Here are some of the “advanced” techniques that you can use when working with Jekyll. It’s a compilation of Jekyll tips that I have tried or used within this theme Type-on-Strap. Hopefully some of them will be useful for you too! 🧪

I am always on the lookout for new Jekyll tips, so if you have another ace up your sleeves, let me know in the comments!

1. Use the Jekyll folder structure

I like when my files are tidy, and when working with jekyll your _includes folder might start to feel a bit bloated once you’ve added multiple small parts of layout for better re-use.

But fear not! As you can create sub-folders! 🔥 This way you can separate the more “public” includes intended to be used within a markdown for blogging, from the more private one which are used for the theme’s base.

# Inside _includes
├── gallery.html   # "public" include to use in a page
├── aligner.html   # "public" include to use in a blog post to align images
├── blog           # Everything related to the blog layout
│   ├── blog.liquid
│   ├── blog_nav.liquid
│   ├── post_info.liquid
│   └── post_nav.liquid
├── default        # Everything related to the overall site layout
│   ├── footer.liquid
│   ├── head.liquid
│   ├── navbar.liquid
│   └── tags_list.liquid
└── social         # Everything related to the social (comments, shares, ...)
    ├── cusdis.liquid
    ├── disqus.liquid
    ├── icons.liquid
    ├── share_buttons.liquid
    └── utterances.liquid

Keep in mind that having too many includes may actually slow down your build, you can verify that by using:

$> jekyll build --profile

Site Render Stats: 

| Filename                                                 | Count |    Bytes |  Time |
| _layouts/default.html                                    |    29 |  451.22K | 0.118 |
| _includes/default/head.liquid                            |    29 |  125.81K | 0.064 |
| _layouts/post.liquid                                     |    20 |  155.91K | 0.062 |

It will print the top time spender pages of your theme and how much time they’ve been called to render your blog. Some solution exists for that like jekyll-include-cache but will not be compatible with GitHub page. 🤷

2. Use _data folder

The _data folder allows you to keep a clean _config.yml while having a tidy place to save additional theme information. It’s commonly used for authors in a authors.yaml to be linked with the author key in a post metadata:

title: Blog post
author: sylhare

... content

And inside the authors.yml, there are some information that will be used to display the author:

  name: Sylhare
  avatar: "assets/img/avatars/sylhare_avatar.png"
  url: ""

Access the data within your template using[] where is automatically resolved by Jekyll. You may also want the html relying on data to be working when there’s no data setup, for example with localisation. For that you can set up a default using liquid:

{{ | default: 'Next' }}

If the str_next_page is not defined in the language yaml file in the data folder then “Next” will be the value by default.

3. Use advanced liquid markups

Liquid is the templating language used with Jekyll, and it can do a wild range of operation. For example, in this snippet I loop over all the blog posts and concatenate all the tags into a | string, such as |jekyll|ruby|other tag| and add it to a rawtags string containing all the tags.

{% assign rawtags = "" %}
{% for post in site.posts %}
    {% if post.tags.size > 0 %}
        {% assign post_tags = post.tags | join: '|' | append: '|' %}
        {% assign rawtags = rawtags | append: post_tags %}
    {% endif %}
{% endfor %}

Then you can do operation on the string itself, here I split the rawtags into an array of unique tags that I can then use to display the site tag’s list.

{% assign tags = rawtags | split:'|' | sort | uniq %}

All of that was done purely in Jekyll and is the base of the tags.liquid and tag_list.liquid of the Type-on-Strap theme for the tags page.

4. Refine your _config.yml

This is the main file of your theme, so you want it to be as lean as possible. There’s a balance between customization possibility and extensive configuration boilerplate.

The theme should be working and rendering correctly with as little configuration as possible in the _config.yml.

Besides, the theme’s configuration, there is also the Jekyll’s configuration that you can also tweak. Some of them can actually increase build time. For example:

exclude: [".jekyll-cache", "node_modules/**", "vendor/*"] # Keep jekyll out of files not used in the site
keep_files: ["assets/img"]                                # Let jekyll file know that these files are static
incremental: true                                         # When working locally to avoid rebuilding everything on change 

Use what makes sense in your case.

5. Use the github-pages gem for GitHub

If you plan on deploying your jekyll website on GitHub page, be warned that your local gem/ruby version might not be the one actually used in the GitHub servers to render your website.

To check compatibility you can use:

github-pages versions

And you can add that in your Gemfile, the :jekyll_plugins group is not mandatory, but a cool feature offered by jekyll:

# Gems loaded irrespective of site configuration.
group :jekyll_plugins do
  gem 'github-pages'

The github-pages gems are deemed “safe” by GitHub, hence they are the only one allowed when deploying your jekyll website on GitHub page.

6. Use extra tools 🛠

As mentioned before, I use gulp to automate some blogging tasks, like minimizing images, thumbnails or do some computation on css or js files.

You can also pre-build your jekyll site locally and push the _site folder, on which you may have applied some reducing tasks to skim the size of the files. Building your site locally also mean you can use some gem not allowed by GitHub page! Once built you’re just using GitHub’s page as a web server. There’s also GitHub’s action that you can leverage to automate part of your workflow as well.

Jekyll is compatible with sass in the _sass folder by default which makes css much easier to handle, so you can customize the look and feel with more ease.