Why Jekyll?

Before moving to Jekyll I had been using a Wordpress blog hosted on paid Namecheap servers. The thing is, my blog is pretty much entirely static so that set-up was mostly useless. Also, I routinely would get terrible scores on Google’s Site Tester and their PageSpeed Insights despite my best efforts. After some research, I decided Jekyll with Github Pages made the most sense for what I needed so I decided to make the jump. Revision control with a remote Github repo was definitely a plus.

Moving From Wordpress

This was a rather tedious process, but made much easier with the jekyll-import tool. I mostly followed the tutorial here but I’ll go over my exact steps anyways (slightly different than the linked article):

Create Github Page

The first thing I did was create a repo on github called fronzbot.github.io which holds the source code for this website. Next, I ran the following command to clone the repo into my workarea git clone [email protected]:YOUR-USERNAME/YOUR-REPO-NAME.git. As a note, I have a virtual machine running debian that I do all my development on (including for Home Assistant) so my directions also assume you’re working on Linux. From here I had to create an index file and push to my repo so Github knew to create a webpage:

cd fronzbot.github.io
touch index.html
git add .
git commit -m "Initial commit"
git push origin master

Install Jekyll

Now that my Repo was set up I needed to install jekyll to begin development. This involved running the following commands within my repo directory:

gem install jekyll
gem install bundler
touch Gemfile
echo "source 'https://rubygems.org'" >> Gemfile
echo "gem install github-pages, group :jekyll_plugins" >> Gemfile

Create files

Now that jekyll was installed, I could create my configuration file: touch _config.yml. In your editor of choice, you can open that file and put the following entries in to get started:

name: YOUR-WEBSITE-NAME
markdown: kramdown
permalink: /blog/:title   # Make this whatever you want

From here you can start adding your html and css or find a theme. I’m not going to cover that here, it’s fairly straightforward with some googling.

Export Content

Now for the important part. In your Wordpress admin panel, simply go to Tools > Export > Download Export File in the wp-admin console. You should get an xml file. Rename it wordpress.xml

Import to Jekyll

  • Install importer: gem install jekyll-import
  • Run:
    $ ruby -rubygems -e 'require "jekyll-import"; \
    JekyllImport::Importers::WordpressDotCom.run({ "source" => "wordpress.xml"})'
    

You should now have a bunch of folders that look similar to this:

_attachments
_drafts
_pages
_posts
assets
wordpress.xml

I ended up using the contents of _posts and assets. _pages may also be useful to you depending on what your old site looked like.

Fix Everything

Iterating through posts to fix image links (I wanted to redirect to a different location) and removing html (personal preference) was a bit of a pain. Also, I wanted to thin out the frontmatter which also involved some legwork. The following commands were INCREDIBLY helpful for this.

$ grep -rnw '.' -e 'FINDME'

This would list every occurrence of the string 'FINDME' and show me the line it was in, line number, and which file. In the case where there were many entries and the lines were long, I opted for the -rnl flag instead of -rnw which would only list the files containing my search string.

For global find-and-replace (like links, or broken LaTeX syntax), I used

$ sed -i 's/FIND/REPLACE/g' *

Which would iterate over all files and replace the FIND string with REPLACE. You can use regular expressions with sed so it’s really powerful. For example, a previous LaTeX plugin I used with Wordpress required [latex] EQUATION [/latex] to be wrapped around my equation, but Mathjax uses $$ EQUATION $$. To replace this in all of my blog posts, I used (note the use of the escape character \):

$ sed -i s/\[latex\]/\$\$/g' _posts/*.md
$ sed -i s/\[\/latex\]/\$\$/g' _posts/*.md

But that’s pretty much all that I needed to do to migrate from Wordpress.

Development

In order to speed up development, I created a build script which allows me to cleanup the _site directory locally as well as create a dev version of my config to ensure linking works properly. My script is located in the root of my repository and called via ./build

#!/bin/bash
if [[ $* == *--clean* ]]; then
  rm -rf ./_site
fi

if [[ $* == *--lint* ]]; then
  ./script/cibuild --clean
else
  rm _config_dev.yml
  cp _config.yml _config_dev.yml
  sed -i -e 's/kevinfronczak\.com//g' _config_dev.yml
  sed -i -e 's/https\:\/\///g' _config_dev.yml
  bundle exec jekyll build --config _config_dev.yml
  bundle exec jekyll serve --config _config_dev.yml
fi

The sed command is used to replace the url set within _config.yml with an empty string, which allows me to navigate to localhost:4000 to verify website changes locally.

Adding SSL to my custom domain

Unfortunately, github-pages doesn’t allow for SSL/TLS on custom domains. A workaround is to use Cloudflare which will encrypt the link between the user and Cloudflare and the link between Cloudflare and Github is also encrypted since, by default, Github encrypts all USER.github.io domains. Kind of hacky, but it works. Here’s an article from Cloudflare on the subject.

Speeding Up the Site

Once everything was fairly settled, I made a conscious effort to improve my score on Google’s PageSpeed Insights. My first iteration gave me a mobile score of 74 and a desktop score of 91. The primary problem was Render-blocking Javascript and CSS in above-the-fold content. To fix this, I used a Critical CSS Path tool to find my critical CSS and place it in-line within my _includes/head.html file. This, along with some other improvements (caching via Cloudflare, minify, compression, locally serving google-analytics, locally serving fonts, etc) bumped my Mobile score to 97 and my desktop score to 96. HOWEVER, I also ran into a “Flash of unstyles content” (FOUC) issue where the initial load would be all messed up (wrong fonts, colors, element locations) before fixing itself once the final style call happened. This was distracting and almost worse than a slow site, so I found a happy medium where I improved my speed while minimizing the FOUC that occured (there’s still some, but it’s not nearly as distracting as it was at first).

Continuous Integration

I opted to use travis-ci for continuous integration, since I’ve used it before on other projects. Here, I run a few tests:

  • Check that the site can be built via cibuild
  • Check HTML to make sure no linking errors via htmlproofer call in cibuild
  • Verify frontmatter in posts have valid tags (for future tag linking) via check_frontmatter.py
  • Verify any posts that are set to be featured on the project page have the required feature_image key via check_frontmatter.py
  • Check that all posts are markdown only (no html) and both equations and images are properly centered on the page via post_linter.py

The first two tests (in cibuild) are what is recommended by Jekyll. All of the python tests are custom implementations that helped me quickly iterate through changes I needed to make while working on porting the Wordpress site over to Github Pages.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the migration took a few days of work to get exactly what I wanted, but it wasn’t too bad. At first everything was pretty daunting, but I quickly got familiar with the directory structure, syntax, and overall operation that I was able to really understand what I needed to do in order to implement what was in my head. A++++ would migrate again.