to show in the footer, etc.

Allowing users to leave comments

If you want to enable comments on your site, Beautiful Jekyll supports the Disqus comments plugin. To use it, simply sign up to Disqus and add your Disqus shortname to the disqus parameter in the _config.yml.

If the disqus parameter is set in the configuration file, then all blog posts will have comments turned on by default. To turn off comments on a particular blog post, add comments: false to the YAML front matter. If you want to add comments on the bottom of a non-blog page, add comments: true to the YAML front matter.

Adding Google Analytics to track page views

Beautiful Jekyll lets you easily add Google Analytics to all your pages. This will let you track all sorts of information about visits to your website, such as how many times each page is viewed and where (geographically) your users come from. To add Google Analytics, simply sign up to Google Analytics to obtain your Google Tracking ID, and add this tracking ID to the google_analytics parameter in _config.yml.

Sharing blog posts on social media

By default, all blog posts will have buttons at the bottom of the post to allow people to share the current page on Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn. You can choose to enable/disable specific social media websites in the _config.yml file. You can also turn off the social media buttons on specific blog posts using social-share: false in the YAML front matter.

Page types

  • post - To write a blog post, add a markdown or HTML file in the _posts folder. As long as you give it YAML front matter (the two lines of three dashes), it will automatically be rendered like a blog post. Look at the existing blog post files to see examples of how to use YAML parameters in blog posts.
  • page - Any page outside the _posts folder that uses YAML front matter will have a very similar style to blog posts.
  • minimal - If you want to create a page with minimal styling (ie. without the bulky navigation bar and footer), assign layout: minimal to the YAML front matter.
  • If you want to completely bypass the template engine and just write your own HTML page, simply omit the YAML front matter. Only do this if you know how to write HTML!

YAML front matter parameters

These are the main parameters you can place inside a page’s YAML front matter that Beautiful Jekyll supports.

Parameter Description
title Page or blog post title
subtitle Short description of page or blog post that goes under the title
bigimg Include a large full-width image at the top of the page. You can either give the path to a single image, or provide a list of images to cycle through (see my personal website as an example).
comments If you want do add Disqus comments to a specific page, use comments: true. Comments are automatically enabled on blog posts; to turn comments off for a specific post, use comments: false. Comments only work if you set your Disqus id in the _config.yml file.
show-avatar If you have an avatar configured in the _config.yml but you want to turn it off on a specific page, use show-avatar: false. If you want to turn it off by default, locate the line show-avatar: true in the file _config.yml and change the true to false; then you can selectively turn it on in specific pages using show-avatar: true.
share-img If you want to specify an image to use when sharing the page on Facebook or Twitter, then provide the image’s full URL here.
social-share If you don’t want to show buttons to share a blog post on social media, use social-share: false (this feature is turned on by default).
layout What type of page this is (default is blog for blog posts and page for other pages. You can use minimal if you don’t want a header and footer)
js List of local JavaScript files to include in the page (eg. /js/mypage.js)
ext-js List of external JavaScript files to include in the page (eg. //
css List of local CSS files to include in the page
ex-css List of external CSS files to include in the page
googlefonts List of Google fonts to include in the page (eg. ["Monoton", "Lobster"])

RSS feed

Beautiful Jekyll automatically generates a simple RSS feed of your blog posts, to allow others to subscribe to your posts. If you want to add a link to your RSS feed in the footer of every page, find the rss: false line in _config.yml and change it to rss: true.

GitHub Project page vs user page

If you’re not sure what the difference is, then ignore this section.

If you want to use this theme for a project page for a specific repository instead of your main GitHub user page, that’s no problem. The demo for this site ( is actually set up as a project page while my personal site ( is a regular user page. The only difference is that in the _config.yml, you should set baseurl to be /projectname instead of "".

To set up a GitHub Project page, simply fork this repository into a branch called gh-pages in your repository. Whatever is under the gh-pages branch will be served by Jekyll. Your site will be at

Advanced features (including how to use a custom URL address for your site)

I wrote a blog post describing some more advanced features that I used in my website that are applicable to any Jekyll site. It describes how I used a custom URL for my site ( instead of, how to add a Google-powered search into your site, and provides a few more details about having an RSS feed.

To my huge surprise, Beautiful Jekyll has been used in over 500 websites in its first 6 months alone! Here is a hand-picked selection of some websites that use Beautiful Jekyll.

Want your website featured here? Contact me to let me know about your website.

Project/company websites

Website Description Collaborative Passwords Manager Using R for Fisheries Analyses Creating Big Data solutions Juju Solutions Clipboard Actions - an Android app Writing an Embedded OS Library for canonicalising blank node labels in RDF graphs Create iOS and Android apps with React and Ionic Jagged Alliance 2 Stracciatella Patient Outcome Funding

Personal websites

Website Who What Dean Attali Creator of Beautiful Jekyll Juuso Parkkinen Data scientist Derek Ogle Professor of Mathematical Sciences and Natural Resources Martin Trapp Machine learning researcher Melyanna Shows off her nice art Claudia Hauff Professor at Delft University of Technology Pascal van Kooten Data analytics Shaun Jackman PhD candidate in bioinformatics Evan Pete Walsh PhD candidate (Statistics and Mathematics) at Iowa State University Olcay Bayram Software engineer

Very advanced: Local development

Beautiful Jekyll is meant to be so simple to use that you can do it all within the browser. However, if you’d like to develop locally on your own machine, that’s possible too if you’re comfortable with command line. Follow these simple steps to do that with Vagrant:

  1. Install VirtualBox and Vagrant
  2. Clone your fork git clone
  3. Inside your repository folder, run vagrant up
  4. View your website at on *nix or on Windows.
  5. Commit any changes and push everything to the master branch of your GitHub repository. GitHub Pages will then rebuild and serve your website automatically.

Disclaimer: I personally am NOT using local development so I don’t know much about running Jekyll locally. If you follow this route, please don’t ask me questions because unfortunately I honestly won’t be able to help!

Additionally, if you choose to deploy Jekyll using a local ruby installation, you can tell Jekyll to automatically categorize your blog posts by tags. You just need to set link-tags: true in _config.yml. Jekyll will then generate a new page for each unique tag which lists all of the posts that belong to that tag.


This template was not made entirely from scratch. I would like to give special thanks to:

I’d also like to thank Dr. Jekyll’s Themes, Jekyll Themes, and another Jekyll Themes for featuring Beautiful Jekyll in their Jekyll theme directories.


If you find anything wrong or would like to contribute in any way, feel free to create a pull request/open an issue/send me a message. Any comments are welcome!

Thank you to all contributors. Special thanks to the following people with non-trivial contributions (in chronological order): @hristoyankov, @jamesonzimmer, @XNerv, @epwalsh, @rtlee9.

If you do fork or clone this project to use as a template for your site, I would appreciate if you keep the link in the footer to this project. I’ve noticed that several people who forked this repo removed the attribution and I would prefer to get the recognition if you do use this :)

Known limitations

  • If you have a project page and you want a custom 404 page, you must have a custom domain. See This means that if you have a regular User Page you can use the 404 page from this theme, but if it’s a website for a specific repository, the 404 page will not be used.