As I’m about to start a new chapter in life, it’s a good opportunity create a new homepage. I found al-folio to be an excellent choice. It’s a Jekyll theme designed for academics, and can be hosted using GitHub Pages.

Just like most modern web technologies, it’s a bit convoluted at first glance. Here is a TL;DR description about how it works: The actual website are static files, stored in the _site directory. They are compiled from configuration, markdown and template files using jekyll build command. When using al-folio, the _site directory on your main branch is empty and ignored by git. Every time you push modifications to GitHub, a GitHub Action is triggered. GitHub’s servers will then compile your website and save it to another branch called gh-pages, which is used by GitHub to host your website.

Setting it up is relatively straightforward, just follow the step-by-step instructions in al-folio’s But there are some caveats it did not cover.

Caveat 1 - Custom Domain Name and HTTPS

I encountered this error message when trying to enable HTTPS.

Certificate Request Error: Certificate provisioning will retry automatically in a short period, please be patient.

In my specific case, the solution is very counterintuitive. GitHub won’t issue the TLS certificate unless the www CNAME record of your domain name points to See this answer.

Caveat 2 - macOS and Ruby

When using al-folio, some dependencies won’t compile if you are using the builtin ruby on macOS. The easiest fix I found is to install ruby through brew, then add

export PATH="/usr/local/opt/ruby/bin:$PATH"

to your rc files. This will make the shell choose the ruby from brew over the system default. Technically, there are more elegant solutions using the virtualenv equivalent for ruby. But let’s be honest, we don’t want to learn ruby. :man_shrugging:

Caveat 3 - Custom Domain Name and CNAME File

At this point, every time you push changes to GitHub, your settings for custom domain name will be gone (you will get a 404 error). To fix this, you should add a file on your main branch named CNAME containing the domain name you want to use.

The reason is, when you set custom domain name through the GitHub menu, what it actually does is add a file named CNAME containing that domain name, on the gh-pages branch. Every time you push changes to GitHub, the gh-pages branch is purged and recreated, so is the CNAME file in it.

Just to be safe, I also set up a free domain monitor. It will send me an email when the website is down.

Other than these caveats, I really enjoyed this setup. Highly recommend al-folio for making your personal homepage.