Site Migration to GitHub Pages

I recently migrated this site from WordPress hosted on WebFaction to a Jekyll site hosted on GitHub Pages. I expect I’ll be writing more content on the new site because there’s just less overhead in getting it done, and I’m writing in a format that I enjoy more. Pages are now written in Markdown and committed to a repository. The production site redeploys automatically, and running the site locally is a snap.

The old WordPress site was set up almost ten years ago. That was a fun project at the time because I learned a lot about something I didn’t have experience with. It was also a project of necessity because my old grad school machine was running my site, and it was shut off suddenly. WordPress has a lot of power built into it, but lately I’ve been longing for more simplicity. I feel like I’ve got that now with Markdown content files that I can author using any tool I want, and I haven’t had any trouble learning details about parts of Jekyll when I need to know.

The style of the site is really minimalist. I took Pixyll and changed it to something that I was satisfied with. The old site wasn’t responsive or mobile friendly in any way. The new site is.

I did consider some alternatives before committing to Jekyll on GitHub Pages. The only dynamic blog I was serious about was Ghost. I ran a Ghost blog at work for a while, and I really like writing in it. The posts are visually pleasing, and writing in it is just fun. I ended up really wanting something with low overhead, though, and settled on Jekyll. I was planning on hosting the site in AWS in one way or another, but then I revisited GitHub Pages and decided to go for it. I had already done almost all of the work for the transition at that time, and adjusting to land on GitHub Pages was easy.

I was going to use the domain provided by GitHub, but I became concerned about my ability to later migrate and retain search placement (as if it really matters for this blog). That led me to use the custom domain. If I change my mind, it will be easier to move to the GitHub domain than go the other way. One big advantage of using the GitHub domain is SSL without any effort on my part. While GitHub Pages lets you use a custom domain, it doesn’t have any infrastructure to use SSL on a custom domain. I ended up using Cloudflare full SSL, combining the information here and here. The first article uses flexible SSL, but since full SSL works, I used that. In both cases browser to Cloudflare traffic is encrypted. The difference is that in flexible SSL Cloudflare to GitHub Pages is unencrypted, and in full SSL Cloudflare to GitHub Pages is encrypted. Full SSL works when the site’s certificate does not match its domain, which is the case on GitHub Pages with a custom domain. In neither case is traffic encrypted end-to-end. In full SSL Cloudflare is decrypting responses and encrypting them with its own certificate, but since readers of this site are not sending any information that is for my application’s eyes only (as it were), this is not so devastating.