Setting up my Hugo Website

August 20, 2017

Moving my Website to Hugo

I’ve decided to move my website off of WordPress and on to a static site generator. After building sites for several clients using Jekyll, I thought it would be nice to try something new.

Since my website has been very neglected, most of the content is outdated so I’m not going to bother moving much of it over. If I were, I might try the wordpress-to-hugo-exporter exporter.

Why not Jekyll?

Though I liked Jekyll overall, I did have a few complaints:

Enter Hugo

Hugo seems to address all my Jekyll grievances:

Scaffolding with Hugo

Following the Hugo Quick Start Guide, scaffolding this website only took a few moments on the command line, and “just worked” without any fuss:

# Install Hugo
choco install hugo --yes

# Scaffold my website
hugo new site && cd

# Add my first post
hugo new post/

# Install a theme to test with
git clone && cd hugo_theme_robust && git checkout 3baae29 && cd ../

# Preview the site
hugo server --buildDrafts

The result:

Scaffolded Hugo Website


Trying out Auto Reload

Let’s try Hugo’s auto-reload feature:

Hugo auto-reload demo

Now that’s the quick dev/test cycle I’ve been looking for!

Modifying the Theme

Just to get started, I chose the Robust Hugo theme. One of the first things I noticed was that it puts the page title as an h1 tag in each article.

In most cases, I’d prefer the title and the article heading to be different. I’d also like to simply put the heading in markdown for each article, rather than having it be based on frontmatter. Let’s see if we can improve things.

To override a template in a Hugo theme, all you need to do is copy the file from the themes/{theme-name}/layouts/ directory into your site’s layouts/ directory:

Override a Hugo Template

Finally, remove the offending code and save:

Hugo override template demo

VoilĂ !

Changing Themes: Minimal

After browsing the Hugo Themes site I settled on Minimal as my starter theme (sorry, Robust). Switching themes is pretty easy:

git submodule add [email protected]:calintat/minimal.git themes/minimal
git submodule init
git submodule update

Note that this time I opted to use add a git submodule rather than a clone, which allows me to easily update to the latest version of the theme automatically:

git submodule update --remote themes/minimal


Hugo comes with tags and categories by default. I plan to blog about software development and related topics, and I tend to use a lot of technologies which makes it difficult to organize my planned posts into simple tags and categories. Instead, I’ve decided to go with a more custom approach:

Setting up this custom taxonomy is easy. Just open the site’s config.toml file and add your custom taxonomies in single = "plural" format:

    framework = "frameworks"
    language = "languages"
    technique = "techniques"
    tool = "tools"

Then simply assign them in each article’s frontmatter:

title: "Setting up my Hugo Website"
languages: [ "markdown", "toml" ]
tools: [ "hugo" ]
technique: [ "static site generation" ]
# ...

Hugo will now generate list pages for each taxonomy.

Publishing My Hugo Site to GitHub Pages

GitHub Pages allows static website hosting from a GitHub repository by publishing your website to a /docs folder or to a gh-pages branch. Though publishing to the /docs folder requires less setup, the gh-pages branch approach seems cleaner and the setup is easily automated.

Script to Setup Hugo Site Publishing to gh-pages Branch

This script only needs to be run once. It was modified from the Hosting on GitHub Hugo documentation:

# Create branch

git checkout --orphan gh-pages
git reset --hard
git commit --allow-empty -m "Initializing gh-pages branch"
git push -u origin gh-pages
git checkout master

# Add worktree
rm -rf public
git worktree add -B gh-pages public origin/gh-pages

This creates the gh-pages branch with a new history, independent from master (read more about orphan branches in the Git docs). It then checks out the gh-pages branch into the public folder (which is ignored in .gitignore), which is where Hugo will statically generate the site by default.

Script to Publish Hugo Site to GitHub Pages

echo "Deleting old publication"
rm -rf public
mkdir public
git worktree prune
rm -rf .git/worktrees/public/

echo "Checking out gh-pages branch into public"
git worktree add -B gh-pages public origin/gh-pages

echo "Removing existing files"
rm -rf public/*

cp CNAME public
pushd public
git add --all
git commit -m "Publishing to gh-pages as of $(date)"
git push

This generates the Hugo site, commits the generated files to the gh-pages branch, then pushes them to GitHub, which makes it live!