in Challenge, iPad

This site runs on WordPress and has done its entire life. In fact, apart from a brief flirt with Blogger back in 2004, I’ve always used WordPress for running a site. However, recently I wondered if this was the best option and what other blogging platforms might offer. This was especially magnified by my interest in Micro.blog and the fact that they run on Jekyll. So I decided to set an iPad challenge. To set up a Jekyll blog using just an iPad.

What is Jekyll?

Jekyll is a static site generator for a blog. What that means is you upload text files written in Markdown, and those are turned into blog posts. You don’t have a database which is running in the background and putting things together each time someone visits the site.

The net effect is that Jekyll sites take up less space and are super fast to load (…in general, I’m sure you can come up with some exception so don’t @ me).

There are a few reasons you might want to choose Jekyll over WordPress like it’s speed, simplicity and … likewise there are reasons to go for WordPress like the CRM backend, plugins, and support community. You can find a wealth of posts extolling the virtues of one of these platforms over the other. As such I’m not going to dwell on those aspects but go into how you can set up a Jekyll site without using a PC, mac or laptop.

(Psst! Check out this post to learn how to set up a WordPress Development site using just an iPad)

Why is this a challenge?

If you look at most of the getting started guides, they instruct you to set up a local version of the site which you are going to push live. This is so you can see how things will look, but also so you can run the command line protocols to download the correct software. This sort of thing can be tricky if you aren’t used to doing this sort of thing, but its certainly not impossible. But on an iPad, due to sand boxing, we simply can’t do it…so how can we install Jekyll and set up a Jekyll site?

SSH into a remote client.

This first option is to remotely connect to a different computer and run commands on that computer using SSH command lines. This is basically sending instructions securely over the internet to get a different computer to do stuff. Check out this episode of Canvas for more on SSH.

This means you don’t need to set up a local site but you have to get some web hosting running first so that you can carry out these SSH actions. That’s fine in most cases, but one of the reasons you might want to use Jekyll, is so that you can set your site up for free on GitHub pages. And in this case, there is a simpler and quicker solution that doesn’t require any knowledge of SSH or and SSH app like Prompt 2 or iSSH 2.

Using the Jekyll Boilerplate kit.

However, there is another, kind of simpler way, which also lets you use GitHub pages and get your account set up quickly.

Set up a GitHub Account

First you need to get your GitHub account set up. So head over and create one. Please note, that as a default, your domain name will be yourgithubusername.github.io (though you can change it later) so think about that as you choose a username.

Copy the Jekyll now directory

The trick we’re using here is to copy the “Jekyll Now Boilerplate” which is a Jekyll set up directory. By doing this we get all the files we need to have a full functional Jekyll site on our own. Best of all, this can be done with just and iPad.

Go to Barry Clark’s Jekyll now directory. Now “fork” the repository and rename it to yourgithubusername.github.io , the site should be visible at https://yourgithubusername.github.io.

Follow the instructions within the Jekyll now read me to make the site your own

The instructions in the read me will guide you through a few important changes you’ll want to make like

  • the name of the site,
  • your social links
  • Google analytics
  • Disqus comments

And your first post.

Get Blogging!

Now you’ve got your site set up, you can get on with the tricky work of blogging. This is an interesting process in Jekyll because it has some strengths and limits here on the iPad. For example, using a tool like Working Copy or Source you can upload your markdown text files into the posts folder and you’re done!

You can also use some workflow workflows to help create your post file outlines quickly (with the correct date and meta data), resize and upload images and so on.

Do you have a Jekyll site?

Does your site run on Jekyll? I’d love to know why and any tools you use for it.

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