Bootstrapping a Website with Hugo

This is the first of a two-part series in how I built this site with Hugo (a tool for generating static websites), and hosted it on GitHub User Pages (a free static site hosting service). This is a step-by-step log – including mistakes – of how I bootstrapped this site. If you’re new to Hugo, you’ll also want to read Hugo’s great documentation.

First Steps

Getting Hugo

I decided to do this work on an Ubuntu box, whose version of Hugo was pretty outdated. The Hugo website has prebuilt downloads, though, so I installed manually instead of using apt. Your mileage will vary on this step, of course, but this was mine:

charles@gamera ~> wget
charles@gamera ~> sudo dpkg -i hugo_0.20.7_Linux-64bit.deb
charles@gamera ~> hugo version
Hugo Static Site Generator v0.20.7 linux/amd64 BuildDate: 2017-05-03T02:39:25-05:00

Creating a New Hugo Site

I created a new GitHub repo called ‘charlesk-hugo’ where all the themes, markdown files, etc. will go. Then I cloned it locally:

charles@gamera ~/src> git clone
Cloning into 'charlesk-hugo'...
remote: Counting objects: 3, done.
remote: Compressing objects: 100% (2/2), done.
remote: Total 3 (delta 0), reused 0 (delta 0), pack-reused 0
Receiving objects: 100% (3/3), done.
charles@gamera ~/src> cd charlesk-hugo/
charles@gamera ~/s/charlesk-hugo> ls

The next step was to have Hugo initialize the site. That’s the sole purpose of the repo, so I used the toplevel repo directory:

charles@gamera ~/s/charlesk-hugo> hugo new site . --force
Congratulations! Your new Hugo site is created in /home/charles/src/charlesk-hugo.

Just a few more steps and you're ready to go:

1. Download a theme into the same-named folder.
   Choose a theme from, or
   create your own with the "hugo new theme <THEMENAME>" command.
2. Perhaps you want to add some content. You can add single files
   with "hugo new <SECTIONNAME>/<FILENAME>.<FORMAT>".
3. Start the built-in live server via "hugo server".

Visit for quickstart guide and full documentation.

Installing a Theme

The stdout from hugo new is right – it’s time to pick a theme. I chose Icarus, whose README steps tell me to clone it into themes/ and then copy its config and l10n files. Since we’re already working in a git repo, I used submodule add instead for the first step:

charles@gamera /s/charlesk-hugo> git submodule add themes/hugo-icarus-theme
Cloning into '/home/charles/src/charlesk-hugo/themes/hugo-icarus-theme'...
remote: Counting objects: 938, done.
remote: Total 938 (delta 0), reused 0 (delta 0), pack-reused 938
Receiving objects: 100% (938/938), 2.31 MiB | 0 bytes/s, done.
Resolving deltas: 100% (608/608), done.
charles@gamera ~/s/charlesk-hugo> ls themes/
charles@gamera ~/s/charlesk-hugo> cp themes/hugo-icarus-theme/exampleSite/data/l10n.toml data/
charles@gamera ~/s/charlesk-hugo> cp themes/hugo-icarus-theme/exampleSite/config.toml config.toml 

Editing config.toml

Icarus’s README suggests updating config.toml next. Since my goal was to bootstrap a first draft as quickly as possible, I only did the quickest things: change the name and baseurl, add github/linkedin profiles, etc. I didn’t have a logo or avatar yet, so I commented those lines out.

First Post

Then I added a ‘hello world’ style first post so that the site will have some content:

charles@gamera ~/s/charlesk-hugo> hugo new post/
/home/charles/src/charlesk-hugo/content/post/ created

To recap, the process so far:

  1. Installed Hugo
  2. Initialized a site
  3. Added a theme
  4. Edited config.toml
  5. Added a first post

Now it’s time to run Hugo in server mode to see what we’ve got:

charles@gamera ~/s/charlesk-hugo> hugo server -t hugo-icarus-theme
ERROR 2017/05/09 08:02:14 Error while rendering "home": template: theme/index.html:4:7: executing "theme/index.html" at <partial "header" .>: error calling partial: template: theme/partials/header.html:29:105: executing "theme/partials/header.html" at <absURL>: wrong number of args for absURL: want 1 got 0

Commit in Haste, Debug at Leisure

Oops, we got an error message and Hugo is serving up an empty page. Let’s see what’s going on in header.html:29 that the error mentioned:

charles@gamera ~/s/charlesk-hugo> sed -n 28,30p (find ./ -name header.html)
      <div class="profile" id="profile-nav">
        <a id="profile-anchor" href="javascript:;"><img class="avatar" src="{{ .Site.Params.avatar | absURL }}"><i class="fa fa-caret-down"></i></a>

(aside: the parenthetical syntax above is a fishism. The bash equivalent is $(find ./ -name header.html) or `find ./ -name header.html`)

It’s breaking while trying to make the avatar link. Commenting out the avatar a few steps ago was clearly not a shortcut after all. So I fixed this by adding my avatar to the static/ directory and telling config.toml where to find it:

charles@gamera ~/s/charlesk-hugo> mkdir -p static/images
charles@gamera ~/s/charlesk-hugo> cp path/to/real/avatar.jpg ./static/images/avatar.jpg
charles@gamera ~/s/charlesk-hugo> vi config.toml # editing occurs...
charles@gamera ~/s/charlesk-hugo> grep avatar config.toml
avatar = "images/avatar.jpg"

Now I try hugo server -t hugo-icarus-theme again and… success!

Finishing the First Post

Adding a Banner

Now that the website is loading, the first post is showing some loose ends: there’s no banner, no tags, and the title is lowercase. To fix the first problem, I looked for a “hello world” banner on Google images and filtered by free-for-reuse licensing, then saved it to the static banners folder recommended by Icarus:

charles@gamera ~/s/charlesk-hugo> mkdir -p static/banners
charles@gamera ~/s/charlesk-hugo> cd static/banners
charles@gamera ~/s/c/s/banners> wget -O bootstrapping-this-site.jpg

…and tell content/posts/ about it:

@@ -1,5 +1,5 @@
-banner = ""
+banner = "banners/bootstrapping-this-site.jpg"
 categories = []

Cleaning up the Front Matter

The default title was just a stripped version of the filename. Let’s capitalize it properly:

-title = "bootstrapping this site"
+title = "Bootstrapping This Site"

and add some tags:

-tags = []
+tags = ["howto", "hugo", "git", "github"]

Other Loose Ends

Another problem is that none of my social links are showing up. Is it a bug in the theme? Did I break something else in config.toml? Let’s see. I added links for github and linkedin. “linkedin” will be the rarer key – Since Hugo code is often hosted on github – so I grepped for that:

charles@gamera ~/s/charlesk-hugo> cd themes/hugo-icarus-theme
charles@gamera ~/s/c/t/hugo-icarus-theme> grep --files-with-matches -r linkedin *

We already know about config.toml. The three fontawesome hits are likely related to a font that provides the linkedin logo. That conveniently leaves us one suspect, social.html. In that, we find:

{{ with .Site.Social.linkedin }}
<td><a href="//{{.}}" target="_blank" title="LinkedIn"><i class="fa fa-linkedin"></i></a></td>
{{ end }}

At first glance, this looks fine – the conditional looks consistent with the naming seen earlier when debugging the self-induced avatar breakage. Let’s step backwards and see where social.html is included from:

charles@gamera ~/s/c/t/hugo-icarus-theme> ag "\"social\""
33:          {{ partial "social" . }}

That looks right, too.

Hmm, what does View Source say?

<div class="profile-block social-links">

..the social links are being generated, so why can’t I see them? The answer turns out to be my adblocker:

Static filter found in:

    Fanboy’s Annoyance List
    Fanboy’s Social Blocking List

So I disable adblocking for localhost, reload, and… the links are “fixed”!

Adding Static Content

Lastly, I added some static content: my resume.

charles@gamera ~/s/charlesk-hugo> cp -R path/to/resume static/

and add these lines to config.toml:

     before = false
+    label  = "Resume"
+    link   = "resume/"
+    before = false
     label  = "Tags"
     link   = "tags/"

This put a ‘Resume’ link in the top menu.

Mind the Submodules

Important note if you’re storing your content in a git repository. Since themes/hugo-icarus-theme is a submodule that points to the upstream Icarus theme, remember to use --recursive when cloning to get the submodule content that Hugo needs:

charles@gamera ~/src> git clone --recursive
Cloning into 'charlesk-hugo'...
remote: Counting objects: 73, done.
remote: Compressing objects: 100% (45/45), done.
remote: Total 73 (delta 19), reused 70 (delta 19), pack-reused 0
Receiving objects: 100% (73/73), 3.89 MiB | 5.70 MiB/s, done.
Resolving deltas: 100% (19/19), done.
Submodule 'themes/hugo-icarus-theme' ( registered for path 'themes/hugo-icarus-theme'
Cloning into '/home/charles/src/charlesk-hugo/themes/hugo-icarus-theme'...
remote: Counting objects: 938, done.        
remote: Total 938 (delta 0), reused 0 (delta 0), pack-reused 938        
Receiving objects: 100% (938/938), 2.31 MiB | 3.85 MiB/s, done.
Resolving deltas: 100% (608/608), done.
Submodule path 'themes/hugo-icarus-theme': checked out '855e14be1ceabc65a7de8a16b8c1717157d9bef9'

So now we have Hugo generating a good-looking blog on localhost:1313. In the next post I’ll discuss getting that content onto GitHub’s User Pages.