In this post I will explain how to set up for free your personal blog (or website) using a static site generator and Github Pages. In fact, this is how I’m running this cool blog 😉

There are many site generators available on the Internet, like Pelican, Octopress, Jekyll, Hugo, etc. Anyway Nikolais the one that convinced me the most. It looks nice, has a friendly command line interface, supports multiple input formats (reStructuredText is my favorite one), and it’s written in Python ❤

When looking for hosting there are many alternatives as well, but I decided to use Github Pages because it’s free, easy to use and Nikola provides a command to deploy the static site there.

Creating a repository for your site

To publish your site using Github Pages, you need to create an empty repository in Github ( is not needed) and it must be named <username>, where username is your username on Github. Unless you’re using a custom domain, your site will be available at http(s)://<username> If you want to read more about GitHub Pages, I recommend this [link} (

Once the respository is created, clone it in your computer to start working with Nikola:

git clone<username>

Installing Nikola

The best way to install Nikola is using pip3 in a virtual environment, so I recommend to create a simple Makefile in the local repository to manage your Nikola environment:


.DEFAULT_GOAL := install

install: env
      .env/bin/pip install --upgrade "Nikola[extras]"

env: clean
      python3 -m venv .env
      .env/bin/pip install --upgrade pip setuptools wheel

      rm -rf .env

Don’t commit any changes yet. That will be handled by Nikola later. Now is time to install Nikola using the Makefile:

make install

At this step you have Nikola installed in a virtual environment, so you need to activate it to start using Nikola.

$ source .env/bin/activate
(.env)$ nikola --version

When you finish working with Nikola, you can deactivate the virtual environment with deactivate and if you want to remove it, just run make clean.

Creating your site

I will only cover how to initialize your site, create a simple Hello World post and deploy it to Github Pages. I strongly recommend that you read the official handbook for more details about Nikola’s commands and how to tweak your site through the file.

To initialize your site, you need to run nikola init . in your repository. That will launch a wizard, that will configure your site. After that, you will see new files and directories, including the config file that is used to set many options.

Now you can create your first post running nikola new_post. With the default settings, this command will create a new .rst file in the posts directory. You can use your favorite text editor (like Vim), to write your first post there. That would be your “Hello World”.

When finish writing your post, you can render the site with nikola build. That will create all HTML files in the output directory.

Before deploying it to Github, you can preview your site using the Nikola’s development server. Use nikola serve --browser to start the development server and open your site in a web browser.

Deploying your site to Github Pages

As I mentioned before, Nikola provides a command nikola github_deploy to deploy the site to GitHub Pages. By default, this command is configured but you can change some parameters in For more details, read the manual

Before running this command, create a .gitignore file that tells Git which files and directories to ignore when you make a commit:


At this point, you can deploy your site to Github Pages running nikola github_deploy. This command will build the site, commit the output directory to the deployment branch (master), and push it to GitHub. It will also create a new branch (src by default) for the site source files.

I recommend to set the source src branch (created by github_deploy) as the default branch in Github. The default branch is considered the base branch in your repository, against which all pull requests and code commits are automatically made, unless you specify a different branch. If you don’t know how to do it, follow this guide.

Deploying your site using Github Actions

Once you have deployed your site manually with nikola github_deploy (previous step), you can create a Github Action Workflow that automatically deploys your site every time you push a change in the src branch.

Create the .github/workflows directory in the root of the src branch, and then add the following workflow .github/workflows/main.yml:

name: Nikola Publish

      - src
    runs-on: ubuntu-latest
    if: github.event_name == 'push'

      - uses: actions/checkout@v2
          ref: 'src'
          persist-credentials: true
          fetch-depth: 0

      - name: Set up Python 3.8
        uses: actions/setup-python@v2
          python-version: 3.8

      - name: Install Nikola
        run: |
          pip install --upgrade pip setuptools wheel
          pip install --upgrade -r requirements.txt          
      - name: Build and deploy Nikola
        run: |
          git config --global "${{ secrets.USER_EMAIL }}"
          git config --global "Ary Kleinerman"
          nikola build
          nikola github_deploy -m "Published with Github Actions"          

Github will execute this workflow every time you push a code change in the src branch. This workflow checks-out the repository in an Ubuntu environment, sets up a Python 3.8 environment, installs Nikola and executes nikola github_deploy.

Custom domain

To configure your custom domain, like, you need to create a CNAME record (in your DNS provider) that points to <username>

After adding this change, you can check the new DNS record executing:

dig +nostats +nocomments

Once the change has been applied, you must create a file files/CNAME on the source branch with your domain. Following the example:

echo > files/CNAME

When you deploy the site using github_deploy, Nikola will copy this CNAME file to the output directory, commit to the master branch and push it to Github.

Enforcing HTTPS

Optionally, you can enforce HTTPS encryption for your site. To enable this option, in the Github website, go to your repository <username>, Settings and check Enforce HTTPS. When HTTPS is enforced, your site will only be servedcover HTTPS.

Did you find any errors? Please send me a pull request. The code of this article is available on
This blog is written with