Create a GitLab Pages website from scratch

This tutorial shows you how to create a Pages site from scratch. You will start with a blank project and create your own CI file, which gives instruction to the GitLab Runner. When your CI/CD pipeline runs, the Pages site is created.

This example uses the Jekyll Static Site Generator (SSG). Other SSGs follow similar steps. You do not need to be familiar with Jekyll or SSGs to complete this tutorial.

Prerequisites

To follow along with this example, start with a blank project in GitLab. Create three files in the root (top-level) directory.

  • .gitlab-ci.yml A YAML file that contains the commands you want to run. For now, leave the file’s contents blank.

  • index.html An HTML file you can populate with whatever HTML content you’d like, for example:

    <html>
    <head>
      <title>Home</title>
    </head>
    <body>
      <h1>Hello World!</h1>
    </body>
    </html>
    
  • Gemfile A file that describes dependencies for Ruby programs. Populate it with this content:

    source "https://rubygems.org"
    
    gem "jekyll"
    

Choose a Docker image

In this example, the Runner uses a Docker image to run scripts and deploy the site.

This specific Ruby image is maintained on DockerHub.

Edit your .gitlab-ci.yml and add this text as the first line.

image: ruby:2.7

If your SSG needs NodeJS to build, you must specify an image that contains NodeJS as part of its file system. For example, for a Hexo site, you can use image: node:12.17.0.

Install Jekyll

To run Jekyll locally, you would open your terminal and:

  • Install Bundler by running gem install bundler.
  • Create Gemfile.lock by running bundle install.
  • Install Jekyll by running bundle exec jekyll build.

In the .gitlab-ci.yml file, this is written as:

script:
  - gem install bundler
  - bundle install
  - bundle exec jekyll build

In addition, in the .gitlab-ci.yml file, each script is organized by a job. A job includes the scripts and settings you want to apply to that specific task.

job:
  script:
  - gem install bundler
  - bundle install
  - bundle exec jekyll build

For GitLab Pages, this job has a specific name, called pages. This setting tells the Runner you want the job to deploy your website with GitLab Pages:

pages:
  script:
    - gem install bundler
    - bundle install
    - bundle exec jekyll build

Specify the public directory for output

Jekyll needs to know where to generate its output. GitLab Pages only considers files in a directory called public.

Jekyll uses destination (-d) to specify an output directory for the built website:

pages:
  script:
    - gem install bundler
    - bundle install
    - bundle exec jekyll build -d public

Specify the public directory for artifacts

Now that Jekyll has output the files to the public directory, the Runner needs to know where to get them. The artifacts are stored in the public directory:

pages:
  script:
    - gem install bundler
    - bundle install
    - bundle exec jekyll build -d public
  artifacts:
    paths:
      - public

Paste this into .gitlab-ci.yml file, so it now looks like this:

image: ruby:2.7

pages:
  script:
    - gem install bundler
    - bundle install
    - bundle exec jekyll build -d public
  artifacts:
    paths:
      - public

Now save and commit the .gitlab-ci.yml file. You can watch the pipeline run by going to CI / CD > Pipelines.

When it succeeds, go to Settings > Pages to view the URL where your site is now available.

If you want to do more advanced tasks, you can update your .gitlab-ci.yml file with any of the available settings. You can check your CI syntax with the GitLab CI/CD Lint Tool.

The following topics show other examples of other options you can add to your CI/CD file.

Deploy specific branches to a Pages site

You may want to deploy to a Pages site only from specific branches.

First, add a workflow section to force the pipeline to run only when changes are pushed to branches:

image: ruby:2.7

workflow:
  rules:
    - if: '$CI_COMMIT_BRANCH'

pages:
  script:
    - gem install bundler
    - bundle install
    - bundle exec jekyll build -d public
  artifacts:
    paths:
      - public

Then configure the pipeline to run the job for the master branch only.

image: ruby:2.7

workflow:
  rules:
    - if: '$CI_COMMIT_BRANCH'

pages:
  script:
    - gem install bundler
    - bundle install
    - bundle exec jekyll build -d public
  artifacts:
    paths:
      - public
  rules:
    - if: '$CI_COMMIT_BRANCH == "master"'

Specify a stage to deploy

There are three default stages for GitLab CI/CD: build, test, and deploy.

If you want to test your script and check the built site before deploying to production, you can run the test exactly as it will run when you push to master.

To specify a stage for your job to run in, add a stage line to your CI file:

image: ruby:2.7

workflow:
  rules:
    - if: '$CI_COMMIT_BRANCH'

pages:
  stage: deploy
  script:
    - gem install bundler
    - bundle install
    - bundle exec jekyll build -d public
  artifacts:
    paths:
      - public
  rules:
    - if: '$CI_COMMIT_BRANCH == "master"'

Now add another job to the CI file, telling it to test every push to every branch except the master branch:

image: ruby:2.7

workflow:
  rules:
    - if: '$CI_COMMIT_BRANCH'

pages:
  stage: deploy
  script:
    - gem install bundler
    - bundle install
    - bundle exec jekyll build -d public
  artifacts:
    paths:
      - public
  rules:
    - if: '$CI_COMMIT_BRANCH == "master"'

test:
  stage: test
  script:
    - gem install bundler
    - bundle install
    - bundle exec jekyll build -d test
  artifacts:
    paths:
      - test
  rules:
    - if: '$CI_COMMIT_BRANCH != "master"'

When the test job runs in the test stage, Jekyll builds the site in a directory called test. The job affects all branches except master.

When you apply stages to different jobs, every job in the same stage builds in parallel. If your web application needs more than one test before being deployed, you can run all your tests at the same time.

Remove duplicate commands

To avoid duplicating the same scripts in every job, you can add them to a before_script section.

In the example, gem install bundler and bundle install were running for both jobs, pages and test.

Move these commands to a before_script section:

image: ruby:2.7

workflow:
  rules:
    - if: '$CI_COMMIT_BRANCH'

before_script:
  - gem install bundler
  - bundle install

pages:
  stage: deploy
  script:
    - bundle exec jekyll build -d public
  artifacts:
    paths:
      - public
  rules:
    - if: '$CI_COMMIT_BRANCH == "master"'

test:
  stage: test
  script:
    - bundle exec jekyll build -d test
  artifacts:
    paths:
      - test
  rules:
    - if: '$CI_COMMIT_BRANCH != "master"'

Build faster with cached dependencies

To build faster, you can cache the installation files for your project’s dependencies by using the cache parameter.

This example caches Jekyll dependencies in a vendor directory when you run bundle install:

image: ruby:2.7

workflow:
  rules:
    - if: '$CI_COMMIT_BRANCH'

cache:
  paths:
    - vendor/

before_script:
  - gem install bundler
  - bundle install --path vendor

pages:
  stage: deploy
  script:
    - bundle exec jekyll build -d public
  artifacts:
    paths:
      - public
  rules:
    - if: '$CI_COMMIT_BRANCH == "master"'

test:
  stage: test
  script:
    - bundle exec jekyll build -d test
  artifacts:
    paths:
      - test
  rules:
    - if: '$CI_COMMIT_BRANCH != "master"'

In this case, you need to exclude the /vendor directory from the list of folders Jekyll builds. Otherwise, Jekyll will try to build the directory contents along with the site.

In the root directory, create a file called _config.yml and add this content:

exclude:
  - vendor

Now GitLab CI/CD not only builds the website, but also pushes with continuous tests to feature-branches, caches dependencies installed with Bundler, and continuously deploys every push to the master branch.

For more information, see the following blog posts.