The Least You Need to Know About GitHub Pages
What this guide is for: This guide is laser-focused on one thing: showing how to get a working informational website up and running as fast as possible using GitHub Pages, using only the GitHub website. Informational website is an informal term meaning that the emphasis is on function (structured text with simple formatting, links, images) and not form (intricate page design). It goes step by step from the very beginning and assumes very little knowledge on your part.
You don’t need to learn command-line programs like Git, or install anything on your own computer. Everything taught here does apply to advanced use patterns when you get more experienced.
GitHub Pages is free if your repository (file storage area) is public.
Ways to view this site
If you were pointed here by an employer or well-meaning friend and aren’t quite sure why, you can find plenty of reasons in Why Use GitHub Pages?
What you can get out of this guide: If you follow through the steps in this guide you’ll have a small website demonstrating everything you need to put up an attractive, easy to maintain site using words, links, and images. Not covered are advanced topics such as using Git on the command line, custom themes, SEO, version control, and advanced features of GitHub-flavored Markdown.
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Table of contents
This short GitHub Pages tutorial discusses:
- Intended audience
- Create a GitHub Account
- Create a GitHub repository
- Edit the main GitHub Pages README file in /docs/README.md
- Enable GitHub Pages so you can create and publish a formatted website
- Create a web page on GitHub using Markdown
- GitHub Pages directory and file usage
- Create Markdown links to other pages on your own site
- Headers in Markdown
- Create Markdown links to other sites
- Create Markdown links to the interior of a page
- Add an assets directory to your GitHub Pages site
- Change the appearance of your GitHub Pages site using Jekyll themes
- Add images to your GitHub Pages site
- Determine your GitHub Pages URL
- Privacy warning
- Add a GitHub Pages preview link to your README.md
GitHub Pages uses Jekyll, a publishing system based on the Ruby programming language. The Jekyll documentation is excellent, especially if you already know Jekyll, program in Ruby, and have both Ruby and Jekyll installed on your local computer. The GitHub Pages documentation is comprehensive and excellent–if you’re already a Jekyll expert.
The Least You Need to Know About GitHub Pages is designed for people who don’t happen to know Jekyll already but who need to get up to speed in GitHub Pages quickly to get a job done now. It tells you not only what to do step by step, but also briefly explains why you’re doing it.
You probably don’t want to use GitHub Pages on sites that require complex, individual formatting on a per-page basis. GitHub Pages uses Markdown, which has some limited formatting information but not a lot. GitHub Pages then uses Jekyll to turn that Markdown into HTML, based on the Jekyll theme you’ve chosen. Generally speaking this approach is absolutely ideal for blogs, technical documents and instructional materials that require versioning and collaboration, where the main work product is words and pictures. It is not a good fit for things like boutique pages, restaurant menu sites, consumer product sites, and so on where custom formatting is the norm.
Advantages to using GitHub Pages
Still wondering whether to use GitHub Pages? See Advantages to using GitHub Pages to generate static sites
Disadvantages to using GitHub Pages
If you want to understand why GitHub pages may not suit your project, see When to avoid GitHub pages.