Theme Setup

General notes and suggestions for customizing So Simple Theme.

Basic Setup

  1. Install Jekyll if you haven’t already.
  2. Fork the So Simple Theme repo
  3. Make it your own and customize, customize, customize.

Preview the Theme

├── _includes
|    ├── browser-upgrade.html  //prompt to upgrade browser on < IE8
|    ├── footer.html  //site footer
|    ├── head.html  //site head
|    ├── navigation.html //site navigation and masthead
|    └── scripts.html  //jQuery, plugins, GA, etc.
├── _layouts
|    ├── page.html  //page layout
|    └── post.html  //post layout
├── _posts
├── assets
|    ├── css  //preprocessed less styles. good idea to minify
|    ├── js
|    |   ├── main.js  //jQuery plugins and settings
|    |   └── vendor  //all 3rd party scripts
|    └── less 
├── images  //images for posts and pages
├── _config.yml  //Site options
├──  //about page
├── articles.html  //lists all posts from latest to oldest
├── index.html  //homepage. lists 10 latest posts
└── tags.html  //lists all posts sorted by tag



Most of the variables found here are used in the .html files found in _includes if you need to add or remove anything. A good place to start would be to change the title, tagline, description, and url of your site. When working locally comment out url1 or else you will get a bunch of broken links because they are absolute and prefixed with {{ site.url }} in the various _includes and _layouts. Just remember to uncomment url when building for deployment or pushing to gh-pages

Disqus Comments

Create a Disqus account and change disqus_shortname in _config.yml to the Disqus shortname you just setup. To enable commenting on a post, add the following to its front matter:

comments: true

Owner/Author Information

Change your name, and avatar photo (200x200 pixels or larger), email, and social networking urls. If you want to link to an external image on Gravatar or something similiar you’ll need to edit the path in head.html since it assumes it is located in /images.

Including a link to your Google+ profile has the added benefit of displaying Google Authorship in Google search results if you’ve went ahead and applied for it.

Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools

Your Google Analytics ID goes here along with meta tags for Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools site verification.

Edit page/post titles and URLs to include in the site’s navigation. For external links add external: true.

# sample top navigation links
  - title: About Page
    url: /about
  - title: Articles
    url: /articles
  - title: Other Page
    url: /other-page
  - title: External Link
    external: true 

Other Stuff

The rest is just your average Jekyll config settings. Nothing too crazy here…


For the most part you can leave these as is since the author/owner details are pulled from _config.yml. That said you’ll probably want to customize the copyright stuff in footer.html to your liking.

Adding Posts and Pages

There are two main content layouts: post.html (for posts) and page.html (for pages). Both have support for large feature images that span the full-width of the screen, and both are meant for text heavy blog posts (or articles).

Feature Images

A good rule of thumb is to keep feature images nice and wide so you don’t push the body text too far down. An image cropped around around 1024 x 256 pixels will keep file size down with an acceptable resolution for most devices. If you want to serve these images responsively I’d suggest looking at Picturefill or Adaptive Images.

The two layouts make the assumption that the feature images live in the images folder. To add a feature image to a post or page just include the filename in the front matter like so.

  feature: feature-image-filename.jpg
  thumb: thumbnail-image.jpg #keep it square 200x200 px is good

If you want to apply attribution to a feature image use the following YAML front matter on posts or pages. Image credits appear directly below the feature image with a link back to the original source.

  feature: feature-image-filename.jpg
  credit: Michael Rose #name of the person or site you want to credit
  creditlink: #url to their site or licensing


In the sample _posts folder you may have noticed category: articles in the front matter. I like keeping all posts grouped in the same folder. If you decide to rename or add categories you will need to modify the permalink in along with the filename (if renaming).

For example. Say you want to group all your posts under blog/ instead of articles/. In your post add category: blog to the front matter, rename or duplicate to and change the permalink in that file to permalink: /blog/index.html.

If done correctly /blog should be a page listing all the site’s posts.

Post/Page Thumbnails for OG and Twitter Cards

Post and page thumbnails work the same way. These are used by Open Graph and Twitter Cards meta tags found in head.html. If you don’t assign a thumbnail the image you assigned to site.owner.avatar in `_config.yml will be used.

Here’s an example of what a tweet to your site could look like if you activate Twitter Cards and include all the metas in your post’s YAML.

Twitter Card summary large image screenshot


Video embeds are responsive and scale with the width of the main content block with the help of FitVids.

Not sure if this only effects Kramdown or if it’s an issue with Markdown in general. But adding YouTube video embeds causes errors when building your Jekyll site. To fix add a space between the <iframe> tags and remove allowfullscreen. Example below:

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0"> </iframe>

Twitter Cards

Twitter cards make it possible to attach images and post summaries to Tweets that link to your content. Summary Card meta tags have been added to head.html to support this, you just need to validate and apply your domain to turn it on.

Link Post Type

So Simple Theme now supports link posts, made famous by John Gruber. To activate just add link: http://url-you-want-linked to the post’s YAML front matter and you’re done. Here’s an example of a link post if you need a visual.

Further Customization

To make things easier I use LESS to build So Simple Theme’s stylesheets. If you want to make some minor cosmetic alterations, take a look at variables.less in assets/less/. Changing some of the following variables can help make the theme your own. Just compile main.less using your preprocessor of choice and off you go – I like CodeKit for OS X and Prepros for Windows.

// Typography
// --------------------------------------------------
@base-font: 'source-sans-pro', sans-serif;
@heading-font: @base-font;
@caption-font: @base-font;
@code-font: 'source-code-pro', monospace;
@alt-font: 'volkorn', serif;

@doc-font-size: 16;
@doc-line-height: 24;

// Colors
// --------------------------------------------------
@body-color         : #ebebeb;
@text-color         : #333;
@base-color         : #343434;    
@comp-color         : spin(@base-color, 180); 
@border-color       : @base-color;
@white              : #fff;
@black              : #000;
@accent-color       : @black;
@link-color         : #343434;


Having a problem getting something to work or want to know why I setup something in a certain way? Ping me on Twitter @mmistakes or file a GitHub Issue.


This theme is free and open source software, distributed under the GNU General Public License version 2 or later. So feel free to use this Jekyll theme on your site without linking back to me or using a disclaimer.

If you’d like to give me credit somewhere on your blog or tweet a shout out to @mmistakes, that would be pretty sweet.

  1. Used to generate absolute urls in sitemap.xml, feed.xml, and for canonical urls in head.html. Don’t include a trailing / in your base url ie: When developing locally remove or comment out this line so local CSS, JS, and image assets are used.