This is what to do if you just want a website. (This page is a bit long, but it’s really not that much work.)

First things

Start by cloning the repository for the present site. (Or, alternatively, fork it and then clone your own version.)

git clone git://

Then change the name of that directory to something meaningful.

mv simple_site something_meaningful

(Of course, don’t use something_meaningful but rather something meaningful.)

Now change into that directory and remove the .git directory (because you don’t want the history of my repository).

cd something_meaningful
rm -r .git

Now make it a git repository again.

git init

Things not to change

You’ll need to keep the following files and directories largely unchanged.


We will change one file within _includes/; see below.

Edit the _config.yml file

The _config.yml file contains a bunch of configuration information. You’ll want to edit this file to replace my information with your information.

Perhaps edit the line with exclude: if you’ve named and/or differently. (I’ve edited this line a bit, here.)

exclude: [..., "", "Rakefile", ""]

Edit the lines about the site name and author.

title : simple site
author :
  name : Karl Broman
  email :
  github : kbroman
  feedburner : nil

Edit the production_url line by replacing kbroman with your github user name, and replace simple_site with the name that your repository will have on github (something_meaningful?).

production_url :

Note that the https (vs http) is important here; see “Securing your github pages site with https.” (I need to use http because my site uses the custom domain, but you likely need https.)

Replace the BASE_PATH line with the same url.


There’s also an ASSET_PATH line, but you can leave that commented-out (with the # symbol at the beginning).

Note that for the BASE_PATH, I actually have in place of I set up a custom domain, which involved a series of emails with a DNS provider. I don’t totally understand how it works, and I’m not entirely sure that I’ve done it right. But if you want to have a custom domain, take a look at that GitHub help page.

Edit _includes/themes/twitter/default.html

The _includes/themes/twitter/default.html file defines how a basic page will look on your site. In particular, it contains a bit of html code for a footer, if you want one.

Find the footer for my site and remove it or edit it to suit. This is the only bit of html you’ll have to deal with.

<!-- start of Karl's footer; modify this part -->
    <a href="">  ...
    <a href="">Karl Broman</a>
<!-- end of Karl's footer; modify this part -->

Edit or remove the Markdown files

Edit the file, which will become the main page for your site.

First, edit the initial chunk with a different title and tagline. Feel free to just delete the tagline.

layout: page
title: simple site
tagline: Easy websites with GitHub Pages

Now edit the rest (or, for now, just remove) the rest of the file.

Now go into the pages/ directory and remove or rename and modify all of the Markdown files in there

Note that when you link to any of these Markdown-based pages, you’ll want to use a .html extension rather than .md. For example, look at the main page for this site; the links in the bullet points for the various pages look like this:

- [Overview](pages/overview.html)
- [Making an independent website](pages/independent_site.html)
- [Making a personal site](pages/user_site.html)
- [Making a site for a project](pages/project_site.html)
- [Making a jekyll-free site](pages/nojekyll.html)
- [Testing your site locally](pages/local_test.html)
- [Resources](pages/resources.html)

Commit all of these changes.

At the start, we’d removed the .git/ subdirectory (with the history of my repository) and then used git init to make it a new git repository.

Now you want to add and commit all of the files, as modified.

git add .
git commit -m "Initial commit"

Then change the name of the master branch to gh-pages.

git branch -m master gh-pages

Push everything to GitHub

Now go back to GitHub and create a new repository, called something meaningful. (I’ll again pretend that it’s explicitly something_meaningful.)

Then go back to the command line and push your repository to GitHub.

git remote add origin

Replace username with your GitHub user name and something_meaningful with the name of your repository. And you might want to use the https:// construction instead, if you’re not using ssh.

git remote add origin

Finally, push everything to GitHub.

git push -u origin gh-pages

Note that we’re using gh-pages and not master here, as we want this stuff in a gh-pages branch.

Check whether it worked

Go to and cross your fingers that it worked. (Really, I should be crossing my fingers.)

Up next

Now go to making a personal site.