Migrating from Jekyll to Gatsby

I have been following Gatsby for quite some time now, and I finally decided to give it a try on my personal website/blog! This post describes the journey of migrating from Jekyll to Gatsby.

Why Gatsby

Gatsby is an awesome open source framework for building blazing fast static websites and apps. What I find most intriguing about Gatsby is that it is powered by technologies that I use on my everyday dev life: JS, React and GraphQL.

Gatsby is also backed by a vibrant community, providing open source plugins that aid on accomplishing common tasks in an easy manner.

Migration planning

My plan for the Jekyll to Gatsby migration was pretty straight-forward, keep the content markdown structure, as well as preserve the CSS layout.

Gatsby shines on both aspects:

  • It fully supports automated markdown to HTML content format.
  • It supports importing existing CSS files, and customizing components via CSS-in-JS.

Thus the main migration challenge was setting up Gatsby, and migrating the layout from the Jekyll template format to JSX.

Gatsby offers various project starter templates, and I have selected the most minimal one, which fits my principal of learning a new framework by building a new project from scratch.

My WordPress/Jekyll background has also driven me to separate content into two main categories, pages and blog posts, with different templates.

Steps and resources for setting up Gatsby

Gatsby developers provide excellent documentation for getting started, so I am not going to list detailed steps for installing and using the gatsby-cli.

  • Create a new Gatsby project using the gatsby-starter-default template.
  • Setup siteMetadata and gatsby-plugin-manifest data on gatsby-config.
  • Customize the React components to achieve the desired site layout.
  • Setup gatsby-source-filesystem for markdown content.
  • Setup page/post markdown meta. I am using the following variables: template (page or post), path, title, date (for posts only).
  • Study documentation, gatsby-starter-blog and gatsby-starter-lumen starters on how to implement page/post templates, as well as posts pagination. Apply related concepts on gatsby-node file and create templates.
  • Add custom 404 page.
  • Setup HTML title, meta per content template, using react-helmet.
  • Add favicon.ico on the static Gatsby folder.

Essential Gatsby plugins

Optionally customize Prettier, ESLint, Babel configurations

Default configurations are pretty sane, but they can be customized to fit your personal preference.

  • Prettier: Customize .prettierrc and .prettierignore files.
  • ESLint: Use gatsby-plugin-eslint and a custom .eslintrc to configure your ESLint setup. I prefer eslint-config-airbnb and a tight eslint/prettier configuration, failing compilation on errors.
  • Babel: Add a custom .babelrc file that extends from babel-preset-gatsby. For example you can add optional-chaining support or any other Babel plugin.

Deploying to GitHub Pages using a custom domain

  • Add the CNAME file both on repo root and on the static Gatsby folder so that it can get deployed to the special gh-pages branch.
  • Install gh-pages from npm.
  • Add a deploy command on package.json as follows:
    gatsby build && gh-pages -d public
  • Setup GitHub Pages on repository settings to be deploying from the gh-pages branch. Keep the master branch clean, for source code purposes only.
  • npm run deploy

Gatsby pitfalls

I didn't come across any major pitfall, other than the slight annoyance of sometimes having to clear the .cache folder and restart the development server.

Conclusion

I really enjoyed the process of migrating to Gatsby. Step-by-step building the website from scratch, selecting the appropriate plugins, customizing code. Everything falling within the NodeJS and React ecosystem.
Overall I would highly recommend Gatsby, and of course I am looking forward to using it again on new projects.
Feel free to browse the updated source code and get inspired.