I really like GitHub Pages, and have used it to host my site for a while. The biggest challenge of switching my site to Eleventy was getting deployments to GitHub pages set up. I suppose I could have built my site locally, and then push that to the gh-pages branch, but that felt wrong. I prefer my master branch to be the source of my site, while gh-pages to only be the published content.

I’m aware of tools such as Netlify and Travis CI which aid in hosting or deployment processes. However I wasn’t looking to add another service into my tech stack. With some digging into GitHub Actions, this seemed like a plausible route for getting my site deployed without having to rely on an external service.

Setting Up a GitHub Action

GitHub Actions allow you to automate workflows such as code deployment, running tests, compressing images, and so much more. GitHub has a whole Marketplace where you can explore community-created actions. I’m using the GitHub Pages action which handles everything I need for deploying. My workflow is fairly simple, and is largely based on the instructions for Static Site Generators with Node.js. In /.github/workflows/eleventy_build.yml, I have the following:

name: Eleventy Build

- master

runs-on: ubuntu-18.04
- uses: actions/checkout@v2

- name: Setup Node
uses: actions/setup-node@v1
node-version: ’10.x’

- run: npm ci

- run: npm run build

- name: Deploy
uses: peaceiris/actions-gh-pages@v3
deploy_key: ${{ secrets.ACTIONS_DEPLOY_KEY }}
publish_dir: ./dist

Depending on how your Eleventy project is set up you might need to make some tweaks to the defaults. I recommend checking out the rest of the documentation to see what you can do.

Hey GitHub, I’m Not Using Jekyll

I found this to be the biggest hurdle, and it kind of buried in GitHub’s documentation. By default, GitHub tries to use Jekyll to build your site. If you’re using any syntax other than what Jekyll recognizes, then you might get errors and your build could potentially fail. The good news is the fix is really easy. In the root of your project, include an empty file .nojekyll.

Committing the Package Lock file

This GitHub action is an automated environment, so rather than use npm install our action should use npm ci. This ensures that you get a clean install of your dependencies. One of the requirements for using npm ci is that the project must have an existing package-lock.json. I’m not really sure what the norm is here, but I don’t typically commit this file. So if you fall into that category, make sure you get that file committed!

Creating an NPM Build Script

When it’s time for Eleventy to build your site when the master branch is pushed upstream, it needs to happen in the context of the Node environment. In my package.json I have a script mapped to the command eleventy:

"scripts": {
"build": "eleventy"

Now when npm run build runs in the GitHub action, it will know where to find the eleventy command.

No SSH Deploy Key? No Deployment!

For security purposes, GitHub requires that you have a deploy key and a corresponding secret set up in the repository that this GitHub Action is in. There’s handy step by step guide with screenshots on how to create the deploy key and secret, as well as adding them to the repository.

In my case I’ve labelled my deploy key ACTIONS_DEPLOY_KEY. This is case-sensitive, so make sure you pay attention to what you call your deploy key!

Wrapping Up

While I’m not sure if this is the best way to get my Eleventy site deployed to GitHub Pages, it meets my needs. As far as I can tell, this general deployment process would be fairly similar to set up with a service like Netlify or Travis CI. However I find it extremely satisfying not being dependent on extra services.