Deploying Jekyll sites to GitHub Pages using GitHub Actions

You can build and deploy a Jekyll site as a GitHub Pages project or personal/organizational site directly from a repository and automate the whole process using GitHub Action Workflow.

GitHub provides free and fast static hosting over SSL for personal, organization, or project pages directly from a GitHub repository via its GitHub Pages service and automating development workflows and build with GitHub Actions.

The GitHub Pages (github-pages gem) only supports specific versions of Jekyll and Jekyll plugins. Latest version of Jekyll v4.x.x build time for your site is incredibly faster than older versions. So, to overcome the GitHub Pages dependencies and versions we are going to use GitHub Actions to deploy your site to GitHub Pages with your specific version of Jekyll and Jekyll plugins.

Also, using GitHub Actions we can use any Jekyll plugins irrespective of them being on the supported versions list, even *.rb files placed in the _plugins directory of your site.

Workspace setup

The first and foremost requirement is a Jekyll project hosted at GitHub. Choose an existing Jekyll project or follow the quick start and push the repository to GitHub if it is not hosted there already.

We’re only going to cover builds from the main branch in this page. Therefore, ensure that you are working on the main branch. If necessary, you may create it based on your default branch. When the Action builds your site, the contents of the destination directory will be automatically pushed to the GitHub Pages site, ready to be used for serving.

Following is the contents of Gemfile for our project:

# frozen_string_literal: true

source ""

gem "jekyll", "~> 4.2"

group :jekyll_plugins do
  gem "jekyll-feed", "~> 0.16"
  gem "jekyll-paginate", "~> 1.1"
  gem "jekyll-redirect-from", "~> 0.16"
  gem "jekyll-sitemap", "~> 1.4"

Setting up the Action

GitHub Actions are registered for a repository by using a YAML file inside the directory path .github/workflows (note the dot at the start). Here we shall employ Jekyll Actions from the Marketplace for its simplicity.

Create a workflow file, say pages.yml, using either the GitHub interface or by pushing a YAML file to the workflow directory path manually. The base contents are:

# Workflow for building and deploying a Jekyll site to GitHub Pages
name: Deploy Jekyll site to Page

  # Runs on pushes targeting the default branch
    branches: ["main"]

  # Allows you to run this workflow manually from the Actions tab

# Sets permissions of the GITHUB_TOKEN to allow deployment to GitHub Pages
  contents: read
  pages: write
  id-token: write

# Allow one concurrent deployment
  group: "pages"
  cancel-in-progress: true

  # Build job
    name: build
    runs-on: ubuntu-latest

      - name: Checkout
        uses: actions/checkout@v3

      - name: Setup Ruby
        uses: ruby/setup-ruby@v1
          # Not needed with a .ruby-version file
          ruby-version: "3.1"
          # Runs 'bundle install' and caches installed gems automatically
          bundler-cache: true

      - name: Version info
        run: |
          ruby --version
          gem --version
          bundle --version

      - name: Setup Pages
        id: pages
        uses: actions/configure-pages@v1

      - name: Checking Jekyll configuration
        run: bundle exec jekyll doctor

      - name: Build with Jekyll
        # Defaults output to '/_site'
        run: bundle exec jekyll build --baseurl ${{ steps.pages.outputs.base_path }} --profile --trace
          JEKYLL_ENV: production

      - name: Upload artifact
        # This will automatically upload an artifact from the '/_site' directory
        uses: actions/upload-pages-artifact@v1
        if: ${{ success() && github.ref == 'refs/heads/main' }}
          path: ./_site/

      - name: Cleaning up
        run: bundle exec jekyll clean

  # Deployment job
    name: deploy
      name: github-pages
      url: ${{ steps.deployment.outputs.page_url }}
    runs-on: ubuntu-latest
    needs: build
    if: ${{ github.ref == 'refs/heads/main' }}
      - name: Deploy to GitHub Pages
        id: deployment
        uses: actions/deploy-pages@v1
        if: ${{ success() }}

The above workflow can be explained as the following:

  • We trigger the build using on.push condition for main branch only.
  • The name of the job matches our YAML filename: github-pages.
  • The checkout action takes care of cloning your repository.
  • We specify our selected action and version number using actions/deploy-pages@v1. This handles the build and deploy.

Providing permissions

The action needs permissions to push to your GitHub Pages site. So you need to setup a GitHub Pages build and deploy source profile.

To configure your site to publish with GitHub Actions:

  • On GitHub, navigate to your site’s repository.
  • Under your repository name, click Settings.
  • In the “Code and automation” section of the sidebar, click Pages.
  • Under “Build and deployment”, under “Source”, select GitHub Actions.

GitHub Pages - Custom GitHub Actions Workflows (beta)

Build and deploy

On pushing any local changes onto main, the action will be triggered and the build will start.

To watch the progress and see any build errors, check on the build status using one of the following approaches:

  • View by commit: Go to the repository level view in GitHub. Under the most recent commit (near the top) you’ll see a status symbol next to the commit message as a tick or X. Hover over it and click the details link.
  • Actions tab: Go to the repository’s Actions tab. Click on the workflow tab.

If all goes well, all steps will be green and the built assets will now exist on the GitHub Pages site.

On a successful build, GitHub Pages will publish the site build on the GitHub Actions. Note that you do not need to setup a GitHub Pages, as the action will take care of this for you. (For private repositories, you’ll have to upgrade to a paid plan).

To see the live site:

  1. Go to the environment tab on your repository.
  2. Click View Deployment to see the deployed site URL.
  3. View your site at the URL.

When you need to make further changes to the site, commit to main and push. The workflow will build and deploy your site again.

Be sure not to edit the GitHub Actions workflow, as any changes will be lost on the next successful deploy from the Action.

Further resources: